02 September 2021

Walt Disney World 50 for 50: Wonderful Magic Summer

Names in and around Walt Disney World almost always serve a purpose. They recognize achievement, such as in the case of the Inventor’s Circle found in Epcot’s Future World West. They inspire and grant guests the ability to recognize the space they are in, seen in any land (Serka Zong), any pavilion (Hyperion Theater), and any attraction (U.R. Courageous). Real or fictitious names are used throughout the parks and resorts to further a story, just like the window we’re looking at today. It’s one of the first names guests pass, though scarcely any take notice of it.
Painted in gold letters along the bottom window ledge, just to the side of the main entrance to the Emporium, is the name and title “Osh” Popham, Proprietor. Sounds like a made-up name, doesn’t it? Well, it is, but it wasn’t created for the Magic Kingdom. Osh happens to be a character from the 1911 novel, Mother Carey’s Chickens, by Kate Douglas Wiggin. The book would be adapted into a live action musical by Disney in 1963 and given the new title of Summer Magic. Although, if we’re being honest Mother Carey’s Chickens sounds a lot more whimsical and a bit more enticing to me.
Summer Magic takes place in the town of Beulah, Maine and Osh is the caretaker of the home that the widow Margaret Carey and her children move into. None other than the legendary performer Burl Ives plays the role of Osh in Summer Magic, while the role of Nancy Carey, one of Margaret’s daughters and the film’s main protagonist, is portrayed Haley Mills. Osh’s maneuverings keep the family in the house and weaves them into the fabric of the town. Like any god meddling elder in a Disney film, Osh also has a couple of words of wisdom to pass along to the family, including one in song with Ugly Bug Ball.
While Ives is deserving of any accolade or nod, fictitious or not, I’m sure you’re wondering what the tie to Main Street U.S.A.’s Emporium is. The era of Main Street and Summer Magic certainly line up, but we have to have more than that, right? As it turns out, Osh Popham isn’t just the house’s caretaker, he also happens to have a shop in Beulah. It may not carry as many items as the Magic Kingdom’s main shop, but Osh’s hardware store is critical to the refreshing of the rundown home in the film, as would any hardware store in a turn of the century small town. Given his occupation and his motivational nudges in the film, we say a role as proprietor emeritus on Main Street, U.S.A. is perfectly befitting for Osh.

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