Friday, August 27, 2010

Disneyland - Sweeping the Main Gate

In 1985, I worked several shifts as a sweeper at the Park's main entrance or Main Gate.

Long before Disney Walks and California Adventures and such, this area was a sunny gateway from the vast Disneyland parking lot to the Magic Kingdom.

There was also a large display of General Motors vehicles that were being given away as part of the Park's 30th anniversary celebration.

The famed "Gift Giver Extraordinaire" pumped out plush toys, free passes and even free GM cars to lucky guests at intervals ending in 30, 300, 3000, 30,000, etc. My own mother, bless her, won a large plush Mickey that year when visiting the Park. (Not quite a 1985 Pontiac Fiero, but I think the plush Mickey almost certainly had more headroom).

Today we venture back to the 1985 celebration and see Disneyland's own "honorary mayor," Jack Lindquist hosting a promotional ad for the Park.

As for me, I got to meander along the display of cars and check them out while doing my normal sweeping rounds. Before that display went up, Main Gate was a bit of a wasteland as far as a sweeping assignment. You would cruise in the entrance gate and cover the main courtyard (at the foot of the famous Mickey Mouse floral display below the Main Street Station of the Disneyland Railroad). It was obviously important to keep this area in top shape, since it was literally Disneyland's "front porch" and the first thing guests saw as they entered the Park.

But once a sweeper ventured outside the gates, it was hot, with some sparse shade from the planter trees and the Monorail track.

My territory ranged from the Kennel Club at the east side, all the way across the main entrance, to the picnic area, restrooms and lockers at the west side of the entrance. I remember the Disneyland Hotel tram had a stopped there at the west side, just below the Monorail track. A recorded loop would remind guests, that the area was for the Disneyland Hotel tram only, in a variety of languages, including Japanese. That recorded announcement got into your soul, I believe, if you worked more than three Main Gate sweeping shifts in a row---much like the famous "Remain seated please..." recording over at the Matterhorn.

I swear these messages would play in my head as I drifted to sleep when I got home from work.
Sometimes they still do.

It was great to meet and greet guests at the Main Entrance. On day shifts, you would see them coming into the Park, excited and full of expectations. Closing shifts would reveal the tattered, bedraggled masses, toting Mickey balloons, large lollipops, sleeping children, making their way to the parking lot trams and (hopefully) to their vehicles in the 100+ acre parking lot ahead of them. They were still generally in good moods---even after a full day at the Park.

Guest interaction made being a Cast Member something more than a minimum job in which you spent your day hunting for cigarette butts and popcorn with a pan and broom, or endlessly circling a jungle or a Storybookland as an attraction host. It made it clear you were part of a show. It made each day different. It got the endorphins flowing. It hooked me and kept me hooked, from the day I first met a Cast Member (as a small child) until I became one. That interaction is the two-way connection that turns a trip to a theme park into something much deeper and richer---one small moment at a time.

I truly hope and pray that each of you are able to enjoy a positive interaction with a Disney cast member many times over. For you Cast Members, my prayer is the same.