Many a time and oft, while a Jungle Skipper, would I take a boat off line and throttle gently, wakelessly, past the Tahitian Terrace and back through the bamboo gates into boat storage.
It never got old, driving a Jungle boat backwards. Waving at the skipper who was waiting with his boatload of guests at Trader Sam while the track switch was engaged to allow my boat access from the main line to the "Spur Side" and into the back area. The guests looked puzzled. They seldom saw a Jungle boat move in reverse, much less "off stage."
"This one's no good!" I'd shout to them. "The Skipper's broken!"
As the boat clunked along the rail, I would ease her into boat storage, taking care to close the gates behind me once far enough past them. I would kill the engine and then make like a Venetian gondolier, pushing and pulling my vessel into position up against the back of boat storage---or the front of the boat (or boats) that were already in there. There's a switch at boat storage that allows you to pull onto one of two tracks. I always preferred the track nearest to the Jungle. Usually there were boats on the track nearest Main Street, so if you were on the "inside" track, you were kind of sheltered from view.
Jungle boat cushions made excellent beds.
At night, a trip to boat storage usually meant your day was done. After shutting off the engine, you would switch off the electrical power and break down your boat.
You would radio Jungle Control - "Jungle Control, this is the Hondo, shutting down, 10-7."
"O.K. Hondo, Good night!"
Your Public Address ("P.A.") microphone would then be unplugged and placed in your wooden "break down" box.
Your radio microphone (or in some cases the actual walkie talkie radio) would be unplugged and put in the box.
Your .38 pistol was next. Undo the leather strap that tied it to the front cleat, break open the cylinder, empty out any spent or unspent blank rounds and put the gun into the break down box.
When we had cushions on the boats you would next lift them up and place them in their holders along the sides of the boat railings (so the night crew could come in and clean out the boat more easily).
A final flashlight check was made around the interior of the boat to make sure there were no leftover cameras, purses or small children.
You would then tie off the boat (so it did not float back toward the Jungle and derail!), grab your breakdown box and head back to the Jungle office on the dock to turn in your equipment.
Check your gun back in (each one had its own serial number) and dump your unused ammo into the ammo box.
"How much longer are you here?" you would taunt the skeleton crew of remaining skippers.
"Mike, didn't we get rid of you an hour ago?"
"Try not to bore your boats to death, guys. Adios! Hey, anyone going to Charley Brown's later? I'll be deep into a Long Island Iced Tea (or two) before you even have your boats broken down."
"Get outta here."
"You're gonna miss me!"
"I think Sam's coming."
"Oh, no. He's going to stay and hang out with you fine gentlemen. Bye, Sam!"
I wave in Trader Sam's general direction.
"Someone's looking for a Jungle dip."
Dockhands step menacingly closer.
"Well...I must be going. I'll raise a drink in your absence."
And off I'd go. Back to the locker room, back into civilian clothes, turn in my costume at Wardrobe/Costuming for a new one, lock it away, grab my wallet and keys and head down the stairs toward Harbor House.
Punch the old time card, wave happily to the rather expressionless security guard at the gate and bolt toward one's car in the Cast Member lot (now a Cast Member bus stop).
Then it was off into the night toward Charley Browns, to meet up with those fellow Cast Members who had your same shift or were already off the clock.
I could go for one of those nights right about now.
Until next time, stay thirsty my friends!