Letters From the Adventurers Clubby Wade Sampson, staff writer
In the early days of the Adventurers Club, the butler Graves might approach a guest with a silver tray bearing one of four pretyped letters. These letters would give the guest a persona so the performers of the club might interact with that guest as that identity during their time in the Club. In later years, it was not necessarily used as a springboard for improvisation but as a cute little extra touch. As one former Adventurers Club show director recalled in an interview I did with him a year ago: “We moved on from that sort of ‘endowment’ as the performers became better trained at improvisation and as we better defined our central purpose and them, making more specific choices in order to support our overall show.”
On eBay, I have seen the complete set of letters going for outrageous sums, so I am reprinting the contents here for those fans, like me, with limited discretionary budgets. The exterior of the envelope would have the character name written in a clear and pleasing cursive and the address was always the Adventurers Club. There was an exotic foreign stamp and the postmark (in either black or red ink) was a round circle with a unicorn in it and no date.
From Pamelia Perkins, President of the Library Committee
To Alston Golf, The Adventurers Club
My Dear Mr. Golf:
Your behavior at last Tuesday’s Tea and Supper was contemptible. Perhaps grammar school boys find it entertaining to dance on the bar with lampshades on their heads but I assure you the Library Committee does not. What little laughter there was merely confirmed everyone’s embarrassment. As for the money that was thrown at you—I think it only fair that it be given to the Library committee to pay for having the bar refinished.
I am sure nothing like this will ever occur again. Please see that you are as sure as I am. See you next Tuesday night.
Sincerely, Pamelia Perkins
From: Sedgewick, Somewhere East of Jakarta, Sometime after Christmas
To: Dr. Gaberdine (although the outer envelope spells it “Gabardine”), The Adventurers Club
May this letter find you well. Personally, I’ve seen better days. As you know, the expedition turned a difficult corner once we left Jakarta. Seems someone tied Cobby’s boot laces together and then cried “Fire!” he’s been in a nose brace for several days now and I feel for him every time he sneezes.
We’ve all been tested by pain and aggravation. Poor Cranfield has suffered the worst: his athlete’s foot has now merged with his chapped lips so that he currently resembles a glazed doughnut that’s been left out in the rain. Still, the men have not lost Hope. Hope left on his own accord with a Naguri priestess that wanted to see Rio. We never should have brought those travel broucheres.
I remain undaunted. With fresh supplies we stand a good chance of reaching our destination which, as you know, will bring us all the attention we richly deserve. Plainly, the immediate need is financial. Your generosity at this point would not only ensure the success of the expedition but would guarantee you a Christmas card every year for the rest of your natural life. Make arrangements with Hathaway Browne. He’s an idiot but knows how to fly a plane. I knew I could count on you.
Desperately yours, Sedgewick
From: Hathaway Browne, Cleveland, Ohio (July 23, 1933
To: Miss Weggie Wishmeyer, The Adventurers Club
Mr Dearest Weggie,
I hope this finds you at the Club. Graves has always been good about getting my mail out. I would have written sooner, but I cracked the wing spars on the Gypsy Moth when I ran into a freight train.
You’ll probably laugh, but I’m going to tell a little story on myself: I had run out of fuel at 15,000 feet. Normally, I’d just glide until I found a clearing, but not this time! I decided to try and make Cleveland (another 800 miles). Well, the joke was on me! First, I hit a fog bank, then I hit the train. But I only missed Cleveland by 1,500 feet! I’ll be fine when the hand heals.
My only disappointment is that in an effort to gain altitude, I threw out all my food, water, and cologne overboard, but I refused to let go of the kimono I bought you in Hong Kong. I guess the additional weight was just too much. Sorry, I don’t think the bloodstains will come out.
Anyways, I’ll have the Moth back in shape as soon as I do a little welding with my lighter.
Remember—pookie bear needs cuddlewinkes.
Higher and faster, Hathaway
From Alston Golf, MBKEMBE, August 2, 1933
To: Mr. Henshaw, The Adventurers Club
My Dear Mr. Henshaw:
After several lengthy confabulations with my solicitors, I have decided to release this epistle rather than encircle you with noxious litigation. Suffice it to say that I am not a happy chappy.
I would draw your attention, if at all possible, to the phantasmatic incident alleged to have transpired during the recent fortnight’s stay I endured in that tar pit which you insist on advertising as your “marina”. I arrived to find my yacht, MBKEMBE, translated literally from the Swahili to mean “King of the Earth, ruler of the Sea, Lord of all mankind”, was indeed berthed proximate to the type of overly pretentious yachties which I had presumed were excluded from your little club. Not so.
To wit: the spurious allegations to which my vessel was subjected regarding the overboard discharge of the entire contents of MBKEMBE’s on-board sanitation system. I find absolutely no foundation to this slander. Quite simply, it is an egregious lie constructed for the purpose of defaming myself and my honorable craft. Should this absurd hallucination be mentioned again, I shall have no other choice other than buying the marina outright and reduce it to bits of charred wood floating on the surface. Idle threat? Think again!
Yours in pique, Alston Golf
Guests loved the characters at the Adventurers Club and frequently wrote to them at the club. The performers would write back “in character.” Eventually, this became so overwhelming that show writer and director Chris Oyen created a four-page newsletter called Adventurers Almanac actually based on a turn-of-the-century newsletter from an Explorers Club called Adventurers Newsletter.
While some articles had the by-lines credited to Pamelia Perkins or Hathaway Browne, Oyen wrote much of the material with the help of everyone from Stage Manager Reed Jones (who later was the show director) to the performers themselves including Paula Pell, Kristian Truelsen, and Phil Card. The first issue was Volume No. 54, Issue No. 1. Oyen chose “Volume No. 54” to make it seem as if the almanac had been published forever.
To keep that illusion, volume numbers for the next issues were picked at random, driving some guests crazy trying to get a complete set and fill in the gaps. I promised not to reveal how many issues were actually published but I have been fortunate to eventually get a Xerox copy of every issue for my collection.
One of the few people I know who has a complete original collection is friend and fellow Disney historian Jeff Pepper who has shared numerous samples from the newsletter in the past at this site (link)
The Adventurers Almanac was distributed at the club itself but was also apparently available through the mail. Its purpose was not just to enlarge and perpetuate the stories behind the club but to attract new visitors. It also served the purpose of avoiding legal issues of having Disney cast members responding to guests and helped eliminate the possibility of stalkers.
Oyen also created the pseudonym “Bernice Smythe-Fenton, personal assistant to Miss Pamelia Perkins” (in actuality a rotating cast member from WDW Guest Communications department) to answer letters to guests. Oyen was often brought in to help with the more difficult answers.
The Almanac disappeared because it was time consuming (this was in the days before computers and everything was done by hand, including the paste ups and screening photos), expensive and, more importantly, was not generating new attendance but was primarily used by regulars who would rip out the coupon for a complimentary buffet, drink special and free admission to Pleasure Island on “General Membership Meeting” nights.
I also discovered that the public domain photos that appeared in the Almanac were drawn from the coffee table book: America’s Yesterdays: Images of our Lost Past Discovered in the Photographic Archives of the Library of Congress by Oliver Ormerod Jensen (Scribner 1978) and depicted photos of family life, Americans at work, people relaxing and much, much more.
The Almanacs are an interesting source of information. Two articles in Volume No. 56, Issue No. 8 in particular give some insight into the exterior of the Club. One article reveals that apparently thirsty adventurers—who were in a hurry to visit with Nash, the Club’s bartender—left items stacked, piled or stuck in the ground outside the club that they were loaning or donating to the Permanent Collection from their recent expeditions.
According to the article:
“A recent lecture scheduled on ‘Central African Tribal Feuds’ turned into a minor tragedy as a result of our haphazard entry way décor. Lecture Committee chairman, Comdr. (Retired) Alan Glassman had the nearly impossible task of calming down our hysterical guest lecturer, Mishanti tribal chieftain named Oshubu. Apparently, a cluster of spears casually stuck in the front lawn by a thirsty Adventurer was unknowingly placed in a configuration that symbolized a curse on Oshubu’s livestock.
“Only after protracted apologies, pleas of ignorance, and lengthy financial negotiations was Comdr. Glassman able to convince our Mishanti vistior not to cut off the right thumb of everyone in the Club at that moment (evidently the only way to counteract the curse, according to their traditions). Needless to say, the lecture was canceled as a simple precautionary measure. In order to avoid further complications, we ask that no more artifacts are added to the front of the Club without first obtaining permission from Club curator, Fletcher Hodges.”
That issue also sheds some light on the column to the left of the entrance where plaster has fallen away to reveal Egyptian hieroglyphs. According to Fletcher Hodges: “I was having the pre-Columbian statue (donated anonymously by Wainwright Smithfield) hoisted to its current resting place, immediately to the left of our front door. Hans, our diligent but near-sighted hoist operator, accidentally bumped the wall of the watchtower with the statue several times. No damage was done to the statue, but this wrecking ball technique of moving it dislodged several layers of exterior plaster from the tower wall. A closer inspection showed that the plaster had hidden ancient hieroglyphs.
“I quickly researched the building plans for the Club and found that the three architects who Mr. Pleasure commissioned to design our building had given specific instructions to construct the watchtower to the exact dimensions of a particular tower they had visited in Egypt. They were so set on it that they left directions to this tower as a point of reference, right on the blue prints. After further research, I discovered receipts and shipping invoices proving that the building contractor, overwrought from the pressures of satisfying the artistic vision of three very temperamental architectural visionaries, purchased the actual tower, had it moved here in sections and reassembled it as our watchtower.
“This Machiavellian masterstroke apparently worked because I found a memo from the architects complimenting the contractor for his design accuracy. I am currently in the process of deciphering the glyphs, and from what I am able to determine, this obelisk was originally used as hurling place, from which people were thrown when they did not laugh at the Pharaoh’s jokes.
“I have not, as yet been able to find the full name of the Pharaoh in question, but I have been able to decipher that his reign was short but loud. If there are any Egyptologists who can help provide insight or information, kindly contact me c/o the Club. I am off to scrape more bits of plaster.
“(Editor’s Note: Since this column was submitted, Fletcher has determined there are symbols that represent some of this Pharaoh’s actual jokes. Mr. Hodges can be seen working on this wall in front of the Club, scraping, deciphering and chuckling, ‘just in case’, as he puts it.)”
I have always been intrigued by those glyphs on the outside of the Club because I know very few things were done on Disney property in those days “by accident”. So before the bulldozers come to claim the building, I hope someone takes some good photos of those glyphs…or better yet translates them and shares that translation with the rest of us.
And, yes, as the unofficial historian of the Adventurers Club (since no one else even at Walt Disney World showed the slightest interest in the job), I have even more stories to tell about this location that the Disney Company has severely underestimated in terms of potential entertainment, merchandise opportunities and guest satisfaction. Hopefully, the Hong Kong Disneyland restaurant will capture some of that mystique, but it would be nice for the powers that be to reconsider some Adventurers Club possibilities at Walt Disney World.