One of the blogs that I occasionally browse is the rather excellent http://vintagedisneylandtickets.blogspot.com/ which from time to time dates a post back to the period in ancient history when our family paid a visit to Disneyland in Anaheim, California.
1973 was the year, and how the hell did we manage to take a holiday in California in 1973, at a time when 99% of British holidaymakers would have been happy to travel 50 miles or so to the coast to stay in a caravan and haunt the amusement arcades for a week while it rained outside, we as a family were whisked off to America, to Las Vegas and then onto Anaheim for two days.
It was a classic case of being in the right place at the right time and of having a father who was always looking for the next big chance, always willing to talk to anyone and everyone especially when that anyone was a millionaire looking for guinea pigs to test out a new theory of his called “What the UK needs is package holidays to Las Vegas”, so the four of us and Ralph’s family boarded the specially chartered TWA Boeing 707 and spent ten days in the two major US vacation spots – we had to miss out on our seven days in a caravan at Cayton Bay though so there was also a downside to our little trip.
£7 each is what it cost, the whole package, accommodation and use of the specially chartered 707 for four days and if you are reading that and thinking “Ah yes but £7 was probably a lot of money in 1973, its probably equivalent to £10,000 these days” then let me put your mind at ease, £7 was still nothing in 1973, a long-playing record was £2.50 so for less than the cost of three LP’s each we went to America – did I mention Life Rule #2, “Its not what you know but who you know” ?
The photos of that trip are in a box in our garage somewhere and this weekend I have set myself the task of digging that box out and scanning those photographs, particularly the one that shows me as a 16 year old standing next to Eeyore and obviously enjoying the experience while other much smaller kids stand to one side complaining that this boy (pointing at me) is hogging the photo opportunity a bit too much.
The Disney map on the http://vintagedisneylandtickets.blogspot.com/ site is one that I can relate to, we spent a whole day at Disneyland, didn’t get to see it all, hardly touched Tomorrow Land at all but spent an extraordinary amount of time in Frontier Land, I can’t recall going on many rides either probably because my father was gripping the tickets with his Grip of Steel and rationing them very carefully, in those days you paid for a book of tickets for the rides and when you’d used all of your tickets then you didn’t get to ride any more, I suspect my father had bought the book of tickets with the smallest number of tickets in, equating to maybe two rides per day, we went on the train ride around the mountain (whatever thats called) but, erm, thats all.
The best part of the trip though was the following day, we’d stayed in a seedy motel just up the road from Disneyland and directly opposite another theme park, Knotts Berry Farm and as my father thought that Disney was “A bit dear” for another day’s visit we wandered over the road and paid to go in at Knotts.
What an excellent place it was, it must have been cheaper than Disney because we went on more than one ride there but the main attraction was the “Ghost Town” in fact the whole theme of the place was the ghost town, a complete theme park built from the remains of old buildings that had been salvaged from all over the USA by old Mr Knott and rebuilt in the theme of the Wild West – such an obvious attraction for my father who never missed a single sunday afternoon black and white cowboy film, until he fell asleep that is.
He even knicked our Neds stetson and took to strolling bow legged down main street, fingers hooked into imaginary gunbelt looking for all the world like Jack Palance out looking for some baddies, we partook of sarsaparilla in a genuine old saloon building and visited Boot Hill Cemetery to pay our respects to Billy the Kid but the best bit of the whole day was a building that we discovered just as we were leaving for tucked away in a corner of the theme park was an modern brick building that looked like a maintenance shed but was i fact home to The John Wayne Museum.
Like a catholic drawn to a visit to The Vatican our father dragged us into the museum and we spent the last hour of the day staring into glass cases full of old guns and cowboy hats while he explained in intricate detail the plot lines of each individual film and what Big John was doing when he got the bullet hole in that hat, other people, complete strangers tagged onto our family group as we wandered from glass case to glass case as they obviously thought our father was an official guide, rather strange that a Yorkshireman should have a job at The John Wayne Museum in California, but still.
They eventually had to throw us out of the theme park, we were the last ones to leave that day and if it wasn’t for the fact that our very own specially hired Greyhound Bus was picking us up at stupid o’clock the next morning then we’d have been back the next day too, and the next – there are photos in that box in the garage of Knotts Berry Farm too, I really must get in there this weekend.