Pleasure Island Chronologyby Wade Sampson, staff writer
Pleasure Island at Walt Disney World was originally announced to open in Spring 1988, but due to many challenges, it took an additional year to premiere. However, in 1988, Walt Disney Imagineering put together a series of nine documents titled: “The Pleasure Island Papers: Special Adventurers Club Members Edition. Eyes Only. Batteries Not Included. Offer Void in Nebraska.”
These internal documents attempted to consolidate all the information that had been developed to that point. To really irritate and confuse researchers, throughout the documents, the name “Adventurers Club” was written both with and without the apostrophe countless times. As the unofficial historian for the Adventurers Club, I will state firmly that the “official” spelling is without the apostrophe after the “r”.
Document No. 1 was the Adventurers Club Creed.
Document No. 2 was The Adventurers Club Membership Roll “as it will appear outside the club”. This plaque was installed instead in the Main Salon to the left of the Colonel. It has always puzzled me why the Colonel’s name was the only name misspelled on this plaque. The answer is that it was misspelled in the exact same way on this document. Apparently, no one checked.
Document No. 3 was the Official History of Pleasure Island. This prose has been reprinted and edited versions have appeared over the years.
Document no. 4 was the Pleasure Island Chronology. I am reprinting that document in this column, not only because it gives a clear chronological timeline, but because it also supplies events and names that do not appear in the prose version of the official history.
Document No. 5 was Descriptions for Props on the Adventurers Club Wall. These descriptions bear little or no resemblance to the actual props and captions that eventually appeared in the Adventurers Club. This was apparently an early attempt to get material written in the hopes of finding objects to match the descriptions. (By the way, how many people know that Imagineer Joe Rohde placed a “hidden Mickey” in the Adventurers Club that was discovered and removed before the club was opened to the general public. It was a shrunken head of Mickey Mouse and it was placed discretely behind the bar in the Main Salon.)
Document No. 6 was Island Signage. This was the text for the plaques to be placed around the Island. I am continuing to study it because there are some differences in these signs (like the story of Giuseppe Rohde and Raoul Manzanera) that didn’t appear on the final signs. So, in the future, I might write a column on those differences.
Document No. 7 was Club Descriptions that discussed how the clubs function in the context of the Island in 1989.
Document No. 8 was an initial press release that was later substantially changed.
Document No. 9 was a description of the history and function of the Pleasure Island Philharmonic, “a ragamuffin band of musicians who wander about the Island musically assaulting guests”.
To me, as a historian, all of this was fascinating—especially how much was changed before the official opening. I know that some of the MousePlanet readers share that same fascination. So, for those who loved Pleasure Island, in particular the Adventurers Club and the story of Merriweather Adam Pleasure, here is the Pleasure Island Chronology as created by Walt Disney Imagineering in 1988.
1873—Merriweather Adam Pleasure born in New South Frewsberg, Pa., on Nov. 18. Father is August W. “Gold Rush Gus” Pleasure, free-wheeling millionaire prospector/explorer. Mother is Lydia LaMarr, “The American Venus, an early star of the American stage.
1885—Pleasure Showboat completed as “The Bailey-Finortner Floating Arts Palace”.
1891—Pleasure rejects father’s offer to set him up in business, determined to make it on his own. He lies about age, brokers commodities on New York Curb Exchange, makes first million, moves back to Pittsburgh and founds most advanced steel foundry in the world.
1898—Meets, marries Isabella Domenico in whirlwind courtship lasting three weeks.
1901—First son, Stewart, born on July 4.
1905—Second son, Henry, also born on July 4.
1909—After mystical experience in Mexico, Pleasure sells entire industrial empire, begins scouting land in Central Florida. Empress Lilly officially retired from active service as a Showboat.
1911—Pleasure purchases what is now Pleasure Island (at that time the Federber Peninsula) from the Seminole Land Agency of Central Florida, Ltd. He also purchases the “Showboat” and has it transported overland at great expense to St. Johns Aquifer, where he, his (pregnant) wife and his two sons triumphantly guide it into its current docking place next to the Island. Daughter, Merriam, born on July 3. Father has date legally changed to July 4. Pleasure consults with top architects in drawing up plans for his island empire.
1912—Building commences. The Power Station, Original Sail Making Factory and Canvas Works Fabrication Plant all completed. Sail-making operation in full swing by Christmas this year.
1913—Pleasure Canvas and Sailmakers Central Office constructed.
1917—Pleasure sets off “World’s Largest Firecracker” to celebrate end of World War I. This device destroys the remaining land link, and makes the peninsula a true island. Daughter Merriam first utters name “Pleasure Island,” which is soon adopted by everyone.
1918—Pleasure Family Home constructed. Family moves in July 4.
1919—First Planting of Mrs. Pleasure’s rose garden.
1920—Pleasure beats friends Sir Edwin Luytens, Charles Macintosh, and Ellel Saarinen in hotly contested game of dominoes. As their part of the bet, they design Adventurers Club on restaurant tablecloth.
1921—Adventurers Club constructed by Pleasure to house his library and archaeological trophy collection.
1922—Pleasure moves his Canvas Works off-site to a new facility at the other end of the Island (what is now the AMC Movie complex). Canvas Works becomes Warehouse No. 3. Original Fireworks Factory constructed. First Great Pleasure Fireworks Extravaganza takes place July 4. These go on each year in ever more spectacular fashion until 1927.
1923—Fittings Foundry completed. Upholstery Shop completed.
1924—Stewart takes first bride, Rowena Fontaine Devascquez, March 18. Sail Making Support Facility completed, housing Chandlery and tool Crob, Navigational Pleasure Graphics and Pleasure Shipping and Receiving.
1926—Henry Pleasure marries Zenobia Dubois, Kissimmee Society Debutante. July 4. Stewart and Rowena divorce.
1927—On July 3, as Pleasure and his Chinese fireworks maker, “The Bang Master”, are preparing for their greatest July 4 show yet, a spark from Pleasure’s pipe blows up the factory. Mrs. Pleasure orders building wreckage left as is, to teach husband a lesson. Daughter, Katie Isabella Pleasure, born to Henry and Zenobia Pleasure, Oct. 29. Pleasure builds a magnificent greenhouse to house collection of exotic flora.
1928—The Island converts from steam power to electricity. Power station transformed into Warehouse No. 2. St. Johns Aquifer declines, making boat travel to and around the Island much more difficult. Stewart re-marries, this time to Katarina Winkler, July 4.
1929—Henry Pleasure’s Artificial Intelligence Lab constructed. Twin sons, Gideon and John Worthington, born to Henry and Zenobia Pleasure, July 17. Stewart divorces Katarina. Isabella Pleasure builds her magnificent Music Parlor, housing her collection of 6,319 rare opera records.
1931—Invincible Pictures leases Warehouse No. 3, begins production of Fighting Devil Dogs of Orlando starring Warner Oland. Pleasure abandons wholesale canvas business, concentrates totally on custom yacht renovation and construction. Pleasure undertakes First Portobello Expedition. From this time on, he spends as much time globe-trotting as he does over-seeing his yachting business. Stewart marries for third time, Constance Lamar Dowd, Jan. 1. Divorced three months later, same year. Pleasure begins stock-piling booty of his world travels in former Shipping and Receiving Depot. Last sail constructed in original Sail Making Factory, June 4.
1932—Second Invincible picture completed, The Blushing Bridegroom with Rod LaRoque. Studio moves to Hollywood in November and folds in 1935.
1933—Pleasure embarks on Second Portobello Expedition. Central Office burns to the ground Jan. 20, when celebration of prohibition repeal gets out of hand. Daughter Merriam marries former Argentine tango composer Raoul Manzanera on 22nd birthday, July 4. Stewart marries for fourth time, Laraine Stubblefield, April 1.
1934—Warehouse No. 2 renovated to house Mrs. Isabella Pleasure’s theatrical troupe, the Pleasure Thespian Players. Over the next 15 years, this group stages a series of Central Florida historical pageants, including the perennial Song of the Seminole. Pleasure takes off on third (and final) Portobello Expedition. Guiseppe takes over upholstery shop, starts re-upholstery and taxidermy business, sponsored by Mrs. Pleasure.
1935—Pleasure orders re-modeling Warehouse No. 3 into a massive design studio for his son-in-law Raoul Manzanera, who starts his ill-fated project to save the steam powered locomotive from extinction. Stewart and Laraine divorced.
1936—United States War Department officials meets secretly with Pleasure about construction of new generation of domestic air carriers. Mrs. Pleasure’s hybrid rose “Enrico Caruso” wins first place at the Madison Square Garden Show.
1937—Pleasure constructs Building X to house controversial “X-Wing” project. Custom Tool and Die Shop opened to service Pleasure’s controversial “X-Wing” project. Pleasure Canvas Fabricating Plant #2 remodeled for Raoul Manzanera to house his steam-magnetic locomotive engine prototype. Stewart takes fifth bride, Melvina Waggleberry, Feb. 14. Marriage annulled two weeks later. As wedding anniversary for his wife, Pleasure builds a new home (what is now Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa).
1938—Henry Pleasure builds Warehouse “over” wreckage of Original Fireworks Factory, to house his “wildebeest petting zoo,” which opens on July 4, folds Aug. 10.
1939—Pleasure befriends Roth “Crash and Carry” Kidrick and his band of Florida stunt pilots. They take up residence on the Island and “Avigators” is born.
1940—“X-Wing” prototype piloted by M.A. Pleasure makes only flight, crashes into Lake Buena Vista under mysterious circumstances. Raoul Manzanera dynamites his Prototype Design Center, formerly Canvas Fabricating Plant No. 2.
1941—Pleasure, daughter Merriam, and his beloved ship the “Dominoe” vanish during Antarctica Circumnavigation. Pleasure’s sons Henry and Stewart take over operation of the Island. Adventurers Club officially sealed upon news of Pleasure’s disappearance. The Pleasure Island Perpetual Marching and Barbecue Confederation holds first July 4 barbecue in Fireworks warehouse. Stewart marries for sixth time, Coral Hamilton, Dec. 25. Henry Pleasure assumes duties as Civil Defense Warden of the Island.
1943—Guiseppe Rohde abandons Upholstery/Taxidermy Shop due to wartime shortage of kapok. Stewart Pleasure rams Empress Lilly into Pleasure Island Bridge, knocking it down.
1944—Stewart and Coral divorce. Stewart vows never to be married again. Tornado devastates the Island, ripping facades off central industrial district. Due to limited financial resources, the Pleasure Brothers decide not to re-build, but merely to re-face buildings. Bridge knocked down by Stewart re-built.
1945—Stewart marries Catherine “Boom Boom” Rabin, a local interpreter of exotic dances, Feb. 14.
1947—Roth Kidrick and his Avigators set up the World Headquarters for their import/export business in what used to be the Pleasure Shipping and Receiving Depot.
1948—Pleasure’s grand-daughter Katie “Doodles” Manzanera sets Daytona Beach speed record of 103.37 mph in the customized 1933 Dusenberg her grandfather left her.
1949—Doodles converts Custom Tool and Die Shop into “Katie’s Kustom Kars.” Isabella dies on Christmas Eve.
1950-1955—One by one businesses and buildings close down due to Stewart and Henry’s incompetence in business.
1955—Hurricane Connie ravages what is left of Island. All remaining operations shuttered. Island offered for sale but no offers forthcoming. Pleasure brothers abandon the Island forever and disappear.
Where did some of those names come from? I was well aware that Roger Cox who did so much work conceiving and writing for the Adventurers Club was quite fond of names. Pamelia Perkins is actually the name of one of his former school classmates.
Unfortunately, Roger died years ago before I got a chance to talk with him, but I have had several communications with his widow Sybil who was very generous sharing with me information about the Adventurers Club in particular. I sent her this chronology, which she had never seen before, and asked if any of the names might have come from Roger.
“I can tell you a little about a couple of other names. Laraine was our orange tabby cat who Roger named and was quite attached to. I see the names, Katie and Catherine. Roger had an Aunt Catherine and a niece, Katie named for her great aunt. Aunt Catherine was a major character in Roger's life, I never met her but Roger always told very colorful stories about her. I think he ever added her to stories that she didn't actually belong in just because she always added something outrageous and funny wherever Roger put her.
“I see the mention of Pittsburgh, also a big part of Roger's life. This is where Roger went to college, at The University of Pittsburgh and graduate school in theater at Carnegie Mellon University. (Where he and I met.)
“More name info. When I was there [Adventurers Club] on the closing weekend, I was looking at some of the photos and the names in the captions. Many of the black and white ship photos were labeled as 'owned by' and 'captain,' this was a way Roger honored his friends. For example, the the Bon Chance, owned by Gregory LeHane. Captain L. Klatcher. These two are among of Roger's closest friends. I think I have a list of others somewhere.”
I still have more stories about Pleasure Island if MousePlanet readers are still interested. Just let me know. There will be the second Congaloosh convention, celebrating the Adventurers Club, taking place Oct. 8-10 at Walt Disney World (link).