Reliving Fond Memories
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One of the best things about Disneyland is each time I go, the memories of all the times I had ever been come back to me. Sweet waves of Nostalgia roll over me at the simplest of cues: A window frame on main street, the curl of the wrought iron balconies in New Orleans Square. It is like passing from one emotional dimension to another, as rich as a multi-layered cake.
Last weekend, while leaning on the railing surrounding Dumbo's Flying Elephants, munching on popcorn, once again I fell down the time tunnel to 1970. I was six years old then, and another attraction once stood where I now leaned. For a young pup fascinated by sailing ships and pirates, this attraction made the trip to Disneyland both one of the coolest (or should I say "grooviestâ??) and most anticipated events in my year.
That attraction was the Captain Hooks Pirate Ship. Even now, I can close my eyes and see the orange/red/black/yellow sailing ship, bright in the summer light, the green/blue water from skull rock splashing in the lagoon behind.
Pirates were a bit of obsession with me. I had the album of the Pirates of the Caribbean, and even listened to Blackbeard's Ghost nearly everyday (Imagine my pleasant astonishment at seeing the portrait of Peter Ustinov in the sack of booty the doomed pirates are trying to make off with!). Once I entered the gates of the park, I was not happy until my parents bought me the famous pirate hat (With the skull and crossbones, not Goofy. I seem to remember the feathers being longer, too!). Nothing was completely right until I had that hat on my butch-waxed head.
Wearing my pirate hat, I raced towards the castle, speeding ahead of my parents and little sister. Through the castle, around the carousel, to the rear of Fantasyland I would go, taking in the air, the sounds, and the unique smell of the air conditioning spilling out into the walkways. I would climb the stairs into that wonderful ship with the cannons pointing out towards the Mad Tea Cups, climbing up to the poop deck, and waiting for the other grown-ups and kids to clear out from around the steering wheel. I would climb up onto the spool-like rolling seat, and pretend that it was I who piloted the ship.
So there I was, living the dream once found only in books and record albums. Time stopped, and for that moment I was a pirate, steering this colorful ship in it's own lagoon, the Jolly Roger flying high in the Anaheim summer sky. A heady moment for a little boy, and I loved every second.
Looking at the ship spreading out before me, I wondered how far I could climb up the ratlines before I was stiopped. I'd love to sit in that crow's nest. The view must be cool, I could probably see right into the Skyway buckets. Obviously, I'm not alone with that thought. There are other kids aboard; tip toed arching on the railing, holding the ropes tentatively, and squinting up into the bleached sky.
My parents would remind me that it was time to move on, that there was much to do. Pictures had been taken, the moment captured. It was time to get on some rides. My sister, bored, is screaming. I didn't care (don't all little sisters do that, anyway??;) ) I would go down the stairs to the restaurant part of the ship. The sandwich counter, selling all things tuna, sponsored by Chicken of the Sea. I never really cared for the restaurant; it seemed to spoil the illusion of a floating buccaneer hotel. I wish instead there was Captain Hook's quarters, with the lantern that Hook imprisoned Tinker Bell with. Or Smee's hammock hanging in the corner beside the cannons. In fact, the whole time I could hear the song "The elegant Captain Hookâ? that I had drilled into my subconscious from repeated playing of the Peter Pan soundtrack album (and tracing the pictures in the accompanying storybook). Once Hook and Smee were actually down there, shaking hands with the guests. But I was too shy. I preferred hero worship from afar (and didn't need a free tattoo..;) )
I would leave the ship on the lagoon side, looking at the rum barrel tables and chairs in the dining area. Through the green fabric strung from Ship to the rocks for the shade of the marooned diners, I could see the pirate flag dangling lifelessly from the ship. I wished a breeze would stir up, and pretend again the ship was at sea, and the striped sails full, and the flag waving in the salty breeze.
Captain Hook's galleon (and Chicken of the Sea) weighed anchor in 1983, in the reshuffling of the new Fantasyland. This is the only disappointment I had with the otherwise superior remodeling of this land. I would dearly have loved to see the pirate flag still flying over the lagoon near Casey Jr. It would have made a direct connection between a childhood passion, and the adult relishing the subtleties of the theme park experience.
Leaning against the railing watching the happy faces of children and adults twirling around on Dumbo, knowing that precious Disney memories are a tradition that is shared by thousands of families all over the world. My memories are my comfort and define who I am. That is something irreplaceable, and I very thankful for that.
-- David Mink
Reliving Fond Memories is normally posted the third Wednesday of each month.
The opinions expressed by our David Mink, and all of our columnists, do not necessarily represent the feelings of LaughingPlace.com or any of its employees or advertisers. All speculation and rumors about the future plans of the Walt Disney Company are just that - speculation and rumors - and should be treated as such.
-- Posted February 18, 2004