Monday, June 6, 2011

Dead and Alive

There are people who are alive and there are people who are dead. Of course, at Disneyland, you can be both (even if you're not a cat). Back when Disneyland acknowledged that the frontier was a dangerous place, a dead settler (obviously not Mike Fink) lay with an arrow in his chest in front of his burning cabin. But did you ever wonder who the dead settler was? Well, wonder no more. The settler was modeled on Club 55 member Ed Winger, who also has a window on Main Street. From the September 3, 1981 Disneyland Line you can read about how his body came to rest at Disneyland:

If Ed Winger, Manager of Building, Grounds and Construction in the Maintenance Division, tells you he gave his all to Disneyland, you'd better believe him.

In 1957 the "Settler" (a scarecrow-like dummy in front of the burning cabin on Tom Sawyer Island) was torn apart and destroyed. At the time, Ed was a Plaster Tender in the Staff Shop and happened to be in the Shop office when a request for another "dummy" was made. Thus, he was volunteered to be the model for the new prototype.

The mold was made in two parts: the body from the neck down; and the face and ears. As he laid on a table, he was greased and covered with plaster on both sides. The plaster took 30 minutes to harden before it was lifted off. Not only did Ed learn to take short breaths as the plaster set, but had to contend with the heat that comes with hardening plaster.

During this period, Ed laid face-down with his head resting on a sponge. At that time, the Staff Shop was where the Administration Building is today. Cast Members used to drop by frequently on their way to work to see the latest creations.

A few stopped to talk to Staff Shop Cast Members standing next to Ed, completely unaware of him. He could only see their feet, and when he made a request to readjust his sponge, there were some startled reactions. "They took off like a shot," Ed recalls. "They didn't realize a live body was underneath all that plaster."

For the face and ears mold, straws were inserted in his nose to allow for breathing, and tissue dipped in cold cream was placed on his eyelids and eyebrows.

After the mold was made, a fiberglass figure was cast, then dressed and positioned on the Island."
Ed was born in El Dorado, Arkansas and raised in the oil fields of Oklahoma. He joined Disneyland during its construction (working for Herrick and Herrick) and then spent ten years in the Staff Shop under Bud Washo before working his way up in the Maintenance Division. In May 1972 he was promoted to Buildings Manager with responsibilities for the Mill, Paint, Sign and Sheet Metal Departments. He passed away on July 13, 1998 from complications of Alzheimer's.

Here he is as pictured in the 1975 book, Club 55: The Pioneers:

In the November 1957 Disneylander with other members of the Plaster Shop:

And in the July 15, 1976 Disneyland Line:

According to Disneyland: The Nickel Tour, in 1984 the dead settler was replaced with a drunken moonshiner, who himself was removed in 1991. I wonder whatever happened to the Ed Winger dead settler? Surely one of my readers has it in their collection...

Thanks to Daveland for providing the enlargement at top!


mrliver said...

I miss when the Disneyland Line would have nice little detail stories like this. If this article were written today they just would have asked Ed who his favorite Disney character was.

And then I'm sure they'd have to edit out the cursing.

Major Pepperidge said...

Wow, now THAT is a great detail!

Meanwhile, I can't imagine how uncomfortable it must have been to be encased in plaster the way he was. Nowadays they would just use alginate or some other much more friendly method.

Jason Schultz said...

The "Discovery in Detail" section was hit or miss. Another one around this time was about the plaque above the drinking fountain outside the perfume shop. It basically says there's no story behind the plaque, it was just picked up in New Orleans, and they decided to build the fountain to showcase it.

mrliver said...

but... that's very important!

Daveland said...

Very cool, Jason! Even though the dead settler is one of my fave details of DL from the past, I knew nothing about him.