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In Search of C.V. Wood
Jim Hill appeals to LaughingPlace.com readers:
Can you help fill in the blanks concerning the life story of
one of the more colorful characters in Disneyana history:
C.V. Wood - "The Master Builder of Disneyland"?
After you've read this article, Discuss It on the LaughingPlace.com Discussion Boards
You know, the Internet can be a pretty amazing thing.
With just a few keystrokes, you can travel halfway 'round the globe and back again in an instant. You can gain access to all the great works of literature. You can expand your mind or broaden your horizons in thousands of ways.
Or - if you're an idiot like me - you can squander this miraculous technology by using it to do incredibly dumb things. Like hunt around the Web for really good chili recipes.
So there I was last week. Trolling the 'Net in search of yet another way to burn the roof of my mouth, when I came across the web page of the International Chili Society. As I was skimping through a 32 year history of the ICS's annual cook-off, I came across a particularly interesting passage. It read:
"1969 - History will show that this was a very important year for the World's Championship Chili Cookoffs. C.V. Wood, Jr., the man who built Disneyland for Walt Disney, who brought the London Bridge to Lake Havasu, an ex-Texan from Amarillo, then living in Beverly Hills, threw his pot in the competition. Wick Fowler, representing Texas, and Joe DeFrates, the Illinois champion, were soundly defeated by the man who would call himself the "UndeFeeted UndeniaBull World's Champion". C.V. Wood, Jr. known as "Woody" captured the World's Championship with the flair of Cecil B. DeMille. Woody started what is now known at all chili cookoffs as "showmanship". He had a large rooting section, t-shirts with his name on them, a monstrous spice chest, a couple of Hollywood starlets as assistants and an electronic chili gauge. This device had knobs for altitude, temperature and humidity. When the two probes were placed in Woody's chili it registered "EXCELLENT," setting off a siren. We had our first winner! But more important, a team that would play an important role in the future of Chili Cookoffs...... Carroll Shelby and C.V. Wood, Jr."
My face broken into a huge grin when I read this. C.V. Wood - a guy who I've been trying to track down information about for almost 10 years now - was a chili fan. I *KNEW* that there was a reason that I liked this guy.
Who exactly was C.V. Wood? Oddly enough, he was a man who supposedly played a huge part in the creation of Disneyland. Though you'd never know it to look at most of the official Disneyana history books the Mouse has produced over the years.
Don't believe me? Go grab your copy of Dave Smith's Disney A-Z. Take a look under W-O-O-D. You'll find mention of Elijah Wood (Who appeared in Walt Disney Pictures' The Adventures of Huck Finn), Ilene Woods (The voice of Cinderella) and James Woods (Who appeared in Hollywood Pictures' Straight Talk and Nixon, in addition to providing the voice of Hades in Hercules.) But no mention of all of C.V. Wood.
Which seems kind of odd. At least to me. Particularly given what Wood reportedly accomplished. A boastful Texan, C.V. might have been. But Wood was one of those rarer than rare creatures - a braggart who actually had something to boast about. For he really seems to have been the guy who helped Walt Disney build Disneyland.
So why is there virtually no mention of him in any Disney theme park histories? Well, though C.V. and Walt were allegedly quite close during the actual construction of Disneyland, they reportedly had a falling out in 1956. What was the cause of this fight? I've heard that Walt was allegedly upset that Wood seemed to be taking too much of the credit for the creation of Disneyland in various newspaper and magazine articles about the park.
So C.V. suddenly found himself on the outside of the Magic Kingdom, looking in in late 1956. But that was okay, for Wood was an ambitious young man who wanted to take all that he'd learned in Anaheim and apply that knowledge toward the creation of a series of Disney-like theme parks all around the United States.
That was C.V.'s plan, anyway. Unfortunately, things didn't quite go according to plan. Though Wood was able to acquire the financing necessary to construct three of these parks - "Magic Mountain" (which opened just outside of Denver in 1958), "Pleasure Island" (which opened in Wakefield, MA. in 1959) and "Freedomland" (Which opened in 1960 in the Bronx, NY ) - not a one of these projects succeeded. "Magic Mountain" closed within two years. "Freedomland" shuttered in four. "Pleasure Island" limped along for 10 years, changing ownership several times, before finally closed in the fall of 1969.
So why did all these three theme parks fail so quickly yet Disneyland continues on - stronger than ever - now on the verge of its 46th anniversary? That's what I'm trying to find out, folks.