Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Disneyland - Jungle Is "101" Back Online - A Mother And Child Reunion

Hello, everyone. 
I am so sorry, but a family emergency had taken Jungle Is "101" into a "holding pattern" for the last few weeks.  It is amazing how a father-in-law's trip into the ICU can cut into your time for posting about Disneyland.
Jungle Fans, please pray for my father-in-law's recovery or send a favorable thought his way.  Thank you!
In any event, I thought I'd take a moment to post a quick hello and update.
I sure missed you guys.
How've you been?
What's new?
Hope you are well.
My thoughts have been with those affected by the devastation of the earthquakes, tsunami and nuclear reactor failures in Japan.  Our prayers go out to our many Japanese friends and followers---and all of our cast member pals and guests at Tokyo Disneyland---during this very difficult time.
I must admit it has been difficult, between international and personal disasters, to come up with much to write about here.  I thought I'd just take a moment and sit down at the old Royal typewriter and start banging out something, anything, just to show you this blog isn't a permanently frozen screen.
So.  Here it is.
A little disjointed.
Stream of consciousness---or semi-consciousness, in my case.
Rather than focusing on the negative, as in the first half of this post, I have chosen to leave you with a positive Disneyland memory that I have scraped from the recesses of my feeble mind.
It is simple.
And, mercifully, not terribly long.

I was on my way across the Hub toward a Thunder Mountain shift.  Boots, hat, bandana, name tag.
My thoughts were ahead of me, thinking about clocking in, mentally checking the "in-Park" number of guests as I crossed Main Street, wondering if I'd be in the Tower or start off at Load or Main Entrance.
I almost tripped over a small girl as I started to cross the wooden bridge at the Frontierland entrance.
She was four, no more than five, years old.
Her large blue eyes were wide with terror.
And filled with tears.
She was frantic, and called, "Mommy!  Mommy!" over and over.
Her tiny Minnie Mouse shirt was accompanied by jean shorts and little sandals.
Chocolate smudges from a recently eaten ice cream bar surrounded her mouth and speckled her Minnie shirt.
She just about crashed into my knee as she ran in a panicky circle, eyes darting about, breathlessly seeking out her lost mother amid her hot tears.
I stopped short and so did she.
Her chin raised and her eyes followed.
I felt very tall and imposing in my boots and hat as she looked up at me.
I saw the fear and panic wash over her face.
Quickly, I knelt down before her and looked into her eyes.
I smiled and said, "It's all right, we'll find your mommy.  See---I work for Mickey."
I lifted my vest and held out my name tag.
She squinted through tears to make out the tiny mouse above my name.
Then she looked at me.
She sized me up and apparently felt that I was a better alternative than wandering, lost and alone, through the vast Magic Kingdom---without her mom!
"This says 'Mike," --- that's my name, what's yours?"
The puffy tear stained eyes stared back.
She wasn't talking.
"I'm going to help you find you mommy, all right?"
A pouting and quivering lower lip made it clear that I'd better find mom fast.
Still kneeling, I looked right at her and told her that moms sometimes get lost in Disneyland, but we always, always find them.
"I'm going to stand up and see if I can find her, okay?  Will you stand right here by me?"
She nodded and stood by my leg, my boot dwarfing her lilliputian sandals.
I scanned Frontierland ahead of me.  No sign of any frantic mom, dad or sibling.
"Stay right here," I told the little girl.
I slowly pivoted and started to scan the guests moving about the Hub, from the Adventureland entrance, toward the Plaza Pavilion, to the Plaza, to the popcorn cart at the base of the Hub.  Nothing obvious.
I looked at the Hub and across it to the Tomorrowland entrance.  Where's mom?
Continuing to pan to my left, I saw a group of folks in front of the Castle, along with a balloon vendor and a security guard---near Matterhorn Way.  Darn, he's a bit far away.  Don't think I can get his attention.
I waved.
The balloon vendor waved back.
But not the security guard, who continued up Matterhorn Way and out of sight.
Great.  Security guards had radios.  I did not.
I could sense panic building in my little charge, who began to cry for mommy and have second thoughts about the man in the boots and big hat---even if he DID have Mickey on his name tag.
One thing I learned was to be patient with a lost child and to stay put for several minutes (unless I could flag down Security).  I knew that a Big Thunder cast member standing with a crying child at the Hub was likely to get someone's attention the longer I stayed put.  I also knew the hazard of moving --- because the mom (and dad, brother, sister or other family members) mostly likely was running around searching for the little girl.
I looked back toward Frontierland and saw a security guard, in his U.S. Cavalry costume, walking outside the Shootin' Arcade.  How appropriate, I thought.  Call in the Cavalry!
Before I could get his attention, though, to my far left I saw a mom-like figure scurrying out of Adventureland and past the entrance to the Tiki Room.  Her rapidly swiveling head and nervous stutter steps as she half-ran, made her stand out from the loping folks in the crowd around her.  She had her sunglasses pushed up in her hair and a wild-eyed look that I could pick out from over 150 feet away.
"Sarah!!  Sarah!!!"
I could hear her crying as she neared the Plaza Pavilion.
She started to head south toward Main Street, but stopped and glanced back my way.
I raised my hat and held it high above my head, waving it like a flagman on the Disneyland Railroad.
She saw me.
She looked down.
She saw Sarah.
Sarah's mom immediately began to run toward us.
"Look who I found," I knelt down and said to Sarah, pointing toward the running woman. 
The fear instantly evaporated from Sarah's face.
I stood and watched the reunion between them play out before me on the Frontierland entrance bridge.
"Where did you go??!!  Oh where did you go???  Mommy's got you!"
Mom scooped up Sarah and held her tight.
"Thank you!!!  She's been lost for almost half an hour!  Where did you find her??"
"Right here.  She was coming out of Frontierland and was pretty upset."
"Thank Goodness you found her!"
"She wasn't hard to miss, believe me!"
The little eyes looked across to me from her mom's shoulder.
"See, I told you we always, ALWAYS find lost moms here at Disneyland!"  A cute little blink, a twinkle of a smile and her face quickly buried back into the shoulder.
The security guard I had seen earlier had now joined us on the bridge.
"All clear.  We have mom and daughter at Frontierland entrance," he spoke into his radio.
"We've been looking for her over on the West Side.  Glad to see you found her."
"She kinda found me.  I was heading to Thunder to start my shift."
"Thank you, thank you!" Sarah's mom repeated.  "We were right by the Treehouse and she wandered off.  We looked everywhere!!  I grabbed a security guard and he got on the radio.  You people are GOOD!"
I smiled.
Dumb luck and a knack for kids and dogs.
Still, I was happy to accept the compliment and to see mom and daughter together again.
I headed to Thunder.
Five minutes late for my shift.
The area manager was kind enough to correct my time card --- since she had gotten the radio call about the lost child, too! 
All in a day's work, ma'am.
All in a day's work.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Disneyland - Cast Activities Center - Disneyland Employees Federal Credit Union

A small, squat building was situated near the center of the backstage area behind Main Street in the 1980s.  It is still there today, but it is now a computer training location. 
It was the Cast Activities Center.
As you approached its main entrance (located directly across from the old Wardrobe/Administration building), there was a Bank of America Versateller machine/kiosk at the right side of the building.
There was not much architecture to the structure and its wooden support pillars were painted a dark brown.
Inside was a lounge area and there were TVs that constantly showed the then fairly new "Disney Channel." 
"Dumbo's Circus" seemed to always be on.
The classic "Disney Channel" logo would flash across the screen between shows.
TVs over in the "Inn-Between" show the Disney Channel as well.  It was being heavily promoted and it looks like it caught on. 
The Cast Activities Center was where you could get information about everything from the latest Red Cross Blood Drive to the Canoe Races to the Disneyland Employees Federal Credit Union.  Indeed, the structure that housed Cast Activities was originally where the Credit Union was located.  It move outside the berm and, in the 1980s, was located just inside the tall chain link fence that enclosed the Park property along Harbor Boulevard at the Employee Parking lot entrance. 
Like many other cast members, I had an account there.  I, however, still have checks left!  My old account from the 1980s has long since closed, but let me tell you it was always cool to write a check with a background picture of Sleeping Beauty's Castle and Mickey and Minnie. 
Whenever I would pay for something with one of these checks, it always, always sparked a conversation with the cashier.
"Oooh!  Where did you get this?  Do you work for Disneyland?!"
"What?  This old thing? Why it's just a regular old check."
"How did you get the Disneyland picture on it??"
"Well, I do actually work at the Park..."
"What do you do?"
"Ever been on the Jungle Cruise?"
"NO WAY!!  I LOVE that ride."
To this day, I must say, that having been a Jungle Skipper gets me more attention than anything I've done in my professional or educational career.  For some odd reason there's an instant connection---a bond---between guests and Jungle Skippers. 
"Do you remember the spiel?"
"In my sleep!  I've been 'round the jungle river a time or two."
"Can I see your driver's license please.  Is your address and telephone information correct?"
(Hmph.  "Jungle Skipper" only gets you so far in life).
I am sure today I could find a bank that would put a Disneyland photo in the background of my checks.
Except no one really uses checks anymore.
Can you imagine what my 1980s dollars would be worth today??
Shoulda bought Disney stock in bunches back then.

Have a magnificent Tuesday---or whatever day it is when you happen upon this post!!


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Disneyland - Marooned In The Jungle (Part II)

If you did not catch "Part I," here's a link to it.  And now, without further fanfare, Jungle Theater presents the conclusion of Marooned In The Jungle.

So.  I am stranded on an island just as the Jungle Cruise is about to open its daily operations.
My brain is racing with thoughts of, "you'll be walked out; you'll be given a permanent 'No Rehire.'"
Despair sets in --- just a tad.
Peering through the foliage back towards the dock, I see our area supervisor approaching the lead.
I duck down like a Green Beret under direct enemy fire.
Over at the far end of the dock, I hear the Skipper chatting up the first boat of guests for the morning.
"Greetings and welcome aboard!  Show of hands, anyone coming on board visiting from outside of California??
Yes. You, sir, where're you from?"
"I'm sorry?"
"Oh, I heard you fine, I'm just...sorry.  Seriously, welcome aboard.  Since you're from Cleveland, I'll try and speak a little slower, okay?  Anyone here born on their birthday or some other day during the year?? Raise those hands?  Anyone else from out of town?  Out of patience?  Out of control?  Out of money?  Oh, yes in the back!  You're out of money?  Well, welcome to Disneyland!"
By now, my inner "Jungle Load" clock is telling me the boat is almost full and will be steaming off into the jungle---with me now an unwilling participant in the Show along its river banks.
"All right!  Let's get those last victims---er, visitors---into the back and we're off!  Turn around and wave good-bye to the beautiful people back on the dock!"
From my crouched position near the hut, I can see the area manager turn from the lead and head out the exit toward the Bazaar.  Whew.  Close one.
The next boat is now loading and I can hear the tell-tale rumble of the first boat's throttled engine as it makes its way past the Ancient Cambodian Shrine and into the Elephant Pool.  I know that I can keep out of view, but at some point, I've got to get off this island and back to my duties!
"HEY, SKIP!" My lead's voice pierces the vegetation.
Is this some kind of code?
I inch back toward the water buffalo side of the island, along the narrow trail.
As I near the bank, I hear the sound of a boat engine---but it's not a Jungle boat.
It's the skiff!
Coming from under Schweitzer falls and buzzing, bow-first towards me is one of our senior Jungle Skippers---laughing and gesturing for me to get ready to jump in.
I shoot him a half-smile/half-glare and grab for the bow of the skiff, which wobbles under my grip.  In a single move, I jump from the island bank into the small vessel and, before I am quite seated, my fellow skipper throttles the outboard and we shoot forward past Sam.  I find myself on the floorboards, the momentum of the boat throwing me back.
There is muted laughter from behind me as we race to our right through the open gate that leads to Boat Storage.  We zip by so fast that I doubt a single guest down at the far end of the dock at Load ever became aware of our presence. 
Pulling alongside the edge of the boat storage area, the skiff's captain activates the control to shut the doors to Boat Storage.  He kills the engine and we drift ahead toward the storage bays.  He is now laughing loudly and I can feel the aluminum hull shaking under me.
"Did you see the area manager, Robinson Crusoe!??  I thought we were dead!!"  He stammers between giggles.
"Yeah.  Um, where did you come from??"
"Don sent me around to hang out by the Lost Safari while you were stranded.  He told me to pick you up after the first boat was dispatched.  Guess he didn't expect the manager to show up so early!"
This was a day shift, so the crew was mostly veterans.  After we exited the skiff, we walked from the back area, past the Tahitian Terrace, and stepped across the rocks that formed a walkway to the Unload dock. 
Arriving at the dock, I was cheered and razzed by the Skippers.
I feigned indignation---for by now, the joke was completely on me so I figured I might as well go along with it!
"Home is the hunter!  Home from the hill!" called out one of the few, more literate cast members.
"Hey, Mike!  How's Sam??  Heard you were hut hunting!  Did you open an escrow?"
"You shoulda seen the look on your face!  I'm still laughing!"
"It's times like these when you find out who your real friends are!"
"You had that coming ever since that episode last week at Charley Brown's"
There was applause.
A shift-long ridicule ensued.
It persisted over the course of the summer.
I became known as "Island Mike" among the opening crew who were present.
Then among newer cast members who were nowhere near the attraction when this little stunt was pulled.
I wore the mantle with honor.
I learned a valuable lesson of the Jungle.
Never leave the skiff---unless you're at the dock.

Adieu, mon ami!