Forgotten Treasures of Main Street U.S.A.by Jim Korkis, contributing writer
As Disney guests eagerly rush through Main Street U.S.A. to get to Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain, they miss the many treasures hidden in plain sight on this quaint and intimate section of the Magic Kingdom.
Rather than trying to capture the feel of a small town in the Midwest like at Disneyland, Main Street U.S.A. at the Magic Kingdom represents a larger, more prosperous turn-of-the-century East Coast town with taller buildings and wider streets.
For instance, the Main Street Train Station's design resembles a similar upscale train station that existed in Saratoga Springs, New York during this time period. To create the illusion of a different time period, the Disney Company utilized actual antiques (or remarkably detailed reproductions) that are too often overlooked by guests.
While some Walt Disney World fans are still celebrating the opening in September 2021 of the new Confectionery shop on Main Street that has expanded and is now sponsored by Mars Candy, nobody seems to be concerned about the wonderful storytelling details that were removed.
Walt Disney World's Main Street has always had a candy shop since it opened in October 1971, although the area was split between the candy shop and the GAF Camera Center.
There was always a "show kitchen" like the candy shop at Disneyland where guests could see cooks making various treats like fudge. In 1982, Kodak took over the camera shop and Sees briefly sponsored the candy shop.
The candy shop expanded when Kodak moved to the Town Square Exposition Hall in 1998. Imagineer Kevin Neary (who has authored several Disney related books) came up with an interesting concept for the redesign of the location that was developed and finished by Imagineering Show Writer Shawn Slater.
Thomas and Kitty McCrum were the owners and operators of the shop. McCrum was a reference to Dr. Thomas McCrum, a dentist in Kansas City, who helped a young Walt Disney out financially especially by hiring him to make a short live action film entitled Tommy Tucker's Tooth (1922) and providing enough money to pay off Walt's mounting debts and finance the production of the short Alice's Wonderland.
It was also a sly joke that a dentist was selling cavity causing treats that might generate some business for him.
After attending the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 (basically the Chicago World's Fair) that celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus "discovering America," McCrum incorporated into his shop some of the similar mechanical wonders he saw in the Hall of Machinery.
Those additions included small mechanical inventions placed on shelves with descriptions relating to the process of creating confectionery goods and overhead a constantly moving chain of wire baskets filled with treats on an overhead conveyor belt.
The interior suggested what is now known as "steam punk" style with – among other things – copper tubing with colorful liquid bubbles rising up.
With the recent rehab, those details were removed — including the painted portrait of explorer Christopher Columbus on a large, framed poster hung prominently on a wall near the homemade candy and fudge. It was actually a poster for the Columbian Exposition of 1893. It was a souvenir that McCrum brought back from the Fair.
Walt Disney's father, Elias, was a carpenter who helped build structures at that World's Fair, receiving a dollar a day for his efforts. On the wall next to the poster was a device of McCrum's own invention that looks like a miniature windmill which "cracks open the cocoa beans and blows away the husks leaving only the tasty chocolate insides".
Some Imagineer decided to give an homage to the McCrum storyline in the newest version of the Confectionery.
A framed newspaper article from the Main Street Gazette written by Scoop Sanderson, one of the fabled Citizens of Main Street characters, states, "Yesterday marked the official groundbreaking for the forthcoming expansion of Main Street Confectionery, a development thanks in no small part to the equally-groundbreaking chocolate innovations of local treat-makers, Mars. It is their creation, the Milky Way chocolate bar and the immediate and consistently overwhelming crowds it has drawn to the Main Street Confectionery that has made today possible.
"Together, it forms an inspiring story, though as Kitty McCrum, co-proprietor of Main Street Confectionery sees it, it's one to be expected in Main Street, U.S.A. 'We're a community, and nowhere is that truer than our little confectionery. Neighbors, supporting neighbors, shopping at other neighbors' stores…it's sweet!'
"Joining the Mayor as participants in the Town Square ceremony were both Kitty and her husband, Dr. Thomas McCrum, who had the distinct honor and privilege of temporarily – and carefully – wielding the Mars candy company's renowned 'sweet spoon'. On behalf of themselves and the Mars company, the McCrums celebrated with and thanked the citizens of Main Street for the overwhelming response to the Milky Way bar that will make this new chapter of chocolate possible.
"The building experience set to be complete in the autumn will extend from the confectionery's current location on the east end of Town Square all the way west to Main Street, spanning the entire width of the block, and further north to the adjacent Main Street Cinema."
Since the Confectionery expanded into The Chapeau shop, one of the treasures that had been at the Magic Kingdom since 1971 was removed.
On the inside wall by the doorway of The Chapeau was one of the two antique phones that originally were located at the Market House shop on Main Street U.S.A. before it was transformed into a different merchandise area. (The phone still exists at the Market House on Disneyland's Main Street USA.)
At the turn of the century, when telephones were still new to the America way of life, it was not unusual for four or five households to share a common telephone line, or "party line". Eavesdropping, the act of listening to someone else's telephone conversation soon became a favorite pastime.
The same 3:38 minute conversation between a mother and her young daughter, Annie, who was at Mr. Dinglinger's Store that delighted guests when it was at the Market House continued at the new location. They discuss the outrageous prices of items including that steak is eleven cents a pound and ham is nine cents a pound. It costs three dollars for a hundred cigars and seven dollars and eighty cents for an expensive suit of clothes.
The exterior of another turn-of-the-century phone still exists at the Harmony Barbershop as well except its interior has been gutted and replaced with a keypad so it can be used as an actual phone.
By the way, The Chapeau had an elaborate storyline of Nancy Carey and her sister Julia from the Disney live action feature Summer Magic (1963) opening the hat shop. There were not only references to the characters in the shop, but it connected the shop with The Emporium run by another resident of Beulah, Maine, Osh Popham.
Imagineers gave a brief homage in the new Confectionery by making one of the winners in the Sweet Spoon contest Saul Fitz of Beulah, Maine.
Did you ever get to experience these hidden-in-plain-sight treasures that are now long gone? I am listing a few of the other treasures of Main Street but I am not going to tell you if they still exist in hopes that you take some time to search the next time you are in the park and perhaps in the process discover some more.
Town Square: The Hitching Posts
The hitching posts on Main Street U.S.A. have never been used to actually tie off a horse in the five decades that they have been in place.
Emile Kuri was an art director on films including Topper, Spellbound and It's a Wonderful Life. In 1952, he joined the Disney Studio where he remained for twenty-three years. During that time, he won an Oscar for his work on the film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954).
Kuri had earlier earned another Oscar for his work on the 1949 film The Heiress. Part of the filming for that movie was done at an authentic 1840 mansion and the owner was especially pleased with the care Kuri had taken of the house during the filming.
In appreciation, he gifted Kuri with an original antique hitching post from the property. For many years, it resided proudly in the front yard of Kuri's house in Corona del Mar, California.
Five years later, when Kuri was assisting with the design of Disneyland's Main Street, he used that hitching post to create a mold for the Disneyland hitching posts. That same mold was re-used nearly fifteen years later for the hitching posts on Walt Disney World's Main Street. The paint on each hitching post is scraped off to the foundation before being repainted so that none of the detailing is lost by simply layering on another coat of paint.
The Chapeau: Hat Box Sign
One Christmas, Walt Disney surprised his wife Lillian with a puppy hidden in a hat box with a huge ribbon. When Lillian saw the hatbox, she got angry thinking he had bought her a hat and he had terrible taste in hats. However her irritation turned to delight when she discovered the true gift.
Walt recounted the story to his employees at the Disney Studio and when the animated feature Lady and the Tramp was being developed, the artists decided to recreate that same moment by having the character Jim Dear present to Darling a hat box at Christmas that contained the baby dog, Lady.
Just outside the The Chapeau hat shop on Town Square and near Tony's Restaurant that references the animated film Lady and the Tramp (1955) that takes place at the turn of the century, high on a post is a sign featuring that same pink striped hat box from the animated feature with the words "The Chapeau".
You might also see the number "63" referencing the Disney film Summer Magic that was released in 1963 and supposedly the hat shop is run by two of the characters from the film.
Main Street: Cigar Store Indian
Early store owners used visual emblems to identify their shop, for a populace with limited literacy, like barber poles advertising barber shops or three gold balls representing pawn shops.
Because of their association with introducing tobacco to Europeans, carved wooden figures of Native Americans became the icon for European tobacconists as early as the seventeenth century.
They reached their peak in America during 1850 to 1890 and were formally called Tobacco Store Indians because even before the popularity of cigars, the stores had bigger sales for pipe and tobacco, chewing tobacco and snuff.
Later when holding a tomahawk in the hand was replaced with a handful of cigars on the figures, the term Cigar Store Indian became common. The facial features and costuming rarely resembled a member of any particular tribe of Native Americans.
The Walt Disney World Main Street figure is not made of carved wood but fiberglass and is based on the similar one at Disneyland. Originally, the figure stood where a Tobacconist Shop operated until 1985.
The figure was moved to the other side of the street when the Tobacconist Shop location changed in 1989 to Main Street Stationers and later Main Street Book Store. The Market House sold tobacco products like cigarettes for years after the change but when it stopped, the cigars were removed from the figure's hand.
A clone of the figure stands on the wooden street in Frontierland in front of Prairie Outpost & Supply where tobacco products also used to be sold.
Main Street: The Owner of the Emporium
The word Emporium comes from the Greek word meaning "merchant." During the Victorian era, it became a popular term to describe a large retail store that sold a wide variety of commodities and goods. (The old Centorium at Epcot was a combination of the words "Emporium" and "Century" since Epcot was to step into the next century.)
The Main Street Emporium was always the largest gift and souvenir store in the Magic Kingdom with nearly 17,000 square feet of space covering an entire city block. With the extension of the Emporium Gallery onto Center Street, it is even larger today.
At the bottom of the stained glass window on the right hand side at the main entrance to the Magic Kingdom Emporium is the information that the proprietor of the establishment is "Osh Popham."
In the Disney live action film Summer Magic (1963), Osium "Osh" Popham (portrayed by singer-actor Burl Ives) was the shopkeeper, constable, carpenter, postmaster and good-natured storyteller of the small town of Beulah, Maine at the turn of the century.
The date outside the store claiming it was first established in 1863 is a reference to the year the film was released in 1963.
Town Square: Harmony Barber Shop
The Harmony Barber Shop receives its name from the fact that it was the home of the singing-in-harmony barbershop quartet known as the Dapper Dans. Even today a drawing of the original four Walt Disney World members hangs framed on the wall.
The first Dapper Dans of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, Florida, in October 1971 were Dick Kneeland (lead), Bub Thomas (bass), Jerry Siggins (baritone), and Bob Mathis (tenor).
The Original Harmony Barber Shop was located near the end of West Center Street from 1971 – 2001. With the expansion of the Emporium into Center Street, the shop was relocated to an area between the Car Barn and the Emporium on Town Square.
Until the end of 2012, the shop featured three authentic old-style barber chairs purchased from a Chicago barbershop that have now been replaced with more modern chairs.
The interior of the shop covered in pinstriped wallpaper and dark carved wood cabinetry contains many authentic artifacts. At one time, there was a cash register from 1912 for the transactions but it did not allow guests to use credit cards or Disney resort cards and was replaced with a more modern register.
However, still remaining in the interior of the shop is an authentic potbelly stove as well as a nearly one hundred and fifty year old mirrored brass hat and coat rack from a passenger train. The mirror was to assist passengers in adjusting their hat and hair.
Main Street Train Station: The Orchestrion
When the Penny Arcade on Main Street closed in 1995, several of the antique amusement machines were moved to the upper level of the train station.
Albert Clifford Raney had a large collection of mechanical music machines. Raney passed away in 1949. In 1953 Walt Disney bought thirty prized examples from his widow who stated at the time that she felt Walt would give them a good home where they would be appreciated by others.
Several items from the Raney collection that were utilized at Disneyland's Main Street arcade were "loaned" to Walt Disney World when it opened including the J.P. Seeburg - Seeburg KT Orchestrion (PianOrchestra) that was built in 1927. Its instruments include: Piano, Mandolin, Triangle, Xylophone and Castanets.
The music is created by means of perforated paper rolls and the sound is produced by pipes.
Bob Moore, who was brought into the Walt Disney Company in 1990 to take care of the musical machines remembered in 2003, "Bill Sullivan, who was the vice president of the Magic Kingdom, was the person chiefly responsible for the PianOrchestra coming to Florida from California. He loved to listen to it, and so a push button was mounted on the back of the instrument, so that it could be started at any time just for him."
Walt Disney World sold most of its antique collection of turn-of-the century entertainment machines in 1997 that included many beloved mutoscopes.
Casey's Corner: The Imagineering Team Photo
Casey's Corner on Main Street was remodeled in 1995 to resemble the similar location in Disneyland Paris that debuted in 1992. Originally, it had been the Coca-Cola Refreshment Corner.
The name "Casey's" refers to the 1888 poem "Casey at the Bat" by Ernest Thayer. Look for the 1888 reference on the outdoor marquee. The story of Casey and his Mudville Nine baseball team was transferred to animation by the Disney artists in the "Casey at the Bat" sequence of Disney's animated compilation feature Make Mine Music released in 1946.
Many of the props on display in this food and beverage location are again authentic antiques, including jugs of Coca-Cola syrup and baseball team mugs and pennants, from around the turn of the 20th century.
However, one hidden treasure is a photo that depicts the Imagineering Team who worked on both the Casey's Corner rehab and the Main Street Athletic Company from 1995.
Notice the team is wearing jerseys from a number of different teams and there are women in mustaches so that Disney guests who give the picture just a casual glance assume it is just another turn of the century baseball team photo.
Did you find any of these treasures still on Main Street? Believe it or not, there are even more hidden treasures awaiting patient and curious guests on Main Street U.S.A.
Once upon a time, you could actually go into the Car Barn on Main Street not only to visit the horse that pulled the trolley but also discover some other surprises like a handmade Thomas Edison light bulb that Disney purchased from a man in Virginia who still made them and authentic cavalry lanterns, among many other things.
However, because guests don't notice these details, many other hidden treasures have disappeared in recent years. Be careful not to miss the ones that still exist to delight guests.