21 October 2009

Heritage of the past

In 1972 there was dusty street with a train station at one end and the civilization of the east coast at its other point. There were no mountains on the horizon of this frontier and no rafts on the river, only a few singing bears, fur clad explorers and young adventurers, and a view of the west as it existed for most of this country’s history.

Frontierland, prior to the expansion of Adventureland to include Pirates of the Caribbean, dead ended at the Frontierland station for the Walt Disney World Railroad. The small red wooden station sat closer to the parade crossroad than it does today, and it existed on ground level. This space is now occupied by Splash Mountain, which grew out of the sandy soil of Frontierland in 1992 and also gave birth to the current incarnation of the railroad station. Splash Mountain, however, was not the first mountain to grace the skyline of Frontierland, that honor belongs to the 1980 inclusion of Big Thunder Mountain. Neither of these mountains, however, had even disturbed the sleepy residents of the frontier in 1972.

Comprised of a pair of eateries, a couple of shops, and a pair of attractions, the main thoroughfare of Frontierland in 1972 was then, as it is now, home to the troupe of vaudeville bears known as the Country Bear Jamboree. In fact, the mounted trio of Melvin, Max, and Buff not only served as entertainers in Grizzly Hall, but they also entertained the mass of guests snacking at the Mile Long Bar. And no, while this establishment was named a bar, it did not offer alcoholic beverages. The other longstanding attraction found in Frontierland in 1972 was the Frontierland Shootin’ Gallery, still present today under the moniker of Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade, complete with metal shots.

The only additional attraction found in Frontierland in 1972 were Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes. Plying the waterways with the Mike Fink Keel Boats and Admiral Joe Fowler Riverboat, both of which make birth in Liberty Square, these canoes added to feel that Frontierland was a bustling port of call on the watery highways of yesterday. Guest wishing to look the part of the canoes’ namesake, Davy Crockett, when they launched from the dock could gather their western garb from the shop Western Ho.

The Frontierland Trading Post was a required interruption for children of the West requiring a souvenir of their journey in 1972, and has now become a similarly necessitated stop for those interested in the art of pin trading. The other frequented establishment of 1972, though this one was for those seeking an end to their hunger pains, was Pecos Bill’s CafĂ©. While the restaurant has gone through several refining refurbishments, Pecos Bill is still slingin’ grub under the name of the Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn& Cafe.

Since 1972 several other food stands and shops have sprung up along the rambling road and around the base of the newly formed mountains, Davy Crockett has beached his canoes, Tom Sawyer has chartered rafts to his island, and the frontier now crosses paths with adventure. Yet, through this explosion of growth, much like the real western frontier saw, Frontierland has managed to keep it independent spirit and devil may care attitude intact.

Oh, and did I mention that even across the past almost four decades, boys and girls, and boys and girls who never grew up, can still find a coonskin cap?


Anonymous said...

Dude. Seriously? The art of pin trading?

Does shilling that much hurt?

Ryan P. Wilson said...

Anonymous - The line was meant to be a tongue and cheek analogy of what Frontierland had as opposed to what is currently available.

To be fair, however, even though I am not a fan of pin trading there are plenty of people who enjoy the pins and the process.

Either way, thank you for sharing your perspective.