Saturday, February 12, 2011

Disneyland - Main Street Surprise

"Wanna see something cool?"
Whenever a fellow sweeper would ask this question, my heart leaped---especially when it was a lead doing the asking.
"Let's go!" I replied instantly.
Olympic Summer 1984 was remarkably slow.  We were near midday and handfuls of guests straggled about Main Street.  Supervisors were probably at lunch---certainly nowhere to be seen.  Our area looked spic and span and could go on "autopilot" for some time if we decided to do a little exploring.
My lead yanked open the East Center Street gate and headed out, with me a few steps behind.
We crossed Main Street and headed into the Emporium mall and out through the front doors of the Emporium.
He stepped through the little door in the fence right next to the brick Disneyland Fire Department building.
I followed.
We were back stage on the West Side of Main Street.  The horse drawn trolley tracks led back here.  We could see the back side of the Jungle Cruise berm (just behind the hippo pool to be exact).
To our left was a set of stairs that led up the side of the Fire Department building to a small porch and a door.
He marched up the stairs and produced a key to the door.
"Come on!"
I was up the steps in an instant.
He opened the door as I made it to the top and we both stepped quickly through it.
The door closed behind us and we stood in a small foyer.  I remember the carpet was a bright red, with a busy pattern.  The walls were shiny white and the room was filled with sunlight.
Stepping around the corner we stopped.
We stood there and he gave me a knowing nod and smile.
I looked around at the red drapes and brass curtain rods, the neat little furniture, the built-in bookcases, the white columns framing the sitting room. 
We were in the Disney family's quarters above the Fire Department.
There ahead of me, on a fine round table below the center window of the east wall, was a hurricane lamp with an electric bulb, standing at the edge of the table, closest to the lace half-curtain that graced the window.
This was the lamp I always saw from the street below---ever burning in Walt's honor (unless, of course, it's Christmas---then you'll see a small tree in its place).
I breathed in through my nose.  I wanted to inhale the aroma, the atmosphere, of the apartment.
I had been many places where Walt had been---heck, anyone who's been to Disneyland can say that!
He had stood on the bow of the Mark Twain, on the stage at Plaza Gardens, before the flagpole in Town Square, on the steps of City Hall, on the platform of the Monorail station in Tomorrowland, at the base of the Matterhorn.  I had been those places.
But never had I been in his personal quarters above Main Street.
It felt a little like church and a little like home.
I felt a wave of respectful self-awareness.  I had invaded a private place.  Someone's home.
Walt's apartment.
I walked around the corner and peeked out the door of the Apartment onto the little porch located between the Fire Department and City Hall on the second floor.  It had lattice overhead and patio furniture and a great view of both Town Square to the east and the Jungle to the west.
"We better get back to the area locker," my lead urged.
"Okay," I answered slowly.
I stepped into the middle of the room and walked over to take a peek out of the window nearest the foyer.  I could see through the lace the guests walking on Town Square below.  The Emporium was to the left.  I could hear the trolley bell ring and the clop of hooves below.
The lead opened the door and the sunlight came in, flashing me a clear sign it was time to dart back to our post.
I turned and gazed at the place---the white walls, the fine chairs, the red curtains and carpet, the lamp on the table.  "Wow," I said half to myself and half out loud, I suppose.
"Come on!"
I followed him out the door and back down the stairs.  In an instant, it seemed, we were pushing through the door leading from back stage onto Main Street.  We walked along the north side of the Fire Department and out into Town Square.
I turned around and looked up at the high arched window centered above the words "Disneyland Fire Department."  I saw the lamp glowing there behind the lace curtains.  As a kid coming here I had never noticed it up there.  I was too interested in running inside to clamber up the old fire wagon.
Now I saw the place very differently.
Perhaps you will, too.