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I've always loved Summertime. I even like to capitalize it. As a kid, I'd look forward to Summers, resenting any lengthening of the school year. Summer School? Year-round schooling? Growing up and working most of the Summer? I didn't even want to consider such horrors. I knew, of course, that I'd eventually have to grow up and lose my precious Summer vacations.
In the meantime, I relished the days when I could forget what the date was, even forget what day of the week it was, and just bask in the warm southern California sun. Swimming (competitively and recreationally), going to the beach for some body-surfing and boogey-boarding, and soaking up the sun to the point where I had a deep, dark tan were enough to occupy my younger years.
Disneyland Park Becomes a Regular Part of My Life
When I was yet a pre-teen, however, my parents decided to get themselves and the four of us kids annual passes to Disneyland Park. In those days, back when dinosaurs roamed the land, there was only a small fraction of the number of annual passholders that there are now. It was almost a secret, almost an exclusive club. Of course, back then, the passes got you parking, admission, and a newsletter, and that was it - no other perks or offers, but you could use the pass every day of the year.
If traffic was okay, it took us about 45 minutes to get to Disneyland Park from where we lived. We'd go as a family about once a week. We convinced some of the neighbors to buy their kids annual passes, and soon I had some neighbor kids to go to the park with, and more adults to choose from to drive us down there or pick us up.
As my older sister moved on to other interests, I ended up being the senior member of the group, the neighbors being closer in age to my younger siblings. No matter. We shared a love for Disneyland, and that was enough.
We had soon experienced most of what there was to see and do at the park, and had gone through the opening of Captain Eo and then Star Tours, which would help drive the park to new levels of attendance. My interest was shifting more and more from just experiencing the park recreationally to getting into how the park functioned, the history and design of the park, and what was in store for the future.
As documented in another piece on this site, we became quite interested in a major new attraction that was changing the landscape of the park- Splash Mountain. We watched it being built and sought out all of the information on the project. This was in the late 1980s, before you could visit dozens of web pages on the subject. Yes kids (meaning anyone under the age of 25), that's right- we didn't have things like LaughingPlace.com around back then.
Since we were extremely familiar with all of the other attractions at the park, we had no qualms about spending some of our Summer days in line at Splash Mountain for hours and hours to ride the attraction over and over again. We'd get off of the ride and literally go straight to the end of the line again.
Remember- there were no FastPasses back then. Rarely would a queue extend beyond the 90 minute mark. Now, fourteen years later, with FastPass and reduced capacity on the attraction, the stand-by queue is often estimated to be well over two hours. Go figure.
Back then, though, the line may have started down by the Tom Sawyer Island raft dock, wrapped around the planter dividing the pathway along the river from the pathway along the Haunted Mansion (this was before Fantasmic! altered the area), heading away from Critter Country before doubling back. Then, there would be a staffed "breakā? in the line to allow traffic in and out of Critter County. The line would pick up again by the Haunted Mansion exit, disappear into the nook that has now been filled in with plants and FastPass machines, go over the "bridgeā? into Critter Country, down towards the Briar Patch shop, double back towards the Critter Country entrance, then back towards the Briar Patch along the wall, turn into the area behind the Briar Patch, snake along and then down towards the railroad trestle, double back towards the Briar Patch (again, there were no FastPass machines there), then turn back towards the entrance barn. You weren't inside the barn yet, though, as you might have a switchback or two extending over to where the photo pick-up is now located, next to the exit of the attraction.
Yes, it was a long line, but it moved faster because of the higher capacity and the fact that we weren't having to wait for FastPass holders to go first. We'd spend the time chatting, sometimes making new friends with the people waiting near us. We'd send part of our group to get food to bring back, usually from the old Harbor Galley, which had things like Cajun popcorn shrimp and clam chowder in a bread bowl. If part of our group showed up later in the day, they knew to look for us in line (we didn't have cell phones - how primitive we all were back then).
Floating through the blacklight scenes, we'd see handstamps from the previous days. Falling asleep exhausted at night, I'd often be wearing a t-shirt that still had some dampness to it from the ride.