Friday, March 28, 2008

Van Nuys Days at Disneyland

"'Disneyland welcomes Van Nuys'? That's mighty neighborly of them to welcome a whole town."

The above is from Gorillas Don't Blog on August 15, 2007 (to whom, thanks for the photo!). What is Disneyland doing playing host to Van Nuys? This 1955 promotion was a fairly big deal in the district and well-coordinated with Disneyland. First Disneyland went to Van Nuys, and then Van Nuys went to Disneyland!

As the culminating event of the annual "Back to School" sale, the Van Nuys Business Men's Association arranged for a grand event on September 17 along Van Nuys Boulevard (that's the real one, not what they called Main Street, U.S.A.). In addition to the events I'll get to in a moment, twenty free trips to Disneyland were awarded in a local drawing, registration occurring at more than eighty local merchants. Also, thousands of tickets to the Park were given away to youngsters. I've included a couple of ads from the Van Nuys News. I've left them large so you can patronize those business that are still around and helped to make Disneyland such a success. Somebody was a little type happy, though, and changed Spaceman K-7 into Spaceman XK-17:

And another one:

The breadth of the rest of the rest of the events was, well, breathtaking. They included:
  • Spaceman K-7 flew in on a Navy helicopter. Upon landing in a parking lot, he then got into an Autopia car (Walt's car?) to drive up and down the boulevard.
  • Spaceman was joined by Indian actor from Disneyland "Little Sky" (more on him in a future post), riding on horseback.
  • For those wishing to pay homage to local "celebrities," honorary mayor Andy Devine, Miss Van Nuys Claire Weeks, and chamber of commerce and Business Men's Association officials paraded in a buckboard from the Park.
  • Appropriate "back to school" sales at a number of different shops.
  • I don't even know what to make of this, but would love to see a photograph: "Some 400 store clerks will wear Disneyland sun bonnets."
  • Disneyland music played from loudspeakers along the road set up just for the occasion. Additionally, the voices of Davy Crockett (Fess Parker) and Donald Duck (Clarence Nash) were heard urging people to attend Van Nuys Days at Disneyland. (Creepy!)
Finally, Devine read a proclamation declaring the next weekend (September 24 and 25) Van Nuys Days at Disneyland. This was accepted by Jack Sayers (in lieu of Walt Disney), acting on behalf of the Disneyland Operations Committee. If only Isaac had been alive to see this!

The paper promised "special surprises" for Guests at the Van Nuys Days, but is frustratingly short on details. (I guess they wouldn't then be surprises, right?) They added some entertainment--such as an orchestra to play on Main Street for a "Van Nuys Days Dance" and had a special showing each weekend day of the Golden Horseshoe Revue. An article mentions a "special treat" inside the Frontierland entrance stockade, but I can't fathom what that might be.

So why weren't there more people there? Well, as evidenced by the "back to school" tie-in, the kids had just gone back to school. The thousands of free tickets awarded were good beyond just the Van Nuys weekend, so perhaps the special surprises were not enough to pull people in. Or perhaps Major's photographer just got there really early? As a subtle nod to this event, 46 years later Imagineers included Bing Crosby's "San Fernando Valley" on the Sunshine Plaza area music at Disney's California Adventure. (Yeah, that's why they did it...)


Major Pepperidge said...

Van Nuys (and most of the San Fernando Valley) were pretty much "the sticks" back in those days... much like Anaheim, there were miles of orange trees and other farmer's fields. My mom rode her horse around the Encino in the 50's - - a ridiculous idea these days.

This is fun for me, since I live in Van Nuys right now. the 400 Disneyland sun bonnets would make a great picture! I wonder if they were those sort of conical paper hats that you see so much in early photos?

Major Pepperidge said...

I mean Van Nuys WAS pretty much the sticks (not "were")!