Monday, May 27, 2019

The Queen Mary in Long Beach - Special Guest Post!

A few months ago, I was contacted by Gorillas Don't Blog and Meet The World follower, commenter, and special guest blogger, "JG." He had seen my post from June 2018, which included some vintage pics of the Queen Mary, and was wondering if I would be interested in seeing some of his personal (and more recent) Queen Mary photos. He thought they might make a good addition to my post. However, I thought the photos and information that he provided, were worthy of their very own post. So here is "JG," in his own words, accompanied by his own personal photos:

My wife and I visited the Queen Mary in 1983 for a conference, but we couldn’t afford to stay on board then. When we had a chance to return to Long Beach for another conference, we decided to stay one night on the Queen Mary before moving to the Convention Center hotel, since 34 years later, we could afford a nice room.

Since we were only staying one night, we chose one of the fancier suites, which was comparable in price to our room at the Convention hotel.

We got the Queen Elizabeth Suite, which was quite a large suite of rooms. There were two bedrooms, one large and elegant, the other small and humble, for one’s valet or maid. There was a foyer off the main corridor, which opened into the trunk room (!) to store one’s empty luggage, the bath, a large elegant sitting room, the big bedroom and the servant’s room. (I took a picture of the servant’s room, but only after I unpacked my suitcase and had clothes scattered all over it, so I didn’t include that photo.)

The large bedroom:

(JG has informed me, that the round items on the wall on either side of the bed and also the dressing table, are the original ventilation outlets. However, they have now been disconnected.)

The sitting room had a built-in dresser/make up table and a built-in writing desk. It was updated with a large screen TV. The original furniture was changed out to modern pieces, somewhat the worse for wear, but compatible with the original style.

The sitting room:

The large bedroom had similar built-in dressers, desks, and closets as the sitting room. Many old original light fixtures. The information guide said that these rooms were set up so that several could be connected together to make very large connecting suites of up to 10 bedrooms if desired. Hard to imagine that kind of entourage.

The bath was modern for 1930’s standards, but far from today’s norms. The old tub still had the original valves for hot and cold, fresh and salt water, but had been refitted with a modern shower valve. It was all set up in separate rooms so multiple people could use at once.

Our suite was on the west-facing or port side of the ship and was quite warm, even in October. The rooms were re-fitted with air conditioning as part of the Long Beach remodeling, but the AC didn’t work. We asked for a fan, but none were to be had. We decided that the heat was part of the experience that Clark Gable or Myrna Loy might have had, and so we sweated while pretending we were film stars of the 1930’s silver screen. Fortunately, the amusement park setup was not yet running, this would be a reason to avoid staying during mid to late October as the suite would be quite noisy with the rides running right outside.

We ordered a bottle of wine and read quietly, did not turn on the television at all, as this would spoil the cinematic mood.

The next day, we took the Steam and Steel tour, which was interesting and somewhat disappointing. I had remembered so much of the old engine room and equipment remaining, but a lot has been removed. I’m not sure when or how this was done, but I think the stories of the ship no longer being seaworthy are probably accurate since a lot of structure seems to be taken out.

The interior public rooms on the upper decks are still in good repair, but the exterior areas are suffering.

I remember being able to walk out on the side bridge walkways (not sure what these are called), but now they are boarded off, probably because the wood decks are rotten.

We had a drink in the Observation Bar, (the old First Class Lounge) which I vividly remembered for the beautiful Art Deco design and red enameled lighting. Most of this was unchanged, but again, run down and shabby feeling. There are a lot of TV’s now, like a sports bar, and a lot of loud people. No longer the quiet elegant experience I remembered. The drinks were not exceptional either.

Staying in the Queen Mary now is like staying in an 80 year hotel, it’s genteel but shabby. If you want a first class lodging experience, go elsewhere. But, if you can overlook the broken AC and the loud people in the bar, you can still hear the echo of the old days.

(I hope everyone enjoyed this tour of the Queen Mary! And a great big "THANK YOU," to JG, for sharing your photos and memories of your experience aboard the ship!)


***Editor's Notes & Additions:***

I thought I would include some interesting "odds and ends" bits of information about the Queen Mary, here:

The Queen Mary has had a long and fascinating history, since her maiden voyage in 1936. In 1967, she was retired from service and sold to the City of Long Beach (for $3.45 million!). Unfortunately, after she arrived in Long Beach, many areas of the ship were severely altered or completely gutted and removed (as JG mentioned above, about the engine room.)

One of the areas that was altered was the Observation Bar, seen in that last photo taken by JG. This vintage image shows the Observation Bar, before an expansion that took place in 1967. Here, the seating area ends with that drapery, which was covering up a long curved wall and a row of windows.

The other side of that wall and it's row of windows can be seen here, in this photo of Walt Disney, standing on a covered walkway just outside of the bar. When the Observation Bar was expanded, that wall and those windows were removed and the interior space of the bar was bumped out, towards the row of windows seen on the far right.

If we go back and take another look at JG's photo of the bar, we can see a wooden support column on the far right. That was originally part of the back wall of the bar (behind Walt Disney). When JG took his pic, he was actually standing in what used to be the covered walkway seen above!

We'll end today with this photo from 1945, showing the Queen Mary arriving in New York Harbor. During World War II, the Queen Mary and her sister ship, the Queen Elizabeth, were both converted into troop transport ships and their exteriors were painted battleship grey. According to Wikipedia, the two ships were the largest and fastest troopships involved in the war. Because of her new color and her speed, the Queen Mary was given the nickname, "The Grey Ghost."

And with that, I would like to wish everyone, a Happy Memorial Day!

Friday, May 3, 2019

New Fantasyland Grand Opening - May 1983

It was May of 1983. A good portion of Disneyland's Fantasyland had been closed for over a year, for a major remodeling. Park management announced that Fantasyland's "grand re-opening" would be taking place on Saturday, May 28th. This advertising supplement was included in The Los Angeles Times, a few weeks before the scheduled opening.

The special advertisement confirmed the date of the opening as Saturday, May 28th. My friend and I had never been to Disneyland for the grand opening of an attraction, so we made plans to be there on that day. Then a little snag came up. We found out from some cast members, that there was actually going to be a special grand opening ceremony and preview for the Press, three days earlier. When I called the park, they wouldn't tell me in advance whether or not the general public would be allowed into Fantasyland that day. We had to wait.

Finally, that day arrived. I called the park in the morning and asked the same question. They said "yes", the New Fantasyland was open to all park guests that day and that it would continue to be open for the next three days, leading up to the announced "official" grand opening date on Saturday, the 28th. I asked if any kind of special ceremony was planned again for Saturday and they said "no." I asked why they announced the official opening date on one day, when it was really opening three days earlier. I don't remember what they said exactly, but I do remember that it was a "canned Disney response."

So my friend and I decided to rush over to the park, so that we could say we were there on opening day. I had won free Disneyland tickets recently through the campus radio station at school, so I didn't have to worry about paying for this visit. Here is that ticket, dated May 25, 1983. I always hated it when the cast member that stamped your ticket at the gate, was careless about it and smeared the fresh ink.

Everyone coming into the park that day was being given this New Fantasyland button. By the way, they were NOT giving these out on the announced "official grand opening day," three days later. (My friend and I went back on that Saturday, because I had already taken the time off from work, and it had been our original plan to go to the park on that day, anyway.)

Members of the press were given this pin:

This is the entertainment guide that was available at the gate.

The inside is dated May 25th. The opening ceremony is listed along with special park hours. Since they would not tell us in advance whether or not we would be admitted into Fantasyland that day, and it was a last minute decision for us to go, we did not make it there in time for the opening ceremony at 10 a.m.! :-(

The Fall 1983 issue of Disney News Magazine featured a good shot from the opening ceremony on it's cover. Notice how the Castle drawbridge was in the "up" position. It was supposedly being lowered for the first time since opening day of the park, back in 1955. The guy in the bottom/middle of the photo, happened to be in "Fantasy On Parade" the year that I was in it.

The magazine included an article about Fantasyland's rededication, along with more photos of the opening ceremony.

The New Fantasyland's opening day festivities were covered by the local CBS TV show, 2 On The Town, with the hosts reporting live from Fantasyland. This advertisement was from The Los Angeles Times.

And this advertisement and TV listing were from the May 21-27th issue of TV Guide.

My friend and I ended up getting on camera for the live CBS show. We were also on two other channel's evening news reports. We had seen ourselves on a small TV monitor that was sitting on the ground, so we were pretty sure that we were shown during the live broadcast. My great-grandmother actually saw me on TV and called my mom to ask her if I was at Disneyland! I was also told by some people at work, that they saw me on the news. About 14 years later, I met someone who just happened to have recorded part of the 2 On The Town show and gave me a copy. Here is that partial recording of the show. The hosts are Steve Edwards and Melanie Rogers. I apologize for this not being complete. I wish I had the entire show!

And here are my pics that I took that day. I'm not sure why I didn't take more photos! Maybe I was just caught up in the excitement of everything being new.

These first two pictures were taken from the entrance to the Pinocchio attraction. This first one is looking in the direction of the newly relocated Dumbo's Flying Elephants. At this time, it did have Timothy Mouse on top of the hot air balloon in the center of the attraction, but it had not yet received the ornate centerpiece that would soon be installed below him.

This view was taken from the same spot, but looking over towards Peter Pan's Flight.

Alice In Wonderland did not reopen in 1983 with the rest of the New Fantasyland. Guests had to wait until the following year for that attraction. At this point, the track in the loading and unloading area had been ripped out and replaced with grass. The descending track on the winding "leaf" just ended as soon as it reached the ground (remember, the cars did not reenter the building in the original version!) and a sign was posted out front, stating that Alice would be back in 1984. There was also a low construction wall that kept guests back, but allowed them to view the old attraction facade and the new sign.

The "Sword in the Stone" ceremonies with Merlin, began on that very first day. The guy on the left was a member of the Make Believe Brass, which was a "musical comedy quintet" that performed throughout the New Fantasyland. Does anyone know when they discontinued the Sword in the Stone ceremonies?

This photo shows empty torch posts out on the bridge in front of the Castle. The banners had been removed from them for the rededication ceremony. Note the temporary "stone block" wall in the moat, to the left of the bridge. That wall is what hid the mechanism that allowed Maleficent to rise up into the air, during the opening ceremony (as seen earlier on that cover of Disney News Magazine). This was nine whole years before the appearance of Maleficent in "Fantasmic!"

This is the last pic that I took that day. It was already getting dark and I really needed a flash for this one.....and I REALLY wish I had a flash, because Annette Funicello (center) was standing just a few feet away from me and was being interviewed by Steve Edwards (in the hat on the left) and Melody Rogers (holding the microphone on the right). Can you see Annette? Try squinting. She's there, I swear! Unfortunately, this Annette interview from 2 On The Town is missing from the video clip above.

These next three pics were taken three days later on Saturday, May 28, 1983. Again, that was the day that was announced to the public as the "official" opening date for the New Fantasyland. In this pic of the Castle, we can see that the temporary structure from the opening ceremony had not yet been removed from the moat. We got there at park opening, but there wasn't any kind of ceremony held for the general public that day.

This shot of the brand new Pinocchio's Daring Journey attraction, shows the absence of the Pinocchio figure above the entrance. He wasn't added until many years later.

And this photo of the White Rabbit's house (the Mad Hatter Shop) shows how the railing in front of the house, used to go straight across, blocking the pathway. This was changed some years later, to allow guests to have access up to the miniature door. The window next to the door, also lost it's flower box at some point. Note the construction wall for the Alice In Wonderland attraction on the left, and how low it was.

Here is a more recent shot (from 2014), taken from almost the same angle.

This last photo was taken during the summer of 1983 and shows a little bit more of that construction wall (in the distance).

 We will end today, with the 1983 television commercial for the New Fantasyland: