Disney Stuff - Your Complete Guide to Walt Disney World

by Chris Barry, contributing writer
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Welcome back to another installment of Disney Stuff. One of the great things about being a Disney fan and a collector is that people give you things to add to your collections and accumulations of stuff. At least they do that for me; I can’t speak for all of you out there. How many times have I heard from a friend, “Hey, I know you’re a Disney fan. I came across these and thought you’d get a kick out of them.” Luckily, it happens to me quite a bit. I’ve gotten some cool things that way. Of course, it rarely happens from other Disney fans because other Disney fans hold onto their Disney stuff. At any rate, I can never refuse a freebie— and why should I?

Recently my best friend Lou came across some stuff that made him think of me while cleaning out his grandmother’s house. Sometimes it’s just unbelievable what you come across and where and how perfectly it relates to another individual. Case in point here: as Lou is sorting through odds and ends he comes across three things in particular that really suit me. Nothing major. No ultra rare Antiques Roadshow finds. (Of course not; that never seems to happen to me.) Two of the items fit me and fit in his grandmother’s basement. The third one has left us both scratching our heads.

He approached me with a bag on a recent visit and said, “You’ll never guess what I found all together in my grandmother’s basement.”

The first item, which I’ll get to in a few moments, is a vintage Walt Disney World guidebook. The next was a map of the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair, one of the other great collections in my life. It made sense that these items would be in someone’s home of that age. However, it was the vintage Grateful Dead LP that he also found alongside the other items that surprised us both! Not what you’d expect from a grandma, and Lou has no explanation. Considering all three items directly relate to me, Lou knew he had to hand them over and I was thrilled that he did.

The Dead and The World’s Fair aside, it was the Walt Disney World guidebook that really got me happy and it’s the piece of stuff that I’d like to feature today. I’m not a big ephemera collector, but I do like to read old paper and printed items especially when they shed a little light on something I’m interested in or passionate about. I wasn’t at Walt Disney World in the old days, so I’m always curious to see what things were like, what rides or attractions were open when, and how the company was advertising them. It helps you gain a deeper appreciation for the place when you know its history.

So, let’s take a look inside “Your Complete Guide to Walt Disney World.”


The front cover of the guidebook. © Walt Disney Productions.

First of all, take note of the name GAF on the cover. This guidebook was “compliments of GAF Corporation.” Many of us out there might not remember GAF film, but at this time it was the official film of Disneyland and Walt Disney World. I fondly remember my Disney GAF View-Master. As a matter of fact, I think I had the exact one pictured here on the back cover.


The back cover of the guidebook. © Walt Disney Productions.

This book is dated 1977 so, Walt Disney World was probably only 6 or 7 years old when this book was in use. I’ve always been fond of the old globe and mouse ears Disney logo shown on the front cover, but it’s the inside of the guidebook that I really like. Let’s take a closer look at what Walt Disney World was all about 34 years ago.

I know nothing of the Motor Coach transportation system referred to on page two. How many of you out there remember taking the RED line, which ran between the Transportation and Ticket Center and Walt Disney World Shopping Village. What about the GOLD line, which ran between the Contemporary Resort, the Transportation and Ticket Center and the Polynesian Village. Considering how few places there were to go at that time, it’s amazing to see 6 different bus lines listed on property.


Transportation and Tips on Your Visit. © Walt Disney Productions.

I love the fact that the Country Bear Jamboree is listed here as an attraction that occasionally develops a wait period and you’d better hit it before noon or after five. 1977 was a simpler time, wasn’t it.

It’s nice to see that Walt Disney World was paying attention to guests with special needs back then. There’s a whole page dedicated to guests in wheelchairs. I can only surmise that Disney was ahead of their time at this point in time when compared to other destinations.


Getting Around the Magic Kingdom. Main Street, U.S.A. © Walt Disney Productions.

The Main Street, U.S.A attractions haven’t changed all that much aside from the loss of the Walt Disney Story and the Penny Arcade.

I'm quite sure I've never seen the stores listed on this next page. When’s the last time you were in the Tobacconist, the House of Magic or the Greenhouse?


The Main Street Shops and Adventureland. © Walt Disney Productions.

Adventureland hasn’t changed very much. I don’t recall the Caribbean Arcade, but I am looking forward to the possible return of Tropical Serenade or something like it this summer.

There’s definitely no Splash or Big Thunder Mountains in Frontierland at this time, but there was Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes.


Frontierland and Liberty Square. © Walt Disney Productions.

Liberty Square is largely the same minus the Mike Fink Keelboats.

In Fantasyland you could’ve experienced a submarine ride, the Skyway, The Mickey Mouse Revue and of course, Mr. Toad.


Fantasyland gets two pages. © Walt Disney Productions.

Space Mountain, The Carousel of Progress and the PeopleMover are still in Tomorrowland. Everything else is either gone or has a different name.


Tomorrowland has changed a lot. © Walt Disney Productions.

I love these maps. This was the whole “World” circa 1977!


This was everything in 1977. © Walt Disney Productions.


A Magic Kingdom map circa 1977. © Walt Disney Productions.

The GAF Photo Tips are a hoot especially the couple on the right. I can’t decide if these are Cast Members or if this gentleman is actually wearing a suit to the Magic Kingdom.


Cast Member or classy guest? © Walt Disney Productions.

So many questions arise when looking at this book. What was the World Cruise to Treasure Island like? I wonder what the Polynesian Village Resort Hotel was like with only 500 rooms?


Special Attractions, Events and The Polynesian. © Walt Disney Productions.

Was there really a roving violin player at The Top of the World supper club in the Contemporary Resort Hotel as shown here? And what were the other 10 restaurants?


The Contemporary and Golf Resorts. © Walt Disney Productions.

The Golf Resort Hotel is now… Shades of Green, of course. Before that it was…The Disney Inn.

I’m not such a big Downtown Disney fan. I get the feeling that I may have liked the Walt Disney World Village a bit more. Something tells me that a sandwich and a beer from Heidelberger’s Deli followed by a trip to Toys Fantastique for some handmade European toys or Von Otto’s Antiques would be a real treat compared to modern options like Planet Hollywood and yet another Disney gift shop.


Fort Wilderness and the Lake Buena Vista area. © Walt Disney Productions.

The back cover did inspire some memories though. I think I remember seeing these movies as a double feature that summer at the Westbury Drive-In here on Long Island.


An ad on the back inside cover. © Walt Disney Productions.

So, as you can see, a simple little booklet like this can shed a whole lot of light on Walt Disney World’s past. It also lets you look at the current amazing World that we all know and love. You begin to wonder, “Am I happier with all the other choices I have now or do I long for the simpler days exhibited in this guidebook?”

As someone who missed out on many of the things in this book…that’s a tough one. I love and adore the Walt Disney World of today, the one that I’ll be happily wandering through this summer with my family.

But, there’s a part of me that wants to go back and see what it was like when one of my biggest concerns would have been the line to get into The Country Bears. Perhaps it was a kinder, gentler Walt Disney World? Maybe, but that’s impossible to find out isn’t it? I’m fortunate though to have this little piece of Disney Stuff to give me a glimpse into the past.

Thanks to Lou for digging this little piece of history up and, especially, to his grandmother for saving it. If only we had an answer to the Grateful Dead album.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next time with some more of that great Disney Stuff.

Comments

  1. By Barberella

    I had totally forgotten about The Disney Inn! I remember phoning CRO one time - having finally made my up mind that we were going to stay there - and the CM jokingly informing me that I'd have to join the army to stay there now as it was turning into Shades of Green!

    We stayed offsite that time, because the Disney Inn was one of the most economical places to stay on-site at the time (well, maybe Fort Wilderness was less...). The internet and the All-Stars resorts are what really contributed (I believe) substantially to the growth of WDW as it put staying on-site within the grasp of the average vacationing family.

  2. By mmorizio

    The "Official Souvenir Map - New York World's Fair - 1964/65" is an important piece of graphic design history. It won a number of awards, and was an early large-scale use of a 3D aerial perspective. I have one framed and hanging in my office.

  3. By cbarry

    I've been collecting World's Fair memorabilia for a long time. I didn't know that Mike. Just like Disney, you can always learn something new. Thanks. I'll keep it in good shape.

    CB

  4. By sunfun94

    It makes me wonder if the check marks made next to certain attractions were ones she wanted to make sure to go on or what she checked off as they went? Also, it begs the question as well if she ever made it on to Skyway since she had a question mark by it :o) Thanks so much for sharing Chris! I love being able to take a look at classic memorabilia such as that! My Grandparents went to the World for their 40th wedding anniversary and I was enthused just to see the pics and hear her stories on how it was just in the 80's! :o) LOL...

  5. By AVP

    When Tony and I got married, a woman in his office gave us "something I've had laying around in a drawer forever, and thought you might like since you're Disney nuts."

    It was a darn-near mint condition 1966 Disneyland wall map. (!!!) We had it professionally framed, and it's now a centerpiece of our house. I love it when people find random Disney things for me.

  6. By jimthedj

    I was a cast member in 1977 in frontierland operation and took countless relatives to all of these many times. I remember ALL of this...

    First, the Magic kingdom was the ONLY theme park, with less attractions and believe it or not, had more people in the park at one time in the summer and Christmas. The all time in park record for MK was set around '79 with 109,000 people the day after Christmas.

    Back the, even in the summer Country Bear Jamboree daily had an 45 minute wait in the middle of the day. Every day Haunted mansion had an hour wait and to have a Even Tom Sawyers Island Rafts, riverboats and Keel boats had that 30 waits.

    The 6 bus lines, Red line, gold line and still exist, plus 50 more (at least). Now there is a very complex bus system for all the theme parks and water parks. ALL of them hub at the TTC. You can go from anywhere to anywhere by bus at WDW. Fast and efficient, then and still.

    There was a Tobacconist that sold pipe tobacco and cigarettes. You could smoke anywhere in the park and there were ashtrays next to every garbage container. (they got nasty in the rain).

    The House of Magic had magic demonstrations and sold serious magic gear. I remember they had for a sale a professional saw a women in half type illusion there for sale for $2500 that I wanted so bad to impress my friends with.

    The Caribbean Arcade was at the exit of Pirates of the Caribbean. It was the overflow to the very popular main street Arcade, which occupied almost all of the northwest quadrant of main street. And here is a bit of OMG - did they really do that?? The main street Arcade had 3-4 old time "shock" games, where you put your money and you would see how long you could hold on or move a bar with the machine gave you an increasing electrical shock. (I am not kidding about this) I did it many times. I look back at it now and wonder what were they thinking having that kind of liability and if anyone was ever injured from those machines malfunctioning.

    The nightly world cruise was amazing and I took a few dates on it. It was a side wheel paddle boat with a cocktail bar and live quartet that would cruise around seven seas lagoon and bay lake. You stopped in the middle of the lake to see the Electrical Water Pageant (Predecessor to the Main street electrical parade) and watched "Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks".

    The World Cruise to Treasure Island went the same route as the nightly world cruise, but dropped you off at pirate themed Treasure Island (later named discovery island after they added animals).

    Polynesian Village really was a lot like it is now, just half the size and only one pool. They had an amazing Sunday Brunch that was a ritual for our family when relatives visited.

    The top of the world super club was a true five star dining experience. Roving violin player was there, but don't forget, they had special booking of celebrity entertainers such as Carol Lawrence, Jack Jones, Phyllis Diller that I can find for sure,and although I am not positive I believe that Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennet and Dean Martin have also played there are one time.

    The Disney Village was much different than Downtown Disney. You are dead on with your analysis. Then, it was a collection of stores that sold unique merchandise and brands found by the disney buyers. It was a place you could go for name brand clothing and even had a grocery store/deli with unique and high end items. Today, pretty much every items sold at downtown disney is a disney brand. I miss the disney village.

    Hope you enjoyed my memories of that time.

  7. By andrewjriley

    This is WAY cool. It brings back so many memories. Is there ANY way to get a reprint of this publication. It would be worth every penny to get one of these jewels.

    Andrew

  8. By MattyN

    My first visit to WDW was in 1976, so a version of this guidebook probably made its way home with us. I wish I had it now.
    The handwritten checkmarks beside the attractions are most likely for budgeting their tickets. They probably only had so many of each ticket, so they had to decide which attractions they wanted to visit, and purchase the appropriate tickets. If I recall correctly, you could purchase ticket books in varying configurations for different prices. (For example, a book of five "A" tickets, three "B" tickets, 2 "C"s, and 1 "E" for $x, while a book with fewer "A"s and more "E"s would cost more).
    It's also interesting that some of the eateries described serve Pepsi, while others serve Coke.
    I miss the House of Magic so much. I would love to be able to take our kids to it.
    Thanks for stirring up so many memories.

  9. By cbarry

    I'm more than happy to oblige. Glad this article stirred up so many memories.

    CB

  10. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by andrewjriley View Post
    This is WAY cool. It brings back so many memories. Is there ANY way to get a reprint of this publication. It would be worth every penny to get one of these jewels.

    Andrew

    There are a few for sale on eBay right now. Different covers, but they seem the same inside.

  11. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by jimthedj View Post

    Hope you enjoyed my memories of that time.

    Thanks Jim. Great memories for sure.

    CB

  12. By disminfan

    Dear Chris,
    I enjoyed your article in particular because I still have that very same guidebook. 1977 was my first trip to WDW. Although it was just the Magic Kingdom, it felt like there was so much to do and see because of the immense area. Anyway, one of my best memories was the Empress Lilly. My best friend and I would go there every night to see a show and have dinner on the boat. It was so beautiful. Too bad it's not there anymore. I also have a guidebook from 1984 when my husband and I honeymooned there. The only real difference is that the 1984 guidebook has EPCOT in it. I haven't been back since 1984, but we are planning to go there for our 30th. It will be interesting to compare the guides. (now guide maps) Anyway, thanks for such a great article.

    Lori from San Francisco

  13. By carolinakid

    I have kept every guide book since my very first visit in 1972. I must have around 25. Great memories every time I look at one. The older guidebooks had so much more to them than the "books" they give out today.

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