Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Disneyland - Custodial Sweeps

It may seem odd but perhaps one of the best cast member positions to hold in the Park is that of a sweeper.
At least it was in 1984.
Day Custodial back then assigned sweepers to an area within the park---say Main Street, Main Gate.
You were essentially given your own little slice of Disneyland to walk and maintain during your shift.
If you worked long enough in custodial, your assignments would take you practically everywhere in the Park.
Want to get to know Disneyland?
Be a sweeper.
Spend a full shift cycling through Thunder Trail, Matterhorn Alley, Tomorrowland Entrance, Main Street, The Hub, The Plaza, Adventureland, New Orleans, etc.
Sweepers got to roam within their areas.
We interacted with ride operators, Outdoor Vending, Merchandise, Foods, you name it.
Back areas?  No problem.
Our custodial whites gave us an instant excuse to be just about anywhere.
"What are you doing here?"
"Um, Control sent me, seems we have a leaky restroom to clean."
"Oh.  Good luck with that."
"No problem, gotta go."
You get the picture.
Parades on Main Street?  Got to see every one of them while steadily sweeping the walkways.
Also got to clean up after them.
Confetti is fun while it's in the air.  After that, not so much.
Cigarette butts?  Popcorn bits?  Wrappers?  Napkins? Money?
A sweeper's eye could pick up these objects along the ground from hundreds of feet away.
Over you would stroll and, with a snap of a tiny broom and the clank of your metal pan, the object would disappear.
What about Guest interaction?
Disney was smart.  Its surveys showed that no other cast member position had as much guest interaction as a sweeper.
At one point, Disney really was selective in the types of people they would put into this role.
Outgoing, friendly, humble, amazing, humorous, dynamic, enthusiastic, generous, courteous and helpful.
And that was just me!
But, not surprisingly, I digress.
The point I'm making, if I actually have a point, is that a sweeper got to know the layout of the Park deeply, intimately, literally from the ground up.
Every trash can, every restroom, every vending cart location, every balloon girl, every drinking fountain, every attraction line, every cash register, every shop, every security post, every backstage entrance/exit, every flower bed, every nook, corner and cranny.
What exactly is a "cranny," by the way?  For the record, it is "(1) a small, narrow opening in a wall, rock, etc.; chink; crevice; fissure, or (2) a small out-of-the-way place or obscure corner," according to Dictionary.com, which is never wrong.
We even got to enter the attractions after closing and sweep out the line---or sometimes venture inside on a "walk through" with the closing ride operator.
I've walked the Mansion, Pirates, Matterhorn (all the way to the top), every Fantasyland ride (from Alice to Pinocchio), Space Mountain, America Sings, Big Thunder, Country Bear Jamboree, Tiki, CircleVision and Tom Sawyer's Island.
All because I was once a sweeper.
And, as I am sure I've mentioned before, if nothing else, being a sweeper as a young lad taught one humility.
Those horses pulling trolleys on Main Street?  Yeah, they aren't trained to "hold it," if you know what I mean.
The size and scope of a mess that a Percheron can leave behind in the middle of the street can be truly breathtaking.  In more ways than one.
Sweepers would measure horse droppings by how many pans it took to clean up.  A 3-4 pan mess was not unusual.
And you got to perform this task in the middle of Disneyland, before hundreds of ---usually clapping--- guests.
An ostentatious and meretricious bow upon completion of this task was usually the best way to handle things.
Darn.
Another digression.
What I am getting to here, ever so sluggishly and deliberately, is that sweepers really got to know the people and places within the Park.
Face it, if you worked in attractions you got to know your attractions and the people who worked them with you, but that was it.  A cast member in a Pirate costume could not wander freely through Tomorrowland without garnering the attention of an Operations Manager (or two).  Storybook Land Canal girls could not stroll through Adventureland or  New Orleans Square (at least not in costume).
True, Attractions had the glamour.
Most everyone wanted to be in Attractions.
Heck.  I did.
But, looking back, I am most grateful that my first role as a cast member was a sweeper.
Scanning through many of my older posts, I see how my viewpoint was framed by those experiences in a very positive way.
Besides, when I'm in the Park...
...I always know where the closest restroom or drinking fountain is.
Without hesitation.


---Mike

P.S.  Our Jungle shirts continue to make a stir - order yours on E-bay before they're all gone!  Take a look at the listing.

5 comments:

Connie Moreno said...

Great post!!

Cyberdillo said...

Been there, done that; 1971 thru 1976.

Anne said...

I have just been enlightened yet once again. I would be proud to be a sweeper in the 80s.

Rich Blansett said...

Yep. Us bussers in the late 80's were a close second. Although attached to an eatery, or the picnic area if you were in trouble, we got to work virtually everywhere in the park as well. We got backstage cleanup duties, parade duties (even including pushing and shovelling into the honey bucket for horse droppings), and best of all, we didn't have to clean bathrooms. We even got to change our costume once in a while if we were reassigned to Hungry Bear or Casa Mexicana. The main drawback in my day was the riverboat bow tie thingy we had to wear, even on triple digit temp days.

JG said...

Wish I could have spent my time in sweeping up in such a great place.

Still, I got some good experience in an early job working for an ex-Disney employee, he passed on his version of the Disney ethic as appropriate to our business.

Thank you for sharing with us.

JG