Disneyland wasn’t always an American institution. Strange, but true. And without the Internet, and its thousands of blogs and message boards and travel planning sites, those Eisenhower-era families trekking to Anaheim in their massive cars needed to know where they could find a big juicy steak or some cocktails and tomato aspic. Thankfully, once they checked into their motor lodges they’d find a copy of Vacationland magazine.
This publication, which was published in various formats at Disneyland and Walt Disney World into the 1980s, served as a general guide to the resort area and was distributed both locally to hotels and nationwide to travel agencies.
What’s odd in the modern era of ultra-slick Disney corporate P.R. is that Vacationland seems subdued and fairly neutral by comparison. It even featured ads for attractions outside of the Disney empire! Its format was more like a magazine or newsletter than a guidebook, so there weren’t the typical listings of attractions or restaurants. Instead, and amusingly, it featured ads for Disneyland’s restaurants – in Disney’s own magazine!
The results are fascinating. Seeing how Disney restaurants chose to present themselves in the brief space permitted by an ad seems to provide a succinct and evocative picture of the era. So, let’s see the offerings! The following ads come from a 1957 edition of Disneyland Vacationland.
Let’s stop in the Plaza for some “authentic Gay 90’s atmosphere” at Swift’s Red Wagon Inn. It’s air conditioned! Sizzling steaks and juicy chops; luncheon from $1.50! Complete dinners from $1.65! For about three times that price today, you can get a Coke! Oh how I hope the kiddies can get a char-grilled hamburger sammich with french fried potato garnish!
But what if you’re still a little hungry after those juicy chops? Especially after walking all the way to the end of Frontierland? Well why not stop at Swift’s Plantation House for a complete fried chicken dinner – for $1.65! And not just any fried chicken dinner – these are tempting tender-grown Swift’s premium chicken dinners!
Sadly, guests can no longer enjoy the delightful French colonial decor of the Plantation House; it was bulldozed to make way for New Orleans Square in the 1960s. Whenever you’re nibbling that Monte Cristo at the French Market, or standing along the waterfront waiting for Fantasmic, know that you’re standing on the graves of a million delicious, tender-grown chickens of days gone by.
Ah, but what’s this? A free show! Richfield’s The World Beneath Us was a multimedia presentation consisting of a series of exhibits and a twelve-minute animated Cinemascope short. In something of a precursor to EPCOT’s Universe of Energy, Richfield Oil sponsored a look into the geological forces that shaped our planet. The show played in Tomorrowland from 1955-1960.
Ads for the exhibit touted the diorama of the earth’s crust, where mechanical devices helped illustrated “powerful underground forces at work”. Then, of course, there was the animation itself; designed in the modern style, it showed… the explosive birth of our planet! The appearance of life on earth! The age of mastodons! Evolution of Man! Interplay of underground forces!
My question – why isn’t this out on DVD?
But what good is all this gasoline with nothing to burn it on? Thankfully, Richfield also sponsored the Autopia where kiddies can experience “thrills galore” on the model freeway of the future. Thrills! Of course the Autopia outlasted Richfield; it putters along today under the auspices of another petroleum company. If only more people had stopped for a tank of Richfield on the way back from Disneyland…
Of course, those of us who weren’t alive in 1957 find it amazing and somehow hard to believe that there was ever an establishment called “Aunt Jemima’s Old South Kitchen” in Disneyland. Of course, looking at that menu I find it distressing that it’s not there for me to sate my breakfasty needs today. Is there anything on that menu that I don’t want right now?
There are pancakes and deluxe pancakes! But why does Davy Crockett have to make do with standard issue pancakes? I guess he’s used to roughing it. Mark Twain is apparently a fan of Aunt Jemima’s tangy buckwheat cakes, and Slue Foot Sue goes for waffles.
No wonder everyone was happy in the 1950s – if I lived in a world that I could get “luscious native blueberry pancakes” for sixty cents I’d be baby booming too. And boy I’d be ginned up to fight those Reds to defend my right to “fresh picked strawberries crushed and heaped on golden Aunt Jemima pancakes”. For sixty cents! With maple and wild berry syrups! And let’s stop and doff our hats in honor of the phrase “fresh creamery butter”. I’ve never understood nostalgia until this moment.
Best to pick up some refreshments before we head out. Thankfully there are Pepsi products available at the Golden Horseshoe Revue. Which, lest we forget, is presented free at Disneyland!
Don’t forget, though, about Disneyland’s gourmet restaurants at the Disneyland Hotel. After the hustle and bustle of the park, parents can enjoy breakfast, luncheon, dinner and cocktails in an atmosphere suited to relaxed dining. Can we talk about how much I love that cocktails gets its own billing as a separate meal?
After all, the only thing better than the ultimate in cuisine and service is having your favorite beverages expertly prepared. And again, dinners from $2.35! A little pricy, but it is the ultimate in cuisine and service.
Note to advertising people who might be reading: I would be 72.33% more likely to eat at a restaurant that featured art in its ads similar to this piece.
We can’t leave for home without a souvenir. And what would say Disneyland to the rubes back home better than Tinker Bell’s Enchanted Wand? It glows in the dark for hours – a lovely, mysterious glow! For the low price of one shiny quarter – beat that, ODV carts! – you too can buy a “fascinating gift for any youngster”. So stop by Mineral Hall in Frontierland to see the Black Light Hall of Enchantment and… wait, what? Black Light Hall of Enchantment?! How come no one tells me about these things? Stupid no time machines and twenty-first century with its expensive pancakes…