The Orange Bird

Every time I see my wife Carol’s collection of Orange Bird figures and memorabilia an old song runs through my mind!

Orange Bird Collection

Carol’s current Orange Bird collection

♫♪ Come to the Florida sunshine tree ♪♫

♫♪ For fresh tasting orange juice, naturally ♪♫

♫♪ Orange juice with natural vitamin C ♪♫

♫♪ From the Florida sunshine tree ♪♫

It was sung by an Oklahoma beauty queen named Anita Bryant!

If you’re as old as dirt, like I am, you were probably glued to your television set back in the 1960’s and you watched a little orange bird urging you to drink Florida Orange juice.  That little tune up above probably sounds very familiar to you.

For the many generations of Orange Bird fans who are younger than I am, here’s a little background to help you understand where our favourite little bird came from!

Back in the mid 1960’s Walt Disney was busy building his latest daring venture which he called the Florida Project.  The Disney Company had acquired 57 square miles of land in central Florida where Walt envisioned a huge family entertainment complex.  Today we know it as Walt Disney World, the most popular tourist destination in the world!

A project of that magnitude required money . . . lots and lots of money!  To keep ahead of the constant demand for cash the Disney Company entered into partnerships with a number of companies and groups who “sponsored” different aspects of the project.  One of those partnerships was with the Florida Citrus Commission.  The Commission and the Disney Company had been partners since 1941 . . . Do you remember Donald Duck Orange Juice?

They began negotiations in 1967 and in October 1969 a deal was finalized!  The Florida Citrus Commission (FCC) would sponsor a 3 million dollar pavilion in Adventureland that included The Tropical Serenade (now The Enchanted Tiki Room), The Sunshine Tree Terrace snack bar and the rest of The Sunshine Pavilion.  The Florida Orange Bird was quickly designed by Imagineers at WED Enterprises, and a massive marketing campaign began!  The little bird was simple in design and he didn’t speak.  He communicated through small thought balloons!



The public face of the FCC was Anita Bryant who had been crowned Miss Oklahoma in 1958 and was second runner-up in the Miss America pageant of 1959.  She enjoyed a successful singing career, with 11 of her songs reaching the top 100 in the charts, before she signed on as FCC spokeswoman in 1968.

Soon Miss Bryant and the Orange Bird were appearing everywhere!


They were on billboards all over Florida, in print ads and in TV commercials.  There was even a full length 45 rpm LP written by the Sherman Brothers and narrated by Bryant.  The record included an illustrated 10 page storybook that told the back story of The Orange Bird.


Do you remember the slogan “A breakfast without orange juice is like a day without sunshine”?  That was Anita Bryant and the Orange Bird.


There were Orange Bird coin banks, comic books, drinking glasses, t-shirts, plates and mugs.  Carol has managed to add a few of these vintage items to her collection!


The Orange Bird appeared regularly near the Sunshine Tree Terrace and posed for pictures with guests.  The picture below features our son Rob with the famous bird in about 1978.


Alas, the partnership between Miss Bryant and the FCC began to break down in 1977.  She lived in Miami at the time and took a very strong stance against gay rights.  Her home city had recently adopted strong anti-discrimination legislation and she worked long, hard and successfully to overturn it.  She became a very vocal and public opponent of same-sex relationships.  This caused plenty of friction with the FCC and before long Miss Bryant was leading a boycott of Florida citrus products.  Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!


As you might expect, the FCC elected to let their contract with Bryant lapse, leaving the little Orange Bird with no partner.  His prominence soon began to fade and by 1987 the cheerful little critter was no longer visible in the park, on billboards or in ads.  That little orange ray of sunshine was gone!

Carol was sad to see her little friend, and all his merchandise, leave her happy place, but there is a happy ending to this tale.

Lou Mongello, author of “Walt Disney World Trivia Book: Secrets, History & Fun Facts Behind the Magic” and the host of The WDW Radio Show explained it this way in his November 2007 article for the weekly newsletter:  “The Orange Bird made a mysterious comeback in 2004 – but not in the United States. Tokyo Disneyland began to produce its own, unique Orange Bird merchandise line around that time. Today’s Orange Bird looks somewhat similar in proportion to the popular Japanese animated characters with heads disproportionately larger than their bodies. Recently, April 14 has been designated as “Orange Day,” in Japan, a new holiday (promoted by Japanese and U.S. citrus growers like Sunkist). The concept is that on “Orange Day” people confirm their love with the objects of their affection by exchanging oranges or orange-colored gifts.”


And now, at long last, he’s back at Walt Disney World too!  The first signs of his triumphant return were at the EPCOT Trade Celebration in September 2011.  The theme of the event was “The Florida Project”.


The décor and all the pins and other merchandise created for the event revolved around classic rides and attractions that were part of those early years.


The Orange Bird was very prominent at the event, appearing in many of the displays!  And on some of the pins too!

Orange Bird Pin - blog

Orange Bird Pin with HM



Then in 2012 D23 announced the bird’s “official” return to the park.  The six minute video clip below gives a good summary of his history and his return to glory.

Carol is a happy Disney fan; the Orange Bird is back and his merchandise is everywhere!  She’s happily acquiring more Orange Bird treasures to display in her Disney Room!


Gary Cruise

Gary Cruise

Gary is a retired banker who lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1977 and has returned many, many times over the years. Since retiring he and his wife Carol enjoy the parks a number of times each year. They especially like staying at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground with their Shetland sheep dogs.


A Duckburg Family

If you read my June 2020 blog titled ‘Walt Disney – The Canadian Connection’ here on Pixie Dust Fan, you know that I’m an amateur genealogist.  Like most who share my interest in family history, I look for relationship puzzles in the oddest of places . . . like Donald Duck’s family.

Do you remember all those years ago when Mickey’s Birthdayland first opened at Walt Disney World?  It was June 18th 1988 and Mickey Mouse’s 60th birthday celebrations were in full swing!

Mickey Birthdayland 1988

Visit Birthdayland

Mickey’s Birthdayland was set in the mythical town of Duckburg in the equally mythical State of Calisota.  Duckburg boasted that it was “A town that’s everything it’s quacked up to be?”

Duckburg Sign

Duckburg and Calisota both sprang from the vivid imagination of Carl Barks who drew and wrote Donald Duck comic books for Western Publishing from 1943 until he retired from drawing in 1966.

Years after Mr. Barks retired Don Rosa drew and wrote more comics based on the Duckburg characters for Gladstone Publishing, who were licensed to use Disney characters in those later years.  Over the years both Barks and Rosa created a host of new characters for the comics and a rich history and backstory of Duckburg developed.

Have you ever wondered how Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck were related?  What about Huey, Dewey and Louie?  How are they connected in the family tree?  As I said earlier, we genealogists enjoy puzzles like this!

Carl Barks Duck family portrait

Let’s start by taking a quick look back to into history of Duckburg.  According to the lore imagined by Barks and Rosa, Duckburg was originally founded in the 16th century by British explorer Sir Francis Drake who named it Fort Drake Borough.  In the 19th century Cornelius Coot purchased the Fort from the departing British, renamed it Duckburg and the rest, as they say, is history.

One of the central features in Mickey’s Birthdayland was a statue of Cornelius Coot, located in front of the Cornelius Coot’s County Bounty shop!

Cornelius Coot

Cornelius Coot Plaque

Duckburg is rumoured to be the largest city in Calisota and its skyline is dominated by Scrooge McDuck’s Money Bin which sits high on Killmotor Hill at the edge of the city!

Duckburg overhead

There was also an animated television series, ‘Duck Tales’ which ran from 1987 until 1990 with a total of 100 episodes.  The TV series followed in the steps of Carl Barks and Don Rosa’s comic books with the same cast of characters who lived in the same place, Duckburg Calisota.

The overhead view of Duckburg, showing Scrooge McDuck’s Money Bin on Killmotor Hill, was the product of Disney artist Mike Peraza’s mind and was created for Duck Tales in 1987.  The ‘money bin’ was said to measure a cubic acre . . . that’s a big pile of cash!

In the original comic books Scrooge lived in a private apartment above his money bin, but in the 1987 TV series he lived in central Duckburg, in McDuck Manor, also designed by Mike Peraza.

McDuck Manor 1987

McDuck Manor 1987

Duck Tales was ‘re-booted’ in 2017 and featured a brand new version of McDuck Manor . . . if you subscribe to Disney+ be sure to check out Duck Tales!  You’ll meet most of the Duckburg clan there!

McDuck Manor 2017

McDuck Manor 2017

Now, let’s get to the genealogy . . .

There were three principal families in Duckburg, the Coots, the Ducks and the McDucks.  Donald Duck is the son of Quackmore Duck and Hortense McDuck. 

Donald’s mother Hortense is the sister of Scrooge McDuck, making Scrooge Donald’s uncle.

 Donald has a sister Della (sometimes called Dumbella) who married an unnamed Duck and had three sons, Donald’s identical triplet nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie.

A family tree, drawn by Don Rosa lays out many of the characters who appeared in the comics over the years and places them in an understandable order.

Click the picture to see the full size tree

If you follow that tree you can see how Donald traces his lineage back to Cornelius Coot.  His father was Quackmore Duck, the son of Humperdink Duck and Elvira Coot (often referred to as Grandma Coot).  Elvira was the daughter of Clinton Coot and Gertrude Gadwall.  Clinton Coot was the son of Cornelius Coot.  That means that Cornelius was Donald’s paternal great-great-grandfather.

On his mother’s side Donald can trace his family back to the McDuck clan from Glasgow Scotland.  His mother Hortense McDuck was the daughter of Fergus McDuck and Downy O’Drake.  Grandfather Fergus was the son of Dirty Dingus McDuck and Molly Mallard.

McDuck Castle Glasgow

If you follow the chart carefully you can see how Donald is related to his cousin Gladstone Gander, his second-cousin Gus Goose and his great-great-uncle Quagmire McDuck.

There are a few salty characters from the past, like Sir Roast McDuck, Hugh “Seafoam” McDuck, Pintail Duck and Sir Eider McDuck included on the chart.

Sir Roast McDuck (1159-1205) succeeded his father Sir Stuft McDuck, as clan chief.  Clan McDuck was one of the richest clans in Scotland, but in 1189 Sir Roast offered much of the clan’s wealth to the king of Scotland, William the Lion, after William asked for his help in paying tribute to Richard I, King of England.  This act of patriotism led to financial ruin for the clan.

Hugh “Seafoam” McDuck made a fortune sailing his “Golden Goose” on the trade route to the West Indies. Unfortunately, in 1753, Swindle McSue tricked Seafoam with a contract to deliver horseradish to Jamaica, and then scuttled the Goose.

Pintail Duck was a British sailor in the Caribbean. Once Pintail and officer Malcolm “Matey” McDuck buried a treasure of potatoes.  Their ship the Falcon Rover sunk with its crew on December 9th 1564 in conflict with the Spanish.

Sir Eider McDuck (880-946) was the chief of Clan McDuck during an Anglo-Saxon invasion in 946. Eider was killed during the Anglo-Saxons’ siege of McDuck Castle after his serfs abandoned him. He had refused to buy them arrows because they were too expensive.

Alas, the comics have never provided enough biographical detail to fit all of these colourful characters into the proper spot in the tree.

A number of characters, like Gyro Gearloose and Kildeer Coot, are not included at all, but according to the comic book series they are related to Donald in one way or another.

Glasgow 1877 by Don Rosa

Fergus McDuck seated, surrounded by his family.

Naturally Donald’s long time girlfriend Daisy is missing from the tree and that means that her family history is a mystery.  All is not lost though; the Duckburg rumour mill can help us out a little bit with Daisy’s family.  According to Duckburg lore and legend Daisy had an unnamed sister who may have married a brother of that unknown Duck who married Donald’s sister Della.  Those two anonymous ducks were the parents of Daisy’s triplet nieces April, May and June.  That makes Daisy’s nieces the first cousins of Donald’s nephews.

Sometimes family trees can be very complex!

Isn’t it interesting how something as simple as a series of children’s comic books can weave such an interesting and complicated history!

Gary Cruise

Gary Cruise

Gary is a retired banker who lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1977 and has returned many, many times over the years. Since retiring he and his wife Carol enjoy the parks a number of times each year. They especially like staying at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground with their Shetland sheep dogs.


Walt Disney – The Canadian Connection

Walt Disney Canadian Connection

I am an amateur genealogist; I have been working on family history for over 25 years and I find it a fascinating hobby.  Over those many years I have uncovered some interesting facts about several branches of my family, my wife Carol’s family and even a few families I have researched for friends.

The Cruise family hails from Ireland and they are descended from a Norman named “de Crues” who arrived from France in 1066 with William the Conqueror.  He was rewarded for his military service with a gift of land and he and his descendants were considered to be nobility in the area of Cruisetown, County Louth.

My documented history of the Cruise family goes back to Banagher, County Offaly, Ireland in the 1830’s when my great-great-great grandmother Joyce Cruise (maiden name Shane, a widow of my g-g-g grandfather Peter Cruise) gathered her eight children and moved the family to Canada.  Travelling with her were John Cruise and his wife Jane Newton as well as Peter Cruise and his wife Hannah Newton and their families.  I am not certain of the relationship between John and the two Peters, but we have confirmed through DNA testing that they were close blood relatives, possibly some combination of brothers, cousins or uncle and nephew.  The clan landed in Quebec in 1836 and settled just a few miles west of Montreal.  Within a few years Joyce and her family moved to Ontario and settled in south-western Ontario, north of the present day city of London.  My g-g grandfather William, son of Peter and Joyce, moved from the London area and settled in Norfolk County in 1843; that is where I was born a little over a century later.

 I am a Disney fan and over the years I had heard a few snippets of Disney family history.  One of these snippets was that there was a Canadian connection so I decided to take a look and see if I could find that Canadian link.  Here’s what I found!

My first find was an online family tree, several of them in fact, which state that the Disney family hails from Ireland and they are descended from a Norman named Robert d’Isigny who arrived in England in 1066 with William the Conqueror.  They go on to say that a branch of the family travelled in 1834 from County Kilkenny, Ireland to Liverpool, England where they sailed to America on a ship named New Jersey.  They landed October 3, 1834 in New York City.  After a few years they moved to Clinton, Huron County in south-western Ontario.  Does this sound somewhat familiar?  Banagher to Kilkenny is a mere 48 miles and the Cruise and Disney families settled a mere 30 miles apart in Canada.  I was getting excited . . . could there be a connection between our families?  I love the challenge of a mystery!

The two maps below show where the families originated in Ireland and where they settled in Canada.  The red arrows are the Disney family and the blue arrows represent the Cruise family.

Ireland Disney Canadian Connection


Ontario Disney Canadian Connection

Of course, I started my research with a bit of scepticism . . . it’s my nature.  Many people digging for family history will believe everything they read, but I do not.  I need to verify what I find.  I need factual evidence that what I read is correct.  So I needed to verify the Canadian connection.  Those family trees I referred to above showed Walt Disney’s g-g-g grandparents, Robert Disney (1746 – 1808) and Mary Keppel (1750 – 1815).  They were married on February 2, 1775 in Carlow, Ireland.  Their son Keppel Disney was born in 1776 in Aharney Parish, County Laois, Ireland and he married Frances Best, born in 1776, on February 17, 1795 in Carlow. 

Keppel and Frances had eight children:

  1. Mary Ann Disney, b. abt 1795 in Clone, Kilkenny, Ireland, d. 5 Nov 1875 in Louisville, St Lawrence, NY. She married William Powers, 20 Apr 1815 in Ireland, b. 1790 in Garrintaggart, Laois, Ireland, d. 7 Feb 1869 in Louisville, St Lawrence, NY.
  2. Robert Disney, b. 9 Jul 1797 in Clone, Kilkenny, Ireland, d. 18 Apr 1872 in Goderich, Huron County, ON. He married Jane Cooke, abt 1829 in Ireland, b. 4 Nov 1810 in Ireland, d. 29 Dec 1893 in Goderich, Huron, ON.
  3. Charlotte Disney, b. abt 1801 in Clone, Kilkenny, Ireland, d. Jan 1882 in London, England.
  4. Arundel Elias Disney, b. abt 1803 in Clone, Kilkenny, Ireland, d. May 31 1880 in Goderich, Huron, ON. He married Maria Swan, 1 Sep 1832 in Clone, Kilkenny, Ireland, b. abt 1816 in Ireland, d. 26 Sep 1896 in Ellis, Ellis, Kansas.
  5. Keppel Disney b. 5 Sep 1806 in Kilkenny, Ireland, d. 9 Feb 1897 in Manhattan, NY. He married Mary E., b. abt 1830 in England, d. 4 Jul 1905 in Manhattan, NY.
  6. James Disney, b. abt 1807 in Ireland, d. abt 1840.
  7. Frances Disney, b. abt 1816 in Ireland.
  8. Henry Disney, b. 10 May 1816 in Ireland, d. 12 Apr 1877 in Manhattan, NY. He married Christiana Furney, died May 1891 in Manhattan, NY.

Unfortunately I have not been able to verify any of the data on Robert Disney and Mary Keppel and their children which appears above.  It may or may not be correct but I include it so that if you wish to investigate further you will have a starting point.

Now let’s move on to what I have been able to confirm!  In 1834 children Robert and Arundel Elias (number two and four above) sailed to New York City.  The party of seven on board the New Jersey included their wives Jane and Maria as well as Francis and Elias, sons of Robert and Jane, and Keppel, son of Arundel Elias and Maria.

Here is an extract of the passenger manifest from the ships records.

New Jersey Passenger List 500

The brothers had intended to settle in America, but did not stay there long; they moved to the Township of Goderich, Huron County, in the wilderness of south-western Ontario, Canada, just off Lake Huron and bordering on the South Maitland River.

Robert Disney and Jane Cooke had nine children:

  1. Francis Disney, b. 1830 in Ireland.
  2. Elias Disney, b. 1832 in Ireland, d. 23 Dec 1883 in Goderich, Huron, ON.
  3. Elizabeth Disney, b. 1839 Goderich, Huron, ON.
  4. Keppel Disney b. Aug 1841 Goderich, Huron, ON.
  5. William Disney, b. 1843 in Goderich, Huron, ON.
  6. Jane Disney, b. 1845 in Goderich, Huron, ON.
  7. Robert Disney, b. 1846 in Goderich, Huron, ON.
  8. Charles James Disney b. Aug 11 1851 in Goderich, Huron, ON.
  9. Henry Disney, b. 1852 in Goderich, Huron, ON.

I had some difficulty confirming when they moved to Ontario.  They appear in the 1861 Census but proof of their presence before that time was elusive.

1861 Census - Robert Disney

I wanted to see if they were in Canada at the time of the 1851 Census, unfortunately the census records for that particular township have been lost.  So I looked for the 1852 Agricultural Census records for Goderich Township . . . they were lost too!  I kept searching, scouring a number of online resources and finally had a major breakthrough!  There was a Huron County Tax Assessment done in 1842 and there were our two brothers, misspelled but it was definitely our two brothers Robert and Arundel Elias Disney.  Hooray! 

Here’s a transcription of the assessment record.

1842 Assessment

I still don’t know exactly when they arrived but in 1842 Robert owned lots 36 and 37, a 93 acre parcel, and in the household were one male and one female over 16 years of age and four males and two females under sixteen.  Immediately next door was Elias Disney on lots 38 and 39.  He farmed 149 acres and the household included one male and one female over 16 years of age and three males and two females under sixteen.  Both properties are on the Maitland River. 

That area of Ontario was just being settled or homesteaded at that time so it is quite likely that they acquired their farms under a Crown Grant, meaning that they were the first owners of the lands.  A trip to the Land Registry Office could prove this but since it’s a six hour drive from where I live it will have to wait.

Huron County was heavily wooded territory with gently rolling hills at the time.  The brothers must have been industrious souls since settlers had to work for a few decades felling trees and pulling stumps to expand the arable land.  Those who persevered, like the Disney brothers, were rewarded with very fertile farm lands.

This family stayed in the same area of south-western Ontario for several generations and there are still a number of direct descendants in Huron County and the neighbouring municipalities.  There is even a Disney Road about four miles from the shore of Lake Huron, between the towns of Goderich and Clinton.

Robert and Jane are buried in the Maitland Cemetery in Goderich Township.

Death - Robert Disney 1872

Robert Disney Grave - Maitland Cemetery

Jane Cooke Grave - Maitland Cemetery

An 1872 Atlas for Huron County shows two Disney farms, the arrows mark the farms of Charles Disney on the left and Keppel Disney on the right.  The arrow in the centre points to the road which is now known as “Disney Road”.  In 1872 the cousins were less than a mile apart.  Charles was the son of Robert and was living on lot 36 which his father had owned.  Keppel was the son of Elias.

Goderich Township Map 1878

Arundel Elias Disney and Maria Swan had eight children:

  1. Keppel Disney b. 2 Nov 1832 in Clone, Kilkenny, Ireland, d. 24 May 1891 in Ellis, Ellis, KS. He married Mary Richardson, Mar 18 1858 in Goderich, Huron, ON, b. 30 Mar 1838 in Aghaboe Parish, Queens County, Ireland (daughter of Robert Richardson and Ruth Lark), d. 10 Mar 1909 in Ellis, KS.
  2. Mary Disney, b. 6 Aug 1839 in Goderich, Huron, ON. She married Israel E. Forsyth, b. abt 1840 in Dumfries Township, Middlesex County, ON (son of George Forsyth and Estacia), d. abt 1900 in New York, USA
  3. Elias Disney, b. 4 Apr 1843 in Strathroy, Huron, ON, d. 3 Mar 1913 in Hutchinson, Reno, KS
  4. Charlotte Disney, b. abt 1850 in Goderich, Huron, ON.
  5. Thomas Disney, b. abt 1851 in Goderich, Huron, ON.
  6. James Disney, b. abt 1853 in Goderich, Huron, ON.
  7. Harriet Disney, b. abt 1856 in Goderich, Huron, ON, d. 10 Jul 1881 in Ellis, Ellis, Kansas, USA. She married Walter White Martin, 28 Apr 1875 in Chicago, Cook County, IL, b. 28 Mar 1850 in Cincinnati, Madison, OH, d. 14 Dec 1927 in Denver, Adams, CO.
  8. Arundel Robert Disney, b. abt 1858 in Goderich, Huron, ON, d. abt 1910.

In a story I have not been able to substantiate it is suggested that Arundel Elias built the area’s first grist mill and a saw mill while farming and raising a family.   

1861 Census - Arundel Disney

Keppel Disney and Mary Richardson had nine children:

  1. Elias Disney b. Feb 6, 1859 in Goderich, Huron, ON, d. Sep 13, 1941 in Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA. He married Flora Call, 1 Jan 1888 in Kismet, Lake County, FL, b. Apr 22, 1868 in Steuben, Huron, OH (daughter of Charles Call and Henrietta Gross), d. Nov 6, 1938 in Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA
  2. Robert Samuel Disney b. 7 Aug 1861 in Goderich, Huron, ON, d. 28 Jul 1953 in Los Angeles, CA. He married Charlotte Ann Hurcey, b. 2 Nov 1892 in Kansas City, Wyandotte, KS, d. 31 Jan 1979 in Winton, Merced, CA.
  3. Annie Disney, b. abt 1864 in Goderich, Huron, ON.
  4. Edward Disney, b. Dec 1867 in Goderich, Huron, ON.
  5. Alberta Mary Disney b. 20 Feb 1869 in Goderich, Huron, ON, d. 17 May 1954 in Blackwell, Kay, OK. She married John Charles Fremont Johnson, 5 Feb 1891 in Ellis, KS, b. 29 May 1858 in Saginaw, MI, d. 22 Aug 1942 in Blackwell, Kay, OK.
  6. Keppel Disney b. 28 Jan 1872 in Goderich, Huron, ON, d. 13 Dec 1939. He married Mary A. Mullen, 1897, b. 24 Mar 1872 in Iowa City, Wright, IA (daughter of Thomas Mullen and Annie), d. 11 Mar 1956.
  7. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Disney, b. 3 Mar 1874 in Goderich, Huron, ON, d. 3 Dec 1906 in Kansas, USA. She married Harry S. Saunders, abt 1894, b. Aug 1862 in Illinois, USA.
  8. Addie Disney, b. 18 Feb 1876 in Goderich, Huron, ON, d. 23 Mar 1932. She married Benjamin F Jones, abt 1895, b. 15 Apr 1872 in Jasper, Jasper County, MO.
  9. William Henry Disney b. 7 Mar 1878 in Goderich, Huron, ON, d. 17 Apr 1958. He married Lydia M., b. abt 1886 in Missouri, USA.

In 1878 Keppel and Mary along with their children moved to Ellis, KS and appeared in the 1880 census.

1880 Census USA - Kepple Disney

By the time of the 1885 census in Florida their eldest son Elias Disney was living in Orange County Florida.

1885 Census Florida - Elias Disney

In that census you will see a 17 year old girl, F. (Flora) Call, just a few lines below Elias Disney.  Just three years later, in 1888 Elias married Flora at Kismet, Lake County, Florida a mere 50 miles north of the site where their son Walt would, about 80 years later, build Walt Disney World.  Kismet is now a ghost town in the middle of the Ocala National Forest.

Elias and Flora had five children:

  1. Herbert Arthur Disney b. Dec 8, 1888 in Kismet, FL, d. Jan 29, 1961 in Los Angeles, CA. He married Louise J. Rost, 14 Aug 1913 in Kansas City, Jackson, MO, b. 15 Sep 1891 in Missouri (daughter of William A. Rost and Julia A. Rhedanz), d. 21 Apr 1953 in Los Angeles, CA.
  2. Raymond Arnold Disney, b. Dec 30, 1890 in Chicago, Cook, IL., d. May 24, 1989 in Santa Monica, CA.
  3. Roy Oliver Disney b. Jun 24, 1893 in Chicago, Cook, IL, d. 20 Dec 1971 in Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA. He married Edna Francis, 11 Apr 1925 in Los Angeles, CA, b. 16 Jan 1890 in Wichita, Sedgwick, KS (daughter of Edward S. Francis and Lettye Montana Milbourn), d. 18 Dec 1984 in Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA.
  4. Walter Elias Disney b. Dec 5, 1901 in Chicago, Cook, IL, d. Dec 15, 1966 in Burbank, CA. He married Lillian Marie Bounds, 13 Jul 1925 in Lewiston, Nez Perce, ID (daughter of Willard Pehall Bounds and Jeanette Short), b. 15 Feb 1899 in Spalding, Nez Perce, ID, d. 16 Dec 1997 in Los Angeles, CA.
  5. Ruth Flora Disney b. Dec 6, 1903 in Chicago, Cook, IL, d. Apr 7, 1995 in Multnomah, Multnomah, OR. She married Theodore John Beecher, 29 Nov 1938, b. 20 Feb 1906 in Chicago, Cook, IL, d. 21 May 1995 in Multnomah, OR.

Elias and Flora have a well documented history due to their son Walt’s amazing life and career.  They lived in Chicago IL, Marceline MO and Kansas City MO during Walt’s youth.

Walt and Lillian visited Ontario to see the old Disney homestead sometime after his father Elias died in 1943.  In a 1963 interview with Fletcher Markle on the CBC Television program Telescope, Walt told a humorous story.  In Walt Disney’s words:

“We got up there and she [Lillian] really fell in love with the Town of Goderich. It was a beautiful town and she was quite happy about it. But I wanted to find my homestead where my grandfather went out and cut the trees down and pulled the rocks apart… where my father was born. So they gave me directions and everybody was trying to be helpful and everything and Mrs. Disney reluctantly went along and I found this old place and I said, “This is it – there.” It was really deserted. There were cows running through the house and chickens all around and I had my camera and I got out and photographed that thing from every angle.”

“When I got home I found out I had photographed the wrong homestead. Ever since, Mrs. Disney has never forgot. She tells that story to everybody – about when Walt went up to Canada and he photographed the wrong homestead!”

I’ve used both Google Maps and Google Earth to examine the farms where the Disney family lived about a century and a half ago, and it doesn’t look like any of the 19th century buildings have survived.  Alas, we’ll never get that photo of the homestead that Walt was looking for!

The headstones pictured earlier and the road sign shown below are the only traces of the Disney family left in Huron County.

Disney Road Sign

Although I cannot confirm that Robert Disney and Mary Keppel were the parents of the Robert and Elias Disney who came to Canada I have based my search on the presumption that the information is correct.  I have found detailed information covering more than 200 of their descendants.  You might be wondering how I discovered all of this information.  Well it was quite simple really.  I used and did it all from my home in about 12 hours. 

When I first started out in genealogy a search like this would have taken a few years and involved many visits to libraries and museums to pore through dusty old books or endless rolls of microfilm.  In this new digital age it is almost all digitized, indexed and searchable online.  Wow . . . what a treat compared to the old days. 

If you watched the television series “Who Do You Think You Are” which aired about a decade ago and was sponsored by you may have wondered, “Is as good as they make it sound?”  The answer is yes.  Definitely yes!  All of the pictures in this blog, including the census records and the cemetery headstones, were downloaded from  They are all “public domain” documents and are easily found through the web service.  If you are considering tracing your family history this is a tool you must try!

So that’s the story of Walt’s Canadian connection!  Walt’s father and grandfather were born in Canada and his great grandfather and great-great grandfather moved from Ireland to Canada, via New York, sometime before 1842.

And no, I did not find a connection to my Cruise clan . . . at least not yet!  Genealogy is never finished; there is always another riddle or mystery ahead of you.  So someday, when I least expect it, I may just stumble over a connection. 

Wouldn’t that be something!  It would be ‘Magical”

Gary Cruise

Gary Cruise

Gary is a retired banker who lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1977 and has returned many, many times over the years. Since retiring he and his wife Carol enjoy the parks a number of times each year. They especially like staying at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground with their Shetland sheep dogs.


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Birthday Mickey and Disney Share

Walt Disney World is closed . . . Disneyland is closed . . . and we all have to maintain ‘social distance’. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound worldwide effect and Disney has not been immune.  Every Disney theme park in the world has closed and almost all of the Disney resorts have been shut down.  There is no prospect of anything re-opening until the pandemic is brought under control. 

Just like so many other Disney fans, my wife Carol and I are doing our best to practice social distancing during these crazy times.  But it’s leaving us both with a serious case of Disney withdrawal.  None of our friends are at Disney; no one is posting fresh pictures of their adventures.  We’re really missing the vicarious Disney fix we get from following along with our friends as they share the magic they experience. 

We have two Disney trips planned later this year, one in May and one in August but with each passing day it becomes more and more unlikely that we’ll be able to make those trips . . . but we’re keeping our fingers crossed! 

In the meantime, we’re curing our Disney withdrawal by spending plenty of time in our ‘Disney Room’ where we’re surrounded by some very special memories of happy times! 

Disney Room

Our Disney Room

Carol has been a fan of Disneyana collectibles since her first trip to Walt Disney World in 1977 and she began her collection of Disney memorabilia way back then. 

There is a bit of Disney in every room of our house, but we have one room that is nothing but Disney.  Beside our Family Room is a 650-square-foot area . . . our Disney Room . . . and it houses the bulk of Carol’s collection. 

Disney Funko Pop Display

Carols Crafting Table In her Disney room

Carol’s crafting table is surrounded by things that bring back wonderful memories of Disney trips!

There are shelves and bookcases, plate rails and display cases, and all are full of Disneyana collectibles!  Many of these treasures bring back very special memories whenever we see them! 


Disney Collectibles Bring Back Memories

These treasures remind us of our 2019 visit to Disneyland Paris!

Disney Display Bookcase Disney Collectible Bookcase 1

Disney Collectible Bookcase 3

Disney Collectible Bookcase 2

Disney Display Bookcase 2

Mickey Mouse Collectibles 1

Mickey Mouse Collectibles

Donald Duck Collectibles

Carol keeps it all well organized in themed groupings.  As you look through these picures you can see a few shelves set aside for Orange Bird, a few for Dumbo, Alice in Wonderland and Pinocchio.  Some areas are dedicated to a specific movie, a theme park or a character. 

Orange Bird Shelves

Dumbo Collectibles

Alice In Wonderland Collectibles

Pinocchio Collectibles

101 Dalmations Collectibles

Lady and the Tramp Collectible

The plate rails measure over 70 feet and they’re filled with Disney collector plates, old Disney mugs and glasses. 

Disney Room with Ceiling Shelves

The room is jam-packed yet it doesn’t seem cluttered! 

Disney Art Collectibles

Carol has more Disney art than she has available wall space, so some of the pieces are rotated during the year

Disney Art

Keeping a ‘social distance’ doesn’t seem so difficult when we can watch Disney+ on television while sitting in our Disney Room surrounded by all that magic! 

Watching TV In the Disney Room

It’s a very happy place to watch TV!

How do you cure Disney withdrawal? 

Gary Cruise

Gary Cruise

Gary is a retired banker who lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1977 and has returned many, many times over the years. Since retiring he and his wife Carol enjoy the parks a number of times each year. They especially like staying at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground with their Shetland sheep dogs.


A Walk In Walt’s Footsteps

Walk In Walts Footsteps a Self Guided TourDuring a Disneyland vacation in December 2017 Carol and I decided to avoid the Anaheim theme parks on the weekend, knowing that they’d be terribly busy.  We decided to designate Saturday and Sunday as “Walk In Walt’s Footsteps” days . . . not the tour in Disneyland that goes by the same name . . . we did that years ago.  Instead, we hopped in our rental car and drove around the Los Angeles area seeing sights that had a special Disney significance.

Our first stop was only about two miles southwest of Disneyland; the Stanley Ranch Museum and Historical Village at 12174 Euclid Street.  The historical village is operated by the Garden Grove Historical Society and is the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio.  When Walt and Roy first arrived in Los Angeles in 1923 they roomed with their uncle, Robert Disney and set up their studio in his garage.  In 1984 that historic old garage was donated to the Garden Grove Historical Society and moved from 4406 Kingswell Avenue to the village on Euclid Street.

Stanley Ranch Museum

The society does not have a web site, but when I did an Internet search the night before indicated that they opened at 9:00 a.m.  We arrived at about 9:15 a.m., eager to kick off our ‘Disney day’.  As we walked from the small parking area toward the entrance of the historical village we were stopped by a lady who was stretching a flag-draped rope across the entrance, to block access to the village

“Are you here for a tour?” she asked.

“No,” I replied, “we’re looking for Robert Disney’s garage.”

“We’re closed right now.” she replied, “You’ll have to book a tour and come back on the first or third Sunday of the month.”

We were disappointed as we hopped back in the car and drove north about 30 miles, through Los Angeles, to Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale.  We were trying to track down Walt’s grave site near the Court of Freedom.  Forest Lawn is a huge cemetery, about 300 acres, and the receptionist who greeted us at the entrance gate was very helpful.  She highlighted our route on a map of the grounds and gave us some helpful driving hints.

Within a few minutes we arrived at the Court of Freedom and began our brief search for his final resting place.

If you stand at the back of the Court of Freedom building and see the wall and statue pictured below, Walt’s grave is in the corner to your right.

For a man who had such a profound impact on so many people, who left such a rich legacy behind, we were surprised at the humble family plot.

The Disney Family Plot at Forest Lawn

The Disney Family Plot at Forest Lawn

Forest Lawn Disney Headstone

Forest Lawn Disney Headstone

We spent a few minutes paying our respects to this incredibly gifted man, then carried on to our next stop.

A quick 3-mile drive took us to Walt’s old home at 2695 Lyric Avenue.  He built it in 1926; in fact, Walt and his brother Roy built identical homes side-by-side on Lyric Avenue.  Roy’s home at 2697 Lyric was a mirror image of Walt’s!

Walt Disney's house built in 1926

Walt Disney’s house built in 1926


Roy Disney's 1926 house - next door to Walt

Roy Disney’s 1926 house – next door to Walt

On our way to our next stop, about three miles from Walt’s first house, we had a terrific view of the famous Hollywood sign.  That’s no co-incidence since our next destination was the stone gates built in 1923 to mark the entrance to the new real estate development known as Hollywoodland.

The sign originally read Hollywoodland, but it deteriorated over the years, and when it was first refurbished in 1949 the last four letters were dropped, creating the iconic Hollywood sign we know today.

Hollywoodland Gate

Do you see the bus in the picture above?  It’s the same bus as the one in the picture below.  It’s parked at a bus stop right beside the 1923 stone gates we were looking for.  They’re just steps from the corner of Beachwood Drive and Belden Drive.

Look carefully at the picture . . . do the gates look familiar?

Close your eyes and imagine that you’re at Walt Disney World and you’re approaching the Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  On your left you should be imagining a stone building that used to house the FastPass dispensing machines.  On the right you should be picturing a stone tower that houses restrooms.

That’s right; those buildings in Florida are replicas of these old 1923 structures in Hollywood.

Next time you’re at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida look around and you might just find a replica of this brass plaque that has marked the Hollywoodland entrance in California for almost a century!

Our next stop was only two miles away at 1660 North Highland Avenue, just around the corner from Hollywood Boulevard.  It is only steps from Disney’s El Capitan Theatre, Disney’s Soda Fountain, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the Dolby Theatre, home of the Academy Awards.

Max Factor Building

Max Factor Building

The building pictured above, at 1660 North Highland Ave., was purchased in 1928 by Max Factor who was the most sought-after cosmetologist in tinsel town!  The building was totally transformed in Art Deco style and re-opened in 1935 as the Max Factor Makeup Studio.  Today the taller portion, on the left, houses the Hollywood Museum and the shorter portion, on the right, is home to Mel’s Drive-In.

Does the building seem familiar to you?  Next time you’re at Disney’s Hollywood Studios look very carefully at the buildings along Hollywood Boulevard as you walk toward Grauman’s Theatre.  In the midst of all those Art Deco facades on the left you will find a replica of the Max Factor building.

Around the corner from Max Factor was the stop Carol had been looking forward to!  Disney’s Soda Fountain has recently been renovated and is now operated under license by Ghirardelli’s. 

El Capitan and Ghirardellis

El Capitan and Ghirardellis

We spent a few minutes walking up and down Hollywood Boulevard looking at the stars along the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  These Disney-related stars are all within a block of the El Capitan Theatre and the Disney-Ghirardelli Soda Fountain.

Snow White Hollywood Boulevard Star

Snow White Hollywood Boulevard Star

Mickey Mouse Hollywood Boulevard Star

Mickey Mouse Hollywood Boulevard Star

Richard and Robert Sherman Hollywood Boulevard Star

Richard and Robert Sherman Hollywood Boulevard Star

Roy Disney Hollywood Boulevard Star

Roy Disney Hollywood Boulevard Star

Directly across the street from the El Capitan Theatre is the Dolby Theatre, home of the Academy Awards, and beside the Dolby Theatre is the familiar building pictured below.

Graumans Chinese Theatre

Grauman’s Chinese Theatre

Grauman’s Chinese Theatre has been a Hollywood landmark since it opened May 18, 1927.  The handprints, footprints and autographs of nearly 200 Hollywood celebrities are pressed into the concrete of the theatre’s forecourt.

The replica of Grauman’s Theatre in Disney’s Hollywood Studios has housed the Great Movie Ride since the park opened in 1989 but closed in 2017 and is scheduled to re-open soon as Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway.

Our last ‘Disney’ experience of the day was a quick drive-by at 5370 Wilshire Boulevard where Carol snapped the picture below as we slowly cruised past ‘The Darkroom’.

The Darkroom

The Darkroom

The building’s facade features a 9-foot tall replica of a Minolta Camera and it has been a Hollywood landmark since it opened as a camera store in 1938.  Today the building houses a restaurant, but if you want to see how it looked back in 1938 look for the replica at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  It’s a remarkably good reproduction!

We enjoyed a quiet evening back at our Anaheim ‘home away from home’ the Candy Cane Inn.  The next morning we were up bright and early, enjoyed a relaxed breakfast beside the pool then took it easy until about noon.

Our first stop was at 6671 West Sunset Boulevard, the Crossroads of the World.  This one should look familiar to every Disney fan.  This is the first thing you see after you enter Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  The only difference is that the Florida version is a bit taller and Mickey Mouse stands on top of the globe.

Crossroads of the World

Crossroads of the World

The Crossroads opened in 1936 as a shopping mall and office complex.  Today it is primarily offices, most of them associated with the entertainment industry.

From the Crossroads we drove around the western side of Griffith Park to visit the Los Angeles Live Steamers Club and see Walt Disney’s Carolwood Barn.

Since the barn is only open on the third Sunday of each month we knew that we wouldn’t be able to get close to the barn or see inside, but we were hoping to see it from a distance.  As we walked through the entrance gate there were other guests buying $3.00 tickets for a ride through the property on one of the model trains.

Live Steamers

The picture above, from the Steamers web site, shows a model train similar to the one we rode.

We asked the two people in the ticket office if we would be able to get a glimpse of Walt’s barn from the train ride, and they said that we would see it twice, once from the front and then again from the rear.

As we bought our tickets we explained that we were visiting from Canada and wouldn’t be around to see the barn when it was open on the third Sunday but we’d be happy if we could get even a glimpse of the barn from a distance.

A few minutes later, as we waited in line to board the next train, the lady who sold us the tickets called out to us through the ticket window.  I went back, and as I leaned down to listen, she whispered, “If you go to the back door of the office my partner Jack will walk you back to Walt’s barn.”

Yes, even though it wasn’t open to the public we were going to get close to Walt’s barn!  We were flabbergasted!  I don’t know how many times we said thank you . . . but it was a lot!

Carol and Jack at Walt Disney’s Carolwood Barn – Griffith Park

As we walked toward the barn our guide Jack, who was a fairly new member of the Steamers, explained about the trains and artefacts we passed by.  He told us about Walt’s barn.  It’s registered as an official museum and designated as an historic site so it will be preserved for eternity.  The barn is administered by a special sub-group within the Steamers organization, sort of a ‘club within a club’.

We spent about 15 minutes with Jack, walking around Walt’s barn, and taking in the sights and sounds of the surrounding area.

(Don’t tell anyone, but Carol and I actually touched the barn!)

We even had the chance to talk to a few of the other railroad buffs who were busy tinkering with their trains.  As we gazed around we got a sense of what a dedicated bunch they are.

The props and detailed scenery around their track network are all wonderfully done.  There are a lot of man-hours, no doubt all volunteer, wrapped up in the scenes alongside those tracks!

After thanking Jack for the fortieth or fiftieth time we lined up again for our train ride.  The circuit took us for three complete loops around the property which contains about 4 ½ miles of track in two different gauges.

Doesn’t she look happy?

The lady in that fuzzy picture above (shot from our moving train) had just finished decorating her train for Christmas and was taking it out for a joyride.  Doesn’t she look happy?

Our train had an ‘engineer’ up front operating the locomotive and a ‘conductor’ at the rear who explained the sights and exhibits as we passed them.

Walt's barn as seen from the train ride

Walt’s barn as seen from the train ride

There were bridges, tunnels, trestles, turntables, water towers, ghost towns and so much more . . . all built by dedicated train fanatics.

If you have a few hours to spare in Los Angeles, take a trip to Griffith Park and enjoy a train ride.  We had a blast!

Oh yeah – Jack, thanks again for the special tour!

We took a leisurely pace as we Walked In Walt’s Footsteps.  We could have seen all the sights in one day but we stretched it over two days; we wanted to take our time and savour the experience.  We are always fascinated to see the same places that Walt saw and to understand the things that influenced him a little more clearly.  I hope you enjoyed riding along with us!

There are plenty of other locations in the Los Angeles area that we also hope to visit, places that are meaningful for all Disney fans.  This blog just gives a small sampling, based on what Carol and I did that weekend a few years ago.

We’re really hoping to get back to the Los Angeles area on the third Sunday of the month so we can visit Uncle Robert’s Garage and see the interior of Walt Disney’s Carolwood Barn.  They’re both still on our bucket list!

When you want to take a short break from the theme parks in Anaheim there are plenty of other ‘Disney sights’ for you to see.  You can probably uncover some ‘Disney magic’ that Carol and I haven’t discovered yet!



Gary Cruise

Gary Cruise

Gary is a retired banker who lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1977 and has returned many, many times over the years. Since retiring he and his wife Carol enjoy the parks a number of times each year. They especially like staying at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground with their Shetland sheep dogs.

Dayton Disneyana 2019

Thursday June 6, 2019

When we tell our friends that we’re heading back to Disney on vacation . . . many of them roll their eyes!

We can tell by their expression that they’re thinking, “Not again!”

Most of our family and friends ‘just don’t get it’ when it comes to our passion for Disney!

The ‘eye-rolling’ is not so obvious when we say we’re going to Dayton Ohio for the weekend . . . if only they knew that it’s just another way to get our ‘Disney Fix’!

If you are anything like Carol and I . . .

If your friends and family groan and roll their eyes when you mention Disney . . .

You need to find a place filled with people who understand your addiction . . .

You need to go to Dayton Disneyana!

Disneyana 2019 Map

It’s a 632 mile trip from our home in Kingston Ontario to Dayton Ohio but Carol and I look forward to the trek every year!

Once we arrive in Dayton we pause and reflect that ‘This is our place . . . These are our people!’

Every Disney fan should try to experience Dayton Disneyana at least once.

We left home at about 8:00 a.m. Thursday morning, crossed the Thousand Islands Bridge into the USA and followed the south shores of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. There were quick stops in New York State, shopping breaks at Watertown and Syracuse, then a lunch break (Chik-fil-A of course) at Buffalo. After a fuel stop at Erie Pennsylvania we turned south near Cleveland and stopped for the night at Mansfield Ohio. After a nice dinner at Olive Garden Carol fiddled on the computer while I watched the Stanley Cup playoffs!

Friday June 7, 2019

We were up bright and early and after a quick coffee in the room we hit the road again at 7:25. It was a short hop, past Columbus to Dayton and we pulled into the Hope Hotel, adjacent to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base at 9:20. Our room was ready!  Holy cow . . . that was unexpected!

By 10:00 a.m. we were all settled in our room so we headed down the Conference area and found several members of the Dayton Chapter of the Disneyana Fan Club busily setting up for the weekend event.

Lucy and Carol

The room they use as an office and ‘staging area’ for all the goody bag, raffle prizes, and materials needed for the weekend was buzzing with active worker-bees!


Goody Bags For The Early Birds

Trinkets to be given away

Carol and I pitched in and helped get things ready!

During the year I made three Disney-themed wreaths to contribute to the live auction. Two had a Halloween motif and one was meant for Christmas.

Halloween wreaths

Minnie Mouse in a Christmas wreath

The live auction and all the other fund-raising events throughout the weekend support the work of Pirate Packs, a program to help feed needy school children in the Dayton area.

Over the years the Dayton club has raised a lot of money to support this worthy cause and we are always happy to pitch in!

This year we carried about 15 or 20 pounds of Kraft Peanut Butter along on our journey. We hope that some happy kids in Dayton are thinking, “Wow, this Canadian peanut butter is really good!”

At noon we broke for a quick bite of lunch at Packy’s, the restaurant/bar in the hotel, directly across from the big conference hall. I left about 12:45 to join a tour leaving at 1:00 p.m. for the National Museum of the US Air Force.

Wow! What a place.

Air Force Museum

We spent a couple of hours walking through the four huge hangars that house the museum. There are close to 300 military aircraft on display covering the entire age of aviation. They are real planes, not reproductions and they range from the Wright Brothers original flyer to old tri-planes and bi-planes and they span the decades up to the most recent stealth bombers!

Walt Disney drove an ambulance similar to this in WWI

Our guide Dennis in the Goofy hat

It’s an astounding display and we merely skimmed the surface as we looked at the dozen or more displays that have a distinct Disney connection.

Roy Williams from the Mickey Mouse Club TV Show

George Lucas spent a lot of time studying this aircraft. Do you see some elements of the Millennium Falcon in it?

A recent addition to the museum – The Memphis Belle

George Lucas studied this one too! Can you visualize a young Anakin Skywalker riding it?

From biplanes to Stealth technology, it’s all at the Air Force Museum!

You could easily spend several days in the Air Force Museum and not see it all. If you’re ever in the Dayton area be sure to stop here for a visit!

It takes a lot of effort to transform an empty banquet hall to a Disney shopping Mecca! While I was exploring the aircraft displays Carol was helping some friends set up their tables full of merchandise in the vendor room. It’s always a rush for the merchants to get moved in and organized in a single day!

I joined her back in the Vendors Room at 3:00 p.m. and spent a few minutes getting pictures of some of the displays. There is always an amazing variety of Disneyana and collectible items for sale in Dayton!

Uh-Oh! Carol likes collector plates!

By 5:30 it was taking shape!

The quarter auction began at 6:00.

If you wish to bid for any auction items you start by purchasing numbered paddles for $1 each. You can buy as many paddles as you like. Each paddle allows you to bid one quarter on the items being sold.

When an item is held up for display, you quickly decide how many quarters you want to bid, then hold up one paddle for each quarter and pay the quarters into a bucket as the auctioneers walk past.

As soon as all the bids are collected they begin drawing paddle numbers at random and calling them out. If the number of a paddle you are not holding up is called you yell out “No bid.” and they draw again.

Once the number of a ‘paid-up’ paddle is called, that person is the lucky winner!

The quarter auction was a lively event and in about two hours raised over $1,800.00 for Pirate Packs. (That’s 7,200 quarters!)

After the auction a group of us went to Packy’s for a snack. It turned out that almost all of the Canadian contingent was there. We all had a nice chat over dinner and drinks.

Gary stayed at Packy’s and enjoyed another cold drink with a few friends while Carol grabbed her pin bag and headed off to the pin trading room.

By 11:00 p.m. we were both back to our room and ready for bed!

Saturday June 8, 2019

We were up at the crack of dawn!

Michelle is eager to get started!

Carol was one of the 100 people who paid $35.00 to be an ‘Early Bird’ so that she could begin shopping at 8:30 a.m. and spend 90 minutes scooping up bargains before the rest of the guests were allowed to enter the hall at 10:00!

She wanted to be well caffeinated and ready for action, so we headed to Packy’s for coffee!

Hotel registration includes a complimentary hot breakfast each day and buffet served at Packy’s is quite nice, but for some reason on this weekend neither Carol nor I ate breakfast. We discovered on the way home that we still had all four breakfast coupons.

Goody-bags for the Early-Birds

These folks are ‘keeners’ and are at the head of the line!

Down the hall and around the corner is the Canadian contingent.

Latosha is ready for the onslaught . . . and so are all the other vendors!

Oh look! There’s Tim Horton’s coffee and donuts!

Just before the clock struck 8:30 a.m. Anita warned the vendors that 100 Disney-crazed maniacs were about to arrive. Then she threw the doors open and they swarmed in.

Carol was in the middle of the pack so it was a couple of minutes before she arrived . . . but she got right to work!

Pam also went straight to the raffle tables!

This year the vendor’s raffle prizes were all together on tables at the rear of the banquet hall rather than on the individual vendor’s tables.

That was good because it allowed folks to find the raffle items easily and do some ‘comparison shopping’ of the raffle alternatives.

“Jay, we’re going to have to rent a truck for the trip home!”

 Diana from TD Collectibles in Kissimmee Florida had plenty of pins and lots of collectibles!

Mickey ears can also double as a bow tie! Who knew?

It was bad because you had to decide whether the shopping or the raffle took first priority!

I think most people really preferred to have the raffle items displayed in a separate area!

“There’s Disney stuff EVERYWHERE!”

As usual, Carol had most of her shopping done by 10:00 a.m. when the ‘Early Bird’ opportunity ended and the rest of the crowd entered the hall.

I had already carted a couple of loads of her new-found treasures back to our room while she continued to focus on scouring the aisles!

At 10:30 my favourite part of the Dayton Disneyana weekend began! They always have a terrific line-up of Disney speakers and this year was no exception.

Special Guests: Marian Maher, Kaye Malins, Tom Nabbe, Inez Johnson and Alex Maher

Alex Maher was the first speaker and he told us the story of his determination, from a very early age, to become a Disney artist. He fell in love with Disney when his Kindergarten class took a field trip to the library. He was mesmerized by some Disney illustrations in a book he found in that Miami area library. To this day Alex describes himself as ‘the world’s greatest fan of Walt Disney.’

After high school Alex enlisted in the US Navy and after his hitch in the military worked at a couple of graphic arts jobs in south Florida . . . but during all those years he was applying again and again to Disney.

In 1991 he took a daring leap of faith! Alex decided that if he really wanted that dream-job at Disney he should be living in Orlando. So with no job waiting for him he quit his job heading the Art Department at a small Miami college and moved his wife and two children to Orlando.

Disney was hiring bus drivers at the time, so Alex applied. Seems that the supervisors in the Transportation Department didn’t want to train a bus driver only to lose him at the first opportunity to the Art Department, so Alex didn’t get that job.

He worked briefly at another theme park just down the road but it wasn’t Disney and the magic just wasn’t there.

Then the day he had dreamed of finally arrived. It had taken years and years, but his diligence paid off. Alex was initially hired by Disney, in 1991, on a freelance basis and in 1993 became a permanent employee. He is a Senior Character Artist in the Walt Disney Attractions Merchandise Department.

So what does a Disney Design Artist do? The short answer is, pretty much everything, other than animation. Their work revolves around merchandise, any kind of merchandise and you can see it on shelves all over the parks. If you buy a coffee mug, a print, a figurine, a t-shirt or a cloisonné pin, the concept for the piece sprang from the imagination of a design artist. The more complex pieces require a “four position drawing” showing the piece from four different viewpoints.

Alex was one of the original members of the “Pin Team” established in 1999 to design trading pins and two decades later cloisonné pins still make up a good portion of his designs.

When you listen to Alex speak it is impossible to miss the reverence he has for Walt Disney and the joy he experiences in his day to day working life.

He is proof that dreams can come true. As Walt Disney said, ‘If you can dream it, you can do it!’

Today Alex, his wife Marian and their two children are all employed by Disney!

If you ever get a chance to meet Alex Maher and hear his story, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity. He’s a talented artist, a sincere Disney fan and a truly fascinating speaker.

Between the speaker’s presentations Carol and I headed to Packy’s for lunch. She had spent a few hours bouncing between the Pin Trading rooms and the Vendors Room and was pleased with her pin trades!

The annual Costume Contest was taking place when we finished lunch. There are always some creative costume ideas, all Disney related of course!

This year there was a large Star Wars group to augment some of the familiar characters from all those Disney animated features.

At 1:00 p.m. Tom Nabbe kicked off the afternoon session and related another fascinating story of determination.

He told the story of his varied career at Disney . . . and it was fascinating.

Tom began selling newspapers outside the Harbor Gate to Disneyland in 1955 when the park was still under construction. The image below shows an opening day, July 17, 1955 Disneyland ticket that actor Danny Thomas gave to Tom’s mother.

In the next slide you see newsboy Tom standing outside that Harbor Gate, flanked by Milton Berle and Jerry Lewis.

Tom standing outside that Harbor Gate

By 1957 young Tom had persuaded Walt Disney to hire him to portray Tom Sawyer on the newly opened Tom Sawyer Island. The next picture shows Tom, in his Tom Sawyer persona, sitting on a rock at Tom Sawyer Island.

The final picture shows his Main Street Window dedication at Walt Disney World in 2003.

It’s not often that you get a chance to speak one-on-one with an authentic Disney Legend . . . but it happens regularly at Dayton Disneyana!

The next speaker was one that Carol and I had not met before. Kaye Malins was born and raised in Marceline Missouri, the town where Walt spent his formative years.

Kaye is Executive Director of the Walt Disney Hometown Museum and she’s a true Disney historian and a unique storyteller. Her connections to The Walt Disney Company can be traced directly back to its founding fathers, Walt and Roy Disney. Kaye first met Walt and Roy when they returned to dedicate the Disney Municipal Park and Pool Complex in their boyhood hometown of Marceline.

Walt and Roy in 1956 at their old Elementary School

Roy and Walt pass a sign that reads ‘City Limits – Marceline – Population 3,172’

During that trip Walt, Lillian, Roy and Edna were honoured houseguests of Kaye’s parents Rush and Inez Johnson. Those treasured days in 1956 sparked a family friendship that lasted a lifetime.

Kaye’s mother, Inez Johnson, joined her onstage and gave us a hilarious first-hand account of that visit by the Disney family in 1956. Walt and Roy had decided to honour the town where they grew up funding construction of a new municipal park and swimming pool complex. Then it came time to dedicate the new park and pool, so naturally the city fathers invited their benefactors.

Kaye’s father Rush Johnson was a city councillor and the arrival of the famous Disney brothers created quite a stir at the regular council meeting.

“These are very wealthy and famous people, where will they stay?”

“We’re a very small town; we don’t even have a motel.”

After a great deal of active discussion it was decided that the Disney families would simply have to stay at the only home in Marceline that had air conditioning. That was the home of Kaye’s parents Rush and Inez Johnson.

Inez kept us all in stitches as she told us how Rush came home from that City Hall meeting and rather sheepishly explained that some very famous celebrities were coming to stay in their home. I haven’t laughed so hard in quite some time!

Kaye told us about the Walt Disney Hometown Museum where she serves as Executive Director.

Like so many small towns, Marceline lost its rail service years ago and the station sat vacant for years. Every avid Disney fan knows that Walt Disney was a huge railroad fan. It couldn’t be more appropriate that the museum in Marceline is located in the former train station.

It has been beautifully restored and revitalized and after hearing about it, Carol and I have added Marceline MO to our Bucket List.

Have you heard about Walt’s ‘Dreaming Tree’?

Roy and Walt at the Dreaming Tree in 1956

Walt’s father Elias didn’t think much of art and sketching and animation. Real work, work of any value involved manual labour and physical exertion. So Walt did his chores on the farm and contributed his effort and sweat as required, but whenever possible he would grab his sketch pad and pencils and sit under his ‘Dreaming Tree’, a huge cottonwood tree down by the creek.

Alas, the original Dreaming Tee is now dead and decaying. But a new Dreaming Tree sapling, germinated from a seed of the original tree was planted by one of Walt’s grandsons and as the old tree decays the new one is gaining strength and vigour!

Read about the Dreaming Tree and much more on the Walt Disney Hometown Museum’s web site here: 

The Live Auction began at 4:00 p.m. as soon as Kaye and Inez finished their presentation.

There were a number of very nice items donated and folks rushed in as soon as they could to see the treasures that were available.

The two one-of-a-kind original sketches that Alex Maher had drawn that afternoon were very popular and each of them earned several hundred dollars for Pirate Packs.

I have donated a Mickey Mouse lamp post for the auction for the past few years and this year I decided to create a few Disney themed wreaths. The one below featured Minnie Mouse all dressed up for Christmas.

The Jack Skellington wreath Randy is holding below is one of two Halloween ones I made.

I wasn’t sure how popular they might be, but it turned out very well. The three of them brought in over $300 for Pirate Packs. I’ll be sure to create a few more for next year!

The illuminated 3D Lenticular piece on drew some aggressive bidding and sold for over $200.

Then came the item that Carol really wanted. She explained to me earlier that she really, REALLY, REALLY wanted it. It was pretty clear that I had my instructions! It was a Bradford Exchange set of four Mickey Mouse pieces. They were cast china pieces, like a china dinner plate, except they were flat and rectangular. Each depicted a couple of decades in Mickey’s history and each had a 3D Mickey Mouse image projecting from it. All four pieces fit into a nice wooden frame to hang on the wall.

I opened the bidding and it soon boiled down to a two-horse race, I was bidding against Rene Barnett, a Dayton Disneyana Committee member and a hard-working volunteer at the event every year. I felt bad bidding against Rene . . . but I had my instructions! We won the plates and frame with a $100 bid and Carol was delighted.

The last item up for bid was the Mickey Mouse lamp post I donated. You can see part of it in the picture of the illuminated 3D Lenticular above. This also quickly boiled down to a two-horse race, Lucy who is also a member of the Dayton Disneyana Committee and a volunteer at the event was bidding aggressively against Mike and Tina from Windsor Ontario. Lucy was thrilled when she won with a $235 bid!

Over the course of the weekend Dayton Disneyana raised a total of $5,000 for Pirate Packs, and of course there was also hundreds of pounds of food donated to this very worthy cause as well!

There was a short break before dinner so we headed back to the room for a few minutes, then headed back to Packy’s.

The dinner format was a bit different this year, and it was wonderful. They called it ‘Part of Your World Dinner’ and there were only 32 tickets available at $65 each. The dinner itself was a buffet and it was much better than I had expected. Much better than the ‘rubber chicken’ you usually find as similar events.

But the food was secondary to the company . . . and the company was great! They had cordoned off a section of the restaurant for us and set up 4 tables of 10. Each table had space for 8 ticket holders and 2 of our special guests. Every 30 minutes it was like musical chairs, the special guests got up and moved on to another table.

What a great concept! We started off sharing our appetizers and some fascinating conversation with Alex Maher and his wife Marian.

It was tough to see them go after a half hour, but then Tom Nabbe joined us and the fun began again.

Next to join our table were Kaye Malins and her mother Inez . . . the laughter continued!

The last to sit with us were event organizers Gary and Anita Schaengold who were filling in for Jim Hill who normally acts as emcee for the weekend. Unfortunately Jim had to cancel at the last minute, but Gary and Anita filled in admirably!

The ‘Part of Your World Dinner’ is a terrific concept; I hope they repeat it next year. It’s a nice way to spend some time with Disney celebrities in a small group without all the noise of a ‘convention’ in the background!

After dinner Carol headed to the pin trading room while I stayed at Packy’s for a drink with a few friends. We were both in bed early; it’s another long day on the road tomorrow!

Sunday June 9, 2019

Things are a lot less rushed on Sunday morning. There is no rush to get to the Early Bird session and the Vendor Room doesn’t open until 10:00 a.m.

Carol wanted to take another lap around the tables full of merchandise before we pulled out to head home so that gave us time for a leisurely breakfast at Packy’s, followed by several cups of coffee.

It’s probably the only laid-back part of the weekend for us and folks seem to all congregate in the restaurant for some friendly chatter before the doors open for shopping.

The vendors would rather sell it than pack it up! There are bargains available on Sunday.

We made a quick round of the sales floor, thanked the organizers, said goodbye to friends and got on the road heading home at about 10:45.

Yes, we survived another weekend in Dayton! And we had a great time.

We take the same 632 mile route home, but the trip is always quicker . . . we seem to make fewer stops when we’re northbound. Maybe that’s because the adventure is behind us rather than waiting for us. We just want to get home! We made a few quick stops along the way to stretch our legs and fill up with gas but the stops were minimal.

We arrived home about 9:00 p.m. and carried all of Carol’s new treasures into the house!

So, let’s take a look at what she brought home to add to her Disney collection!

These were all free items included in the Early Bird goody bags or won in the raffles.

Carol’s other purchases . . . all destined to find a new home in her Disney Room!

As I described before, picking up this beautiful piece in the live auction was the highlight of Carol’s weekend!

Will we see you in Dayton next year?

Check their web site for full details:

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Gary Cruise

Gary Cruise

Gary is a retired banker who lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1977 and has returned many, many times over the years. Since retiring he and his wife Carol enjoy the parks a number of times each year. They especially like staying at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground with their Shetland sheep dogs.

Disney Pin Trading In New Jersey

One of the highlights of Carol’s pin-trading year is the trip to New Jersey each Spring for the “Trade ‘Til You Fade” pin trading weekend hosted by Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders.  She just loves getting together with other traders and CJDPT always puts on a first class event!

The group was founded by John Rick in January 2002 and since then they have held regular pin trading meets.  The schedule of events is accessible on their web site at:   All of their meets are held at the Comfort Inn 255 Davidson Avenue, Somerset, NJ.  There are Friday evening events, Saturday afternoon events and two week-end-long events in the Spring and Fall each year.  John’s wife Sheila and their good friends Janis Lavender and her husband David are actively involved in all aspects of the group’s activities.

We normally travel to New Jersey with a group of Canadian pin traders, most of them from the Toronto area.  Even though I am not a pin trader, I have joined in a few times. The trip is an adventure for Carol and I.  Our travel day is usually Thursday and we often stop at the Syracuse NY Disney Store on the way; many of the Disney Stores in Canada have closed and we sure miss them! The store is conveniently located about two hours into our trek so we can stop and stretch our legs.  It’s a 364 mile trip from our home to the Comfort Inn but we have a bit of a head-start on our companions from the Toronto area who have to drive a little further, it’s about a 500 mile trip for them.

Missing pin on a milk carton

Pin trading is serious business – milk cartons showing the missing pins!

You might expect that we Canadians, since we are foreigners, travel furthest to get to New Jersey but that’s actually not the case. Folks drive from as far away as Miami FL – 1,270 miles but I think the overall the distance award has to go to the dedicated trader from Seattle WA who, a few years ago, flew 2,800 miles to trade pins!

Even though trading activities don’t officially start until Friday evening there are already some pin traders set up at the tables in the breakfast area adjacent to the lobby by the time we arrive Thursday evening.  We always stop and renew acquaintances but it’s normally a short night for us.  It has been a long drive and Carol needs a good night’s rest to get her ready for a gruelling week end!

We try to plan some other “Disney” activities for Friday morning.  This often involves a commuter-train ride to New York City’s Penn Station or a trip on the Staten Island Ferry to Battery Park in Lower Manhattan.  Over the years our adventures in The Big Apple have taken us on a couple of double-decker bus tours of Manhattan, to Times Square many times and to some fabulous NYC delicatessens for lunch.  We’ve browsed some amazing shops along 5thAvenue and taken a peaceful horse-drawn-carriage ride through Central Park.

Carriage ride in Central Park before the Disney Pin event

Carriage ride in Central Park before the pin trading event!

But, of course, we have to be back to the hotel in New Jersey by late afternoon!  The event kicks off Friday evening at 7:00 p.m. when the registration desk opens and folks line up to check-in, pick up their name-tags, goody bags and tickets for several random draws.  There are three trading areas, two hotel meeting rooms fill with traders first and once breakfast is over the trading activity spills over into the room where the complimentary breakfast is served each morning.  The Comfort Inn and their staff are extremely accommodating.  The hotel staff all join in the fun by wearing Disney themed clothing and they allow the group to post Disney posters and signs throughout the common areas of the hotel.  It is a very festive and fun filled place!  They even allow the group to bring in coolers filled with their own drinks on ice.  Most traders bring bottled water, sodas or juices to add to the communal drink coolers and there are also plenty of traders who contribute “snack-food” items which soon fill the counters in the breakfast area.  It quickly transforms from a complimentary breakfast into a veritable junk-food buffet!

The breakfast room

Carol always does her best trading on Friday nights. This year she traded from 7:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. and was delighted with the 20 pins she picked up.  Yes, pin traders are an oddly nocturnal group!  I have no idea what time things actually wound down but a friend reported that the crowd was thin when he left at 3:00 a.m.

Saturday morning we headed down for breakfast at 8:15. Many of the night-owls had returned, looking remarkably fresh and eager.  The two meeting rooms were open and trading was in full swing again but, of course, the breakfast room was set aside for breakfast.  Traders who want to set up in the breakfast room once the meal is done simply park their pin cases and pin bags along the wall in the corridor and establish their order in the line.  Then at 10:20 or 10:30, when the area has been cleaned up after breakfast, they are given the “all-clear” to file in.  Once they settle and get set up they are established for the day and trading resumes in earnest.

One of the meeting rooms

The traders who come to these events are not at all like some of the ones you used to meet at those tables outside Pin Central at Downtown Disney.  Many of them made their living trading pins and they could be very aggressive, sometimes ruthless.  Not so at CJDPT events.  The traders here are nice people who are anxious to help you complete your collection. Trading is easy, fun and free of stress. Carol really enjoys this week end; she looks forward to it every year.

This was probably about the 30th“overnight event” CJDPT has hosted and the hotel was fully booked by pin traders.  The organizers always negotiate reasonable group rates with the hotel; Carol and I had a two-room suite with a king bed and the rate was only $79.00 plus tax.  Our bill for two nights was only $181.10 including a complimentary breakfast each day!  Wow!

The Comfort Inn New Jersey Disney Pin Traders

The Comfort Inn welcomes us!

Registration fees for the pin trading event are quite reasonable as well.  Guests registered at the hotel pay a fee of $5.00 to register for all three days.  If you are not a hotel guest your fees for all three days will not be more than $18.00.  There were 97 people trading pins on Friday night and local traders who “drop in” for a few hours during the weekend swelled the total registration number to almost 200 people.  It’s a very popular event!

There are special games, activities, quizzes and raffles throughout each day and night with prizes for all the winners.  It’s non-stop trading and there is always a fun-filled diversion of some kind.  It’s not always about pins; people also trade vinylmations and other Disney collectibles!

Explaining the rules for the gift exchange

One of the highlights is the Saturday night gift exchange. It’s purely voluntary and not everyone participates but it’s always fun for those who do get involved.  It’s one of those exchanges where gifts can be “stolen” and folks can get quite aggressive and quite entertaining as they seek out their favourite gift! 

Sunday morning is generally very quiet; those who have travelled a distance are packing up and checking out to start the trip home.  We always have breakfast and yak a bit before saying our goodbyes.  We strive to be on the road by 10:30 so that we arrive home by about 6:00 p.m.   Many folks stay and continue trading until the event officially closes at noon.  Every year we see the plenty of familiar faces and several new ones.  Carol has always found the group easy to trade with and she always completes a few sets and comes home with some new treasures!

Raffle Prize

If you are a pin trader and you want experience a fun filled week end with your peers, New Jersey is the place for you.  Check out their web site at: and make plans to join in a pin week end soon.

Gary Cruise

Gary Cruise

Gary is a retired banker who lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1977 and has returned many, many times over the years. Since retiring he and his wife Carol enjoy the parks a number of times each year. They especially like staying at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground with their Shetland sheep dogs.

Here you can see Gary at the pin trading event manning the booth while Carol trades pins!

Disney Friends Keeping The Magic Alive

Disney Indy Meet 2We all know that Disney vacations are filled with magic . . . but how do you keep that Magic alive between trips? How do you enjoy Disney magic when you’re not at the parks?

One way that Carol and I have found is to share time with other Disney fans at several ‘Disney meets’ each year. We really enjoy this sort of fan get-together. For us, they are an easy way to keep the magic alive without making that long trek south!

When we talk to friends about some of the local Disney get-togethers we have attended we often hear things like:

· “I wish I had known about this, I live very close by.”

· “I would love to know when this is next year!”

· “That sounds like so much fun; I’d love to go some time.”

So if you’re looking to spend some happy times with fellow Disney fans, people who share your Disney addiction, here is a list of a few of those “non-theme park events” coming up in the not-too-distant future.

These local events can help you put the maximum “Disney Magic” in your life!

1. Southern Ontario “Canadian Disney Fan” Meets

In June 2015 twenty-four strangers met at a Denny’s restaurant in Whitby Ontario. The only thing we had in common was a love of all things Disney. We spent a wonderful afternoon talking about our happy place, sharing ideas, trading Disney pins and Vinylmations and most importantly, making new friends.

Canadian Disney Fan Meet

Canadian Disney Fan Meet 2015

That first meet was so much fun that we have continued to get together about every three months and sometimes as many as 100 die-hard Disney fans have joined us! That first event has now spawned several active groups which meet regularly at locations across Southern Ontario. Each has a Facebook page where you can find specific information about the next meet.

2. Trade ‘til You Fade – Somerset, New Jersey

This weekend-long event, organized in April or May each year by Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders, is a fun-filled experience for those who collect and trade Disney pins. There are games, raffles and even an optional gift exchange which can be hilarious! Full details are available on the Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders web site HERE.

3. Dayton Disneyana – Dayton Ohio

Another wonderful weekend-long event, however this one caters to Disneyana collectors. The Dayton “Plane Crazy” Chapter of the Disneyana Fan Club does a terrific job organizing this annual bonanza for Disneyana collectors. A hotel ballroom is chock full of vendors tables overflowing with high quality collectibles. This is not a flea market, these are real collectors selling quality product. There are always a few interesting speakers who pass on some fascinating tidbits of Disney history and gossip during afternoon and evening seminars.

Dayton Disneyana 2015

Dayton Disneyana 2015

Carol enjoys browsing through the collectibles, I enjoy listening to the speakers. When I have a chance to spend one-on-one time with Disney Imagineers, Disney artists and Disney Legends it’s like having a back door into Disney lore and legend.

There are smaller meeting rooms near the ballroom all set up with tables and chairs, where attendees can trade Disney pins or simply mix and mingle.

Full details are available on the Dayton chapter’s web site HERE.

4. Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet – Lynnwood Washington

Carol and I have not attended this annual event held near Seattle; it’s a long way from where we live! But we’ve heard very good reviews from friends who have been there. There are always some top-notch speakers and interesting activities.

Bob Gurr

Bob Gurr – PNWMM

You can read about arrangements and plans for upcoming events on the PNWMM web site: HERE

PNWMM Marty Sklar

Marty Sklar – PNWMM

5. Indy Disney Meet – Hamilton County 4H Fairgrounds Noblesville Indiana

This is another event Carol and I have not attended but it sounds wonderful. It’s family oriented, it’s free and they have raised a lot of money to support Give Kids The World. It sounds like a great way to have fun and support a worthy cause, all at the same time. Check out their web site HERE

Indy Pin

Indy Pin

6. Swap ‘til You Drop – Somerset New Jersey

Another fun-filled weekend-long event, organized in October each year by Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders. The format for this event is very similar to the Trade ‘til You Fade event held each spring. Refer to their web site HERE.

So . . . if you’re feeling blue because you can’t get to one of the Disney parks . . . why don’t you plan to attend one of these locally organized fan events!

Disney fans always make a fun-loving group; imagine how easy it is to make new friends when you are surrounded by kindred spirits.

Maybe Carol and I will see you there!

Gary Cruise

Gary Cruise

Gary is a retired banker who lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1977 and has returned many, many times over the years. Since retiring he and his wife Carol enjoy the parks a number of times each year. They especially like staying at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground with their Shetland sheep dogs.

Disney Group Cruising – It’s More Fun With Friends

Castaway Cay Fantasy
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to cruise with a group? Well I can tell you, based on our experience, that it’s fun!

Carol and I have cruised a few times on our own; we’ve cruised with a few friends several times and we’ve cruised as part of a large group four times. Our experience has been that the larger group adds a new dimension to the cruise experience. We really like it!

La Piazza 2

A group cruise is simply a cruise vacation which is organized by a person or company and is then offered to people with common interests. The organizer often arranges group activities which individuals can elect to participate in if they wish. There is no pressure to participate, it is purely voluntary.

What are the advantages of a group cruise?

The diversity of the group. Carol and I enjoy the opportunity to mix and mingle with old friends we see on the ship and we like to meet new people as well. The group cruise gives us this opportunity.

Photo Walk 5

You can be as involved and active as you like or you can just kick back, relax and ignore all the group activities. There is no truant officer!

So what are some of these group activities? Let me give you some examples from one of our group cruising adventures. We sailed on the AllEars Disney Fantasy Cruise which took place in May 2012. The group activities were all arranged by There were 125 cruisers in our group and we occupied 52 staterooms on a seven day eastern Caribbean cruise.

Group Cruise

The whole gang!

On Saturday we boarded the Fantasy and one of the first stops was the AllEars registration desk where we registered, picked up our AllEars Navigator (schedule of events) and our scavenger hunt questionnaire. We also received our “Welcome Gift” . . . a backpack full of a variety of swag! Disney Cruise Line gives some pretty nice swag to returning cruisers, members of the Castaway Club, but not nearly as nice as the AllEars swag we received. It was a high quality AllEars backpack full of trinkets and treasures.

After settling into our stateroom and attending the mandatory lifeboat drill we headed up to deck #12 for the sail-away party. Our group all met in the same area for a ‘meet & greet’ while the sail-away festivities were in progress. This was our first chance to mix and mingle with others in the group.

Ice Cream Social 1

There was a scavenger hunt which required cruisers to answer some very challenging trivia questions about the Disney Fantasy. The door decorating contest ensured that some of the stateroom doors were quickly transformed into lavish art displays!

Each of the three “sea days” founder Deb Wills invited everyone to join her at 8:00 a.m. for coffee and chatter at the Cove Café. These meets were always well attended. Even Carol attended a few times and she is not normally a ‘morning person’.

Cove Cafe 3

Cove Cafe Meets

Sunday afternoon there was an Ice Cream Social. We met at Eye Scream Treats on deck #11 and everyone helped themselves to a self-serve ice cream treat. Yum! Everyone enjoyed it!

Some people really enjoyed it!

And of course they traded pins and Sorcerer Cards!

Pin Trading 1

Pin Trading

Sunday evening we met for cocktails in La Piazza on deck #4, a few impromptu photo-ops ensued!

Pin Trading 2

Monday morning, after coffee with Deb in the Cove Café, we gathered in The Tube on deck #4 for some pin trading. Carol was busy manning the pin board for the full 90 minutes and answered a lot of questions for some newcomers to pin trading. Once folks had done a pin trade (or two or three) out came the cards and the traders spread out all over The Tube.

While we had great weather, a brief rain Monday afternoon dampened plans for the Mini Golf meet on deck #13, Goofy’s Sport Deck. Maybe next time . . .

Most of our group selected the early dining option and we were all seated in close proximity in the dining rooms. This gave yet another opportunity to see the new people we met and was especially fun on Pirate Night when we got to see everyone’s costumes! Argggh!

Pirates 2

Thursday morning, after coffee with Deb in the Cove Café, we gathered in the atrium on deck #3 for a photo-walk. Barrie Brewer was our leader and expert photographer. She explained what a photo walk was all about, then we broke into two groups and got started. We simply walked around the ship taking pictures. I led one group which stayed in the atrium and did our best to capture some interesting images there. Barrie Brewer and Linda Eckwerth took the other group and headed to Europa, the adult entertainment area on deck #4. My group rejoined them there and the larger group swarmed Europa taking pictures. The mosaic murals of toreadors and flamenco dancers in the restrooms were an extremely popular subject!

Photo Walk 1

Friday at Castaway Cay many of us convened for a group lunch at the Serenity Bay barbecue. It’s funny but even with all the fine dining available on the ship, this barbecue on Castaway Cay is always one of my favourite meals!

Then came the grand finale! The AllEars farewell party on Friday afternoon. The cruise was coming to an end, we debark tomorrow. Dang! We met in The Tube on deck #4. A slide show of pictures from many of our meets was playing on three large screens behind the stage and we were treated to complementary beverages and snacks!

Farewell 8

Deb Wills thanked us all for joining her on the cruise and for participating in so many on-board events. These events were scrolling behind her in the slide show so we relived them as she spoke.

Soon the prizes were handed out for the scavenger hunt and the door decorating contest. Then the raffle tickets were drawn. Every time you attended any of the events or meets during the cruise you were given a raffle ticket. There were over a dozen prizes and some very happy winners.

After the prizes were all awarded we had a surprise visitor, Captain Mickey came and posed for pictures with all of us! What a treat!

Captain Mickey 2

So that’s what a group cruise is all about. There is always a nice variety of activities which you can elect to participate in but they do not interfere with other things you want to do. We attended almost all the group activities but we were still able to see every show in the Walt Disney Theatre. We spent plenty of time lounging around the pool, enjoyed shore adventures and did all the other things we enjoy while cruising. The bonus was we met some very nice people and made some new friends while we were doing it!

Sail Away 5

So if you think a group cruise might appeal to you why not take a look at the Pixie Dust Fan cruise coming up soon ?  Francine assures me that it’s going to be great!

Have you done a group cruise before?  Are YOU booked on the Pixie Dust Fan Cruise?

Gary Cruise

Gary Cruise

Gary is a retired banker who lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1977 and has returned many, many times over the years. Since retiring he and his wife Carol enjoy the parks a number of times each year. They especially like staying at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground with their Shetland sheep dogs.

Disney Dollars – A Rare Disney Collectible!

Disney Dollars Cover

You’ve probably heard it said that Disney has a license to print money! Well, that’s true . . . not long ago they actually did print their own money!

Disney Dollars could be purchased in plenty of Disney locations and guests could spend them in a variety of ways!

1990 $1 Bill D

Almost a decade ago I wrote a blog about Disney Dollars. I asked readers to imagine they were at the Happiest Place on Earth with a pocketful of cash!

What could be better? How about being at the Happiest Place on Earth and that pocketful of cash had pictures of your favorite Disney characters!

1990 $5 Bill D

I asked them to imagine that they had a pocketful of Disney Dollars. How cool would that be? Almost like a pocketful of Pixie Dust!

My wife Carol used to keep Disney Dollars on hand to use for special gifts . . . sometimes when friends or family were heading on a Disney vacation, their birthday or anniversary gift from us would include a small envelope stuffed with a few Disney Dollars. Everyone was always delighted with a gift of Disney Dollars.

1990 $10 Bill D

Alas, that all came to an end in 2016. The last Disney Dollars were sold on May 14, 2016. Those wonderful little sheets of spendable Pixie Dust were replaced by plastic gift cards . . . most Disney fans said “BAH HUMBUG”!

Can I still buy Disney Dollars?

Yes, but not from Disney.

2001 $10 Bill A

Disney Dollars used to be available at Guest Relations in all the Florida theme parks and water parks. At Disneyland they were available at one cashier location in The Emporium.

There is, however, an active market where Disneyana Collectors can buy old specimens. Check out a few online shopping sites, like e-Bay or Amazon to see how valuable Disney Dollars have become.

2002 $1 Bill A

Can I still spend Disney Dollars?

Yes, you can . . . but I don’t recommend it!

The last I heard, Disney Dollars were still accepted at ticketing locations, food & beverage venues, merchandise locations, recreation areas, resort concierge desks, resort front desks and Guest Relations at all theme parks and water parks. Since they haven’t been in active circulation for several years I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you got a ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ look from some of the newer cast members when you present a Disney Dollar to pay for something.

2002 $5 Bill A

I’m sure they are still accepted at Guest Services . . . but don’t forget, they are worth a lot more than ‘face value’ to collectors.

Let’s look back at the history of Disney Dollars.

They were first released to the public on May 5, 1987. The bills came in $1 and $5 denominations from 1987 to 1989 but in 1990 they added the $10 bill to the list.

2003 $10 Bill A

As I said earlier, they very desirable items for Disney memorabilia fans. Naturally Carol is an avid Disney collector so she has set aside a nice variety of Disney Dollars in her permanent collection. You can take a closer look at her collection here: Dollars.htm

Over the years some of the series featured specific themes such as park anniversaries or pirates and princesses. The Disney artists who designed the notes never missed a trick as they strove for the “cuteness factor”.

2008 $10 Bill A

Disney Dollars were printed on high quality bank note paper and incorporated anti-counterfeiting features such as microprinting, and hard to scan/copy reflective ink with embossed imprinting on the front and back of the bill. In addition the bills were printed with serial numbers and letters which were unique to each bill. Disney Dollars created for Disneyland in Anaheim bore a serial number beginning with A and those created for Walt Disney World in Florida and The Disney Stores began with D and T respectively.

In 2005 only, Disneyland (A) and Walt Disney World (D) released $50 bills that were designed by Disney artist Charles Boyer for Disneyland’s 50th Anniversary Celebration. Mr. Boyer personally signed a number of these bills and a signed copy is a very valuable collectible indeed!

New Disney dollars were been produced every year from 1987 to 2014, except 1992, 2004, 2006 and 2010. In 2011 the only bill produced was the $1 denomination.

2011 $1 Bill F

Disney Dollars have even been portrayed in cloisonné pin form for Disney Pin Collectors . . . and yes, Carol has quite a few of these too!

Disney fans everywhere were disappointed when Disney announced the end of this truly unique form of currency back in May 2016. These wonderful little bits of Disney magic were permanently replaced by dull plastic gift cards.

Trading Pins 1

Of course, Disney are masters at marketing . . . and they’ve discovered that if gift cards are cute enough, they too can become collectible . . . so those dull plastic cards have brightened up a great deal over the past few years!

Trading Pins 2

Do you have any Disney Dollars tucked away in your collection of Disney memorabilia?

If you do, be sure to take very good care of them because they’re quickly becoming irreplaceable!


Gary Cruise

Gary Cruise

Gary is a retired banker who lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1977 and has returned many, many times over the years. Since retiring he and his wife Carol enjoy the parks a number of times each year. They especially like staying at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground with their Shetland sheep dogs.


The Tickle Trunk – A Big Box of Disney Memories

Carols_Tickle_Trunk_coverMy wife Carol has a Tickle Trunk. It’s filled with wonderful Disney memories!

Most Canadian readers will remember Mr. Dressup, Casey, Finnigan and that magical Tickle Trunk . . . but for those of you who grew up somewhere else, I will explain…


Mr Dressup, Casey and Finnegan

Mr. Dressup was the star of a children’s television show which ran on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation network from 1967 to 1996.  His sidekicks were two hand puppets, Casey and Finnegan, a child and a dog who lived in a treehouse in Mr. Dressup’s back yard.

In most episodesMr. Dressup would pull a costume out of a big, brightly-painted steamer trunk which he called his Tickle Trunk.  The costume might be for an animal, policeman or fireman. Donning the costume (after all, he was Mr. Dressup), he would play the role suggested by the outfit.

The Tickle Trunk appeared to be charmed – it always had the right costumes, in the right sizes, neatly folded at the top.  That simple steamer trunk really was mystical and magical; it transported a few generations of Canadian children to some very imaginative places for three decades!

Mr. Rogers Neighborhood aired in Canada too, but if you ask any Canadian kid of that era they will assure you, “Mr. Dressup was waaay more fun! 

Like many Disney fans Carol saves every piece of paper from each Disney trip.  Tickets, park maps, resort check-in packages, brochures, flyers, napkins . . . you name it, she probably has it!  When she gets home all of that material finds a permanent spot in a big wooden trunk – Carol’s Tickle Trunk!


Carol’s Tickle Trunk

Of course, Carol’s Tickle Trunk is mystical and magical too!  Whenever she opens the lid we are instantly transported to our happy place!  The best of memories come floating out!

As you might expect, the trunk has been full for years.  It takes some management!  When we get home from a trip some new treasures go in and some older treasures get culled and placed in new homes.

Disney Club News January 2003

Disney Club News January 2003

When Carol started collecting pins in earnest in 2001 she scoured the Tickle Trunk and pulled out some classic old pins. They now have a special place of honor in her pin collection.

Her collection of Disney buttons, acquired over the decades, now live in a button bucket!

The resort registration packages from each Disney trip, along with park maps, timetables, and plenty of other paper now fill a filing cabinet drawer.  Each trip is in its own folder.


Magic Years Magazine Winter 1993

But there’s still plenty of treasure in that magical wooden trunk!

Carols Tickle Trunk Open

Inside the tickle trunk

A year or two ago I was writing a blog about Disney park tickets, so naturally we had to go to the Tickle Trunk to find a few old ones.  On the way to the bottom of that trunk, where those Walt Disney World tickets from 1977 live, we uncovered some buried treasure!   

What did we find?  Here’s a small sampling:

Ten Old Copies Of The “Walt Disney World News”

This four-page newsletter was produced by Disney, a fresh copy each month in the early years, and included in check-in packages at all Disney resorts.  The tabloid sized papers are full of fascinating information!


Walt Disney World News January 1981

Walt Disney World News 1992

Walt Disney World News 1992

Magic Kingdom Club/Disney Club Membership packages

Who knew Disney had so many clubs . . . The Magic Kingdom Club, the Magic Years Club and the Disney Club. Carol has old membership cards, brochures and magazines for all of them!


Club Membership

Dinner ála Disney & Breakfast ála Disney Tickets

Before there were character meals there was Dinner ála Disney! Dinner was served in the Trophy Room at the Golf Resort, now known as Shades of Green.  Breakfast ála Disney was served aboard the Empress Lily, which later transformed into Fulton’s Crab Shack and is now known as Paddlefish.  There were no character meals in the Magic Kingdom in those early years.


Dinner a la Disney

River Country / Discovery Island Tickets

River Country was the original Disney water park, located beside Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground.  Two slides dropped guests into a man-made pool. The rest of the water adventures took place in the natural waters of Bay Lake.


River Country


River Country Tickets

Just across the water from River Country was Discovery Island, a tropical paradise filled with exotic birds and blossoms.


Discovery Island Tickets

Disney Matchbook Covers

In days of yore cigarette smoking was allowed in most areas at Walt Disney World and most resorts and restaurants had matches available for guests.  Carol’s collection lives in a pretty metal box in the Tickle Trunk.


All the match books!

Children’s “Wonders of Walt Disney World” Books

This program of day-long seminars was offered by to children from 10 to 15 years of age.  Son Rob went on two of the four seminars they offered in the early 90’s and Carol has the proof!

Disney Wonders Brochure


Disney Post Cards

Yes, there are postcards. Lots and lots of Disney postcards.

Disney postcards

Disney Postcards_2

But there’s something all those things have in common.  All of that stuff, all those oddities and curios which remain in that trunk; they are all filled with fond memories of happy days.  Sweet recollections from magical Disney trips!

You probably have a Tickle Trunk too! To paraphrase William Shakespeare, “A Tickle Trunk by any other name holds memories that are just as sweet.”

What’s in your Tickle Trunk?

Gary Cruise

Gary Cruise

Gary is a retired banker who lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1977 and has returned many, many times over the years. Since retiring he and his wife Carol enjoy the parks a number of times each year. They especially like staying at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground with their Shetland sheep dogs.

The Windows On Main Street USA

When you’re standing on the curb waiting for the three o’clock parade do you ever stop to look at the windows on Main Street USA?  Did you know that each of those windows pays tribute to someone who has a significant place in Disney history . . . and each window tells a story. 

When Walt first imagined Disneyland, almost 70 years ago, he wanted Main Street to resemble the commercial hub in a turn-of-the-20th-century American town.  Harper Goff was one of the early Imagineers who played a key role in designing that magnificent park entrance at Disneyland.  It reflects Walt’s memories from his younger years in Marceline Missouri and Harper Goff’s recollections from his formative years in Fort Collins Colorado.  Walt Disney said, “For those of us who remember the carefree time it recreates, Main Street will bring back happy memories.  For younger visitors, it is an adventure in turning back the calendar to the days of their grandfather’s youth.”

Disney Windows

The storefront windows display goods on sale in the shops along Main Street, but if you look at the second story windows you will see some make-believe businesses.  Walt decided to use those windows, and those imaginary businesses, to honour the many people who helped him make his Disneyland dream a reality.

When Walt Disney World opened in Florida in 1971, the Magic Kingdom included Main Street USA and more of those special tribute windows. In fact, every Disney park around the world has a Main Street.

Let’s take a look at a few windows:

Walt referred to Ken Anderson as his “jack-of-all-trades”. He was an artist and had a background in architecture.  Those factors made him an invaluable resource for Walt as Disneyland was being designed and built.  The Ken Anderson window, above the Market House in Disneyland, also shows Walt’s tongue-in-cheek sense of humour.  Anderson was an avid fly fisherman . . . and everyone knows that fly fishermen do not need bait!

Ken Anderson window

Ken Anderson Window

The Disney family is well represented in this window above Crystal Arts in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.  It honours Walt’s nephew Roy E. Disney, his wife Patty and their children Roy Patrick, Abigail, Susan and Timothy.  The entire family were avid sailors!

Roy Disney

Roy Disney and Family Represented

Look above the Emporium in Florida for Card Walker’s window. He was President, CEO and finally Chairman of Disney before retiring in 1983.   The reference to psychiatry and justice of the peace attest to Walker’s skill at keeping the many divisions in a large and ever-growing organization moving in the same direction.

Card Walker

Card Walker’s window

Charlie Ridgeway worked in Disney’s Publicity Department from 1963 until 1994.  His book, Spinning Disney’s World, details his career and gives some fascinating glimpses behind the scenes.  It should be part of every Disney fan’s library.  Look for Charlie’s window in Florida, above The Arcade.

Charlie Ridgeway

Charlie Ridgeway’s Window

There’s an interesting story behind Marty Sklar’s window at Disneyland and Marty himself tells the story in the Foreword he wrote for Chuck Snyder’s book “Windows on Main Street”.  It seems that Marty was still working, as Executive Vice President and Imagineering Ambassador, at Disney in about 2008 when they proposed a window for him at Disneyland; that created a bit of a dilemma!  You see there are very clear rules about the windows at Disneyland, and Marty Sklar was responsible for enforcing them.  The rules are: 1) Only retired employees, 2) Only the highest level of service/respect/achievement and 3) Agreement between individual park management and Walt Disney Imagineering.  The awarding of windows is a bit less rigid at other parks; Mr. Sklar already had windows at Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland and The Magic Kingdom.  But when the Disneyland window was offered he was still working and he respectfully declined. His magic day came July 17, 2009; the day he retired his Disneyland window was dedicated.  You can find Marty’s window at Disneyland’s City Hall.

Marty Sklar

Marty Sklar Window

There are several books about the windows lining Disney’s Main Streets and the one pictured above, written by Chuck Snyder and published by Disney Editions, is part of my Disney library.  You can buy the book online through or pick up a copy in the theme parks.

Windows On Main Street Book

Windows On Main Street Book

Ub & Don Iwerks have a Magic Kingdom window, above The Bakery.  Ub was a gifted animator who was with Walt from the beginning and helped create both Mickey Mouse and the multi-plane camera used in those early days of animation. Ub’s son Don was a Disney cinematographer for over 35 years and helped perfect the Circle-Vision camera.

Jim Cora has two windows, one at Disneyland, above Disney Clothiers, and the window pictured below which is in Disneyland Tokyo.  Jim began his Disney career in 1957 as a part-time attraction host at Disneyland and by the time he retired in 2001 he had risen to Chairman at Disneyland International.

Jim Cora

Jim Cora Window

Marc and Alice Davis are the only husband and wife team to have windows.  Look above the Disneyana Shop in Disneyland.  Marc was one of Walt’s “Nine Old Men” of animation.  He joined Disney in 1935 and spent his entire career there.  His achievements are too many to review here, but you can see evidence of his talents in The Enchanted Tiki Room, It’s A Small World, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Mark and Alice Davis

Mark and Alice Davis Windows

Marc and Alice are both Disney Legends.  During the mad scramble to design and build those four famous exhibits for the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, Alice worked with Mary Blair to create more than 150 costumes for “It’s A Small World“.  She continued designing costumes for audio-animatronic figures, live action movies, even animated characters until her retirement in 1974.

Owen Pope and his family were the only people to ever live in the Disneyland park.  Mr. Pope was a horseman; he bought all the horses for Disneyland, he trained them, built their saddles, he even built the wagons and coaches used in Frontierland. In 1971 Owen Pope and his wife Dolly moved to Walt Disney World where he managed the Tri-Circle-D Ranch at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.  Tri-Circle-D Ranch is home to all the Magic Kingdom horses!  Look above the Magic Kingdom’s car barn for this window.

Owen Pope

Owen Pope Window

Wally Boag is another Disney Legend and you’ll find his window near the Carnation Café at Disneyland.  Walt Disney sat in on Mr. Boag’s audition in June of 1955 and offered him a two-week contract to perform as Pecos Bill at Disneyland’s Golden Horseshoe Revue.  The show opened July 17, 1955 and Wally Boag performed there until he moved to Walt Disney World in 1971.  He directed and performed in a similar show at the newly built Diamond Horseshoe Revue before returning to Disneyland in 1974.  By the time he retired in 1982 Wally Boag had performed close to 40,000 shows in Disney parks!

Wally Boag

Wally Boag Window

Walt even honoured his father Elias Disney who founded his contracting business in Chicago in 1895.  You can spot Elias’ window above Uptown Jewellers in the Magic Kingdom and above the Emporium at Disneyland. 

Elias Disney

Elias Disney Window

The final window to look for is Walt’s.  He has two at the Magic Kingdom but the one he’d be proudest of is above the Train Station.

Walt Disney Window

Walt’s Window

Those are just a few of the hundreds of windows; this blog has barely scratched the surface.  If you want to read more about the amazing people hidden behind those windows on Main Street I recommend that you buy one of the handful of books on the subject!

I wonder if Disney would ever accept nominations for new windows?  If they did, I know who I would nominate . . . Oscar Martinez! 

Oscar began his Disney career on Dec. 29, 1956 and in 2011 he was honoured as the one-and-onlyemployee to record 55 years of continuous service in any Disney company. During those 55 years at Disneyland he trained thousands of cast members and became a favourite of many guests, including Carol and I.  We always made sure we stopped to visit with Oscar every time we went to Disneyland.

Oscar Martinez and Gary Cruise

We always made a point to visit Oscar

To commemorate Oscar’s 2011 milestone of 55 years service The Walt Disney Company created a special Snow White-themed service award. It’s unlikely that anyone else will ever achieve this milestone, so Oscar’s award is destined to remain one-of-a-kind!

Oscar Martinez Retires

Special Award For Oscar

Oscar retired September 27, 2017 with almost 61 years of service and he still drops into the Carnation Café from time to time . . . it seems he just can’t stop being an ambassador for Disney!

Oscar Martinez Disney Window

Thank YOU Oscar!

What do you think?  Doesn’t Oscar Martinez deserve a window?

I’ll end this blog by suggesting a new game you can play at any of the Disney parks!   

In an article written for the Summer 2005 issue of Disney Magazine Diane Disney Miller quoted her father Walt, “…if people were waiting in line, then you had to create more entertainment to keep them happy.”  That explains the wonderful interactive queues we all experience in the theme parks, and it also suggests a second reason for those Main Street windows.  They can help keep you entertained while you wait! 

So . . . the next time you’re waiting along Main Street for the three o’clock parade take a minute to look around at those windows.  Some of the names you may recognize immediately. But – when you see a name that isn’t familiar, pull out your smart phone and search the name on the internet.  Involve your family; make it a game to see how many of the people honoured in those windows you can identify!



Gary Cruise

Gary Cruise

Gary is a retired banker who lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1977 and has returned many, many times over the years. Since retiring he and his wife Carol enjoy the parks a number of times each year. They especially like staying at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground with their Shetland sheep dogs.

Disney Camping – Paradise Found

Fort Wilderness Meadow Trading Post

Are you looking for a change of pace in your Disney vacation?  Do you find that you’re spending less time running from one thrill ride to the next . . . and spending more and more time just enjoying the magical atmosphere at Walt Disney World?

Maybe it’s time for you to consider a trip to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground!  My wife Carol and I have stayed in almost all of the Disney resorts and Fort Wilderness is clearly our favourite!

Fort Wilderness Outpost Entrance Sign

Welcome to Fort Wilderness!

What makes it our favourite?  Why is a stay at Fort Wilderness so different from all those other resorts?

When I try to explain it to people, I begin by saying, “It’s like stepping back in time. Back to an era when people stopped to say hello to their neighbours.  Back to a time when things weren’t always so rushed and hectic.”

When we stay at one of the Disney hotels our attention is always focused on the theme parks, no matter how nice the resort is we’re always in a rush to get away from it.  When we’re at the campground it’s much different . . . we enjoy just being there!

Every morning at Fort Wilderness you will wake up to the gentle sound of boat whistles in the distance.  As you sit in a lawn chair outside your camper and sip your first coffee of the day don’t be surprised when a flock of wild turkeys wanders past.  Squirrels and cardinals scamper and flit in the nearby trees and bushes and other campers, many of them out for a walk with their dogs, often stop to say good morning. Sometimes you will hear the clip-clop of hooves as a horse-drawn carriage or a hay-wagon ride passes your camp site.  Although it’s located right in the heart of all that Disney magic and excitement, ‘The Fort’ is a serene place; a place to relax and unwind.  There seems to be a real sense of community among the campers at Fort Wilderness.

Imagine seeing this beautiful heron when you’re out walking your dogs in the morning.  How cool is that?

Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground Heron

The campground is huge; it covers about 750 acres of pine and cypress forest.  To put that in perspective, Fort Wilderness is about seven times the size of the Magic Kingdom.  There are approximately 799 campsites plus 409 wilderness cabins arranged in 21 campsite loops and 8 cabin loops.  Up to 10 people can stay at each campsite and up to 6 in each cabin.

For Carol and I the magic begins as we enter Fort Wilderness and pull up to the security gate.  The cast member manning the rustic-looking gate-house gives us a warm greeting and a “Welcome home!”  This is where we begin to feel the serenity!  I am sure that many years ago, when Walt and the Imagineers were designing the Magic Kingdom, Walt said, “Build me a campground that duplicates a fort from the days of the pioneers on the western frontier.” And that’s exactly what they built.  Carol and I are quickly transported to another world, in another time, and that’s where we make our vacation home.

From the security gate it’s take a short drive to ‘The Outpost’, a log and timber drive-through registration area that replicates the main gate of that old western fort.  The theming is consistent throughout the resort, winding tree-lined roads, wooden-rail fences, wood footbridges; even the shelters at the bus stops are rustic log structures.

Disneys Fort Wilderness Resort Outpost Drive thru Check in

Once campers have registered and been assigned their campsite it’s time to get set-up.  It doesn’t take long for each family to transform a campsite into their unique home.  Almost all of the 799 sites have a level concrete pad, water, sewer, cable-TV and electric connections with a clean, modern “comfort station” nearby.  The comfort stations contain restrooms, showers, a laundry, an ice vending machine, soda machine, house phone and a posted list of daily activities.

Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground site 712

When we arrived in our RV the first chore was the utility connections, then we began to unload our barbecue, lawn chairs, doo-dads and decorations . . . “Aaaah – now we’re home!” The last thing to set up was our Mickey Mouse lamppost.  Every avid Disney camper just has to have one of these!

Mickey Mouse Lamp

Who doesn’t want a Mickey Mouse lamp?

What is there to do at ‘The Fort’?  The short answer is “Plenty”.  There are three main roads through the campground and two large areas for shopping and recreation.  You enter the campground by passing through the area called ‘The Outpost’ and follow Fort Wilderness Trail toward ‘The Settlement.’  Along the way, in the middle of the campground, you pass ‘The Meadow.’

Fort Wilderness Meadow Trading Post

At ‘The Meadow’ you will find a trading post, the bike rental barn, swimming pool, water slide, kiddie splash zone, hot tub, tennis courts and Chip & Dale’s Theatre where the free nightly campfire and sing-along is followed by a marshmallow roast and a movie under the stars.

Meadow Water Slide Fort Wilderness

Meadow Water Slide

It’s about one mile from ‘The Outpost’, where you enter the campground, to ‘The Settlement’.  At The Settlement you will find another trading post.  Each of the trading posts carries a variety of basic groceries, camping supplies and, of course, Disney souvenirs.  The Trail’s End Buffet offers both dine-in and take-out options and Pioneer Hall is the home of the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue.

Settlement Pioneer Hall

In front of Pioneer Hall you can take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage or hay-wagon.  Crockett’s Tavern serves frosty beverages which you can enjoy in the comfort of a rocking chair on the veranda!  The Tri-Circle-D Ranch is just a few steps away.  This is where all the horses that work in the Magic Kingdom are stabled.  The ranch will be moving to a new location at Fort Wilderness in the autumn of 2019 as construction of the new Reflections Resort progresses next door.

Fort Wilderness Settlement Horse and Carriage

Just a few steps beyond Pioneer Hall you find the beach and marina on Bay Lake.  At the marina you can rent a SeaRaycer or a pontoon boat or charter a fishing boat for some ‘catch and release’ fun.  At the dock you can take advantage of free transportation; board a cruiser or a launch and enjoy a scenic ride to the Magic Kingdom, the Contemporary Resort or the Wilderness Lodge Resort.  The boats run every 20 minutes.

Fort Wilderness Settlement Dock

Settlement Dock Fort Wilderness

At the Outpost you will find the main office where you can rent a golf cart or visit the Guest Services desk to make dining reservations.  A few steps away is the Trail Blaze Corral where you can pick out your horse and take a trail ride.  The main bus stop is also located near The Outpost; people arriving from the theme parks or Disney Springs transfer from the “park bus” to a “campground bus” to return to their campsites.  There are three different bus routes within the campground with bus service every 20 minutes and convenient bus stops close to all of the camping and cabin loops.

Those Wilderness Cabins I mentioned earlier, well, they’re not really all that wild!  They look like a rustic log cabin on the outside but inside they have all the amenities of regular resort guest rooms plus a fully equipped kitchen.  They each sleep up to six people in complete comfort.

The campground has a number of rivers, streams and canals running through it and you will often see people fishing along the shore.  Just remember, it’s ‘catch and release’ only and there is no fishing from docks or bridges.

With so much to do at the campground and with the theme parks and water parks so close by, you are probably wondering, “How do they ever relax?” Well, we do!  Believe it or not, there are days where we don’t visit a theme park, we simply stay and enjoy the campground.  Our neighbours are all certified Disney nuts just like us, so there’s always someone to chat with.  We take our bicycles along with us and often take a leisurely ride around the grounds.  We like to explore and there are some very interesting spots to see if you go looking for them.  There are plenty of walking trails and lots of designated “dog walk” areas, many of them along the rivers and canals.  

Fort Wilderness Dog Walking

Our Shelties enjoy the dog walk trails where they often see deer, rabbits, turkeys, armadillos and, of course, squirrels, which are their favourites.  Near the entrance to the 300 loop is a children’s playground and beside it is Waggin’ Tails, the off-leash dog park where pets can run free.  Our shelties always look forward to their golf cart ride – they know that it takes them to the off-leash park for some exercise!

Dogs in Golf Card

On a typical day in paradise we begin with a light breakfast in the camper before we head off to one of the parks.  Sometimes we have lunch at the park before we head back to The Fort, or sometimes we eat at our campsite, but we always head back to be with the dogs for the afternoon.  We walk the shelties, ride our bikes, go to the pool or take a nap – whatever we feel like at the time.  We often head back to a park for the evening and take in the different atmosphere the parks seem to take on at night.  When we have the dogs with us, it forces us to head “back home” in the afternoon and we have come to relish the slower pace that comes with this pattern.

I haven’t mentioned the decor at The Fort.  Sometimes it is simply amazing!  I’m not talking here about Disney decor; I’m referring to what we, the campers, do.  Many of the campers take great delight in decorating their campsites for the season. Our first trip to The Fort was in December and the Christmas decorations absolutely astounded us.  The subtropical forest is transformed into a Christmas panorama.  Lights are strung everywhere, inflatable displays twirl, trees are hung with stars, lights and of course Hidden Mickeys.

Christmas Fort Wilderness

Christmas at Fort Wilderness

Our Campsite!

Some campsites are even covered with snow — it is truly spectacular!  But it’s not only at Christmas; they also decorate for Halloween, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s Day, almost any excuse will do.  We enjoy going in the spring for the EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival and Carol decorates our campsite with flowers — lots and lots of flowers!

I suspect that the decorations have caused the activity frequent campers at The Fort refer to as ‘looping.’  This simply means walking, riding your bikes or driving your golf cart around the camping loops to admire the decorations.  The other campers are almost always ready to chat about their displays and before you know it, they will probably be going past your campsite on one of their looping treks.  ‘Looping’ is one of the activities that really adds to the sense of community at The Fort.

There are also some ‘extra special’ things to do at The Fort that you will probably not read about in any of the guidebooks. For example, just before the Magic Kingdom fireworks are scheduled go to the take-out window at Crockett’s Tavern and pick up your favourite adult beverage.  Take it with you to the beach beside the marina and find a comfy spot to sit. You will have a great view of the Happily Ever After fireworks display at the Magic Kingdom; the soundtrack is piped in.  Then be sure to be back in the same spot at 9:45 for another treat; the Electrical Water Pageant passes in front of you.  Disney magic at its finest.

Stop at the Bike Barn, near the pool, and ask about archery lessons or a Segway tour!

And my last suggestion, stop at the Outpost and enjoy the gardens surrounding the main office beside the entry gate.  This garden was designed to attract butterflies and you will see them flitting and fluttering everywhere.  If you’re lucky you might see a Disney horticultural specialist tending the gardens.  They’ll often take time to show you around and point out some Monarch butterfly caterpillars and a chrysalis or two.  They can even tell you how to attract butterflies to your gardens at home!

Fort Wilderness Butterfly Garden

Outpost Butterfly Garden

Carol and I sold our motor home about two years ago and it wasn’t very long before we were missing Fort Wilderness.  The solution was simple, we contacted one of several companies that rent fully equipped travel trailers and deliver them to “The Fort”.  Before long we had the dogs loaded in our SUV and were on our way.  Everything we needed was there waiting for us!  We just moved in, the same as we would in a hotel room. As quickly as you can say ‘Disney magic’ we were sitting in lawn chairs on our patio enjoying the ambiance!

That first rental experience worked out so well for us that we did it again.  As I sit writing this we have only been home about a week after a 22 night stay in a rented travel trailer at “The Fort” and we’re booked for another 22 nights in early 2020.  Fort Wilderness really is our favourite Disney resort!

So, if you haven’t been to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground & Resort, head on over for a visit.  Walk around the campground, do some ‘looping!’  Sit for a few minutes in a rocking chair on the veranda at Crockett’s Tavern and quietly absorb the serenity.  Carol and I think it’s the best resort on earth and you might enjoy it too!

Gary Cruise

Gary Cruise

Gary is a retired banker who lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1977 and has returned many, many times over the years. Since retiring he and his wife Carol enjoy the parks a number of times each year. They especially like staying at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground with their Shetland sheep dogs.