Sunday, February 1, 2009

Guest Corner: Walt Disney World Vacation 1985

The wife and I were watching the Super Bowl commercials with breaks in the action by some football.

I was following the Twitter traffic on my computer when my e-mail notification went off.  It was an e-mail from my dad that is as follows:

Some time ago you asked if I had photos etc. I haven't found photos of the trip other than what's hanging on the wall which concerns me. Surely I took them. Perhaps we lost some in the move.
But I reached back into my archives and memory and came up with the attached. Your mom looked it over as well and tweaked it. All the places are old hat to you, but this is the FIRST time you went.

What was attached was a 6 page MS Word document with a trip report contained within.  I read the contents to my wife, Enchanted Rose, and after the first page she remarked, “I now know where you got your writing style from”.  When I was done reading she said, “You must ask your dad’s permission to post this on Grumpy’s Hollow”.  I asked and was granted permission. 

I am very thankful and appreciative of this contribution to my Disney memories.

It should be noted that my parents haven’t stepped foot in a Disney Theme Park since we left Walt Disney World on this trip.  They also don’t follow blogs, podcasts or read guide books about Disney.  So, there are some errors and some wrong terminology.  But, I was impressed with what I read considering this trip was almost 25 years ago.

My dad is an extensive journal writer and consulted his journal to write this report for me.  My mom read through it and added her own details.  I was asked to add my memories to this report as well.  I’ll do that in this report with the use of italics so that you will know what parts are my contributions to my dad’s words.

What I would like to ask of you all, my wonderful readers, is that if you can fill in the gaps as well we’d love it.  For example, we cannot remember the name of the resort we stayed at.  If anything is written about that wasn’t mentioned by name, it might be nice to get that info.  My mom informed me she’d like as accurate a report as possible.

So here it is:

Disney World Vacation 1985

Having lived in California for a number of years (February 1972-April 1979), as our kids grew up, we often visited Disneyland, especially around Christmas. So our family as a whole and our kids at an early age were veteran Disney visitors.

Then, in April of 1979, we moved to North Carolina making our traditional and easy visits to Disneyland a thing of the past. But on the other hand we'd not been to Disney World.

While Disney World was not the relative hop and skip we enjoyed getting to Disneyland in California, it was not a big challenge. My wife and I were hardened endurance drivers, known to almost do 24X7 vacation runs shifting drivers and sleeping places to minimize cost and maximize time.

We'd done one of these drives with the kids non-stop to the Miami area from Durham, NC so they weren't a stranger to it either. That's another story, but hold the thought.

Somewhere along the line my wife Karen, did some research (after seeing a Disney Ad on TV) and proposed we visit Disney World while the kids were on their summer vacation. That sounded like a plan so she bought for us what was a pretty expensive $2000.00 package deal which covered all expenses (using a Key Card) except for convenience purchases, e.g. a random soda, snack, etc. Plus that we took $700.00 worth of Traveler's Checks. All expenses meant, a condo for a week, a golf cart to get around the local area, 3 meals a day for everyone, entry to the park and all its attractions, transportation therein. Everything. Each one of us got what looked like a plastic credit card one would present for any expenses.

As I noted the kids had a feel for these marathon runs and jammed into a small car shared with a lot of our “stuff” for what seemed like an eternity wasn't high on their list. On these kinds of trips, the phrase “are we there yet?” had real meaning. Karen & I wanted to make it a vacation and be comfortable too, and free from worry about traveling in our rather old car stacking up a lot of wear and tear even if it behaved itself. And the boys were adamant about having some room to move around in. So we rented a Chrysler LeBaron and traveled in style. A nice new one , and we took off on July 27, 1985, a Saturday morning.... after a lot of repacking (you didn't think we'd really just “take off”). There wasn't room in the trunk for standard luggage and as noted we didn't want to use the boys seating area for overflow, so our luggage was, and often continues to be garbage bags, or perhaps the more lovely leaf and construction bags.

Nor did we drive non stop. We wanted everyone to be reasonably refreshed when we got there, not start off exhausted. We drove down Route 95 to Brunswick, GA where we stayed at a motel overnight.

I thought of everything so instead of entertaining everyone, with witty repartee, we took a supply of cassette tapes. But...the challenge was to have something that spanned the ages, that the kids would at least tolerate and visa versa. I don't remember the whole repertoire but let me tell you even after almost 25 years later and at an advanced age, I recall listening to Weird Al Yankovic, over and over , hour after hour. I think some of those songs are buried in my gray matter. Who could forget:

  • “Stop Draggin' My Car Around”
  • “My Bologna”
  • “Like A Surgeon“
  • “I Want A New Duck”
  • “Girls Just Want To Have Lunch”
  • “Eat It”
  • “Another One Rides The Bus”
  • “Lasagna”

We hit Disney World early Sunday afternoon July 28, 1985 with enough time to check in and see some of the park and the village. The Condo wasn't huge but for all practical purposes no one cared that much as it was mainly a place to sleep...(the kids slept on the pull out couch and we had the bedroom area. That Golf cart I mentioned came with the Condo and was a nice touch. We used it a bit but not much.

We stayed a week at Disney World. Everyone was looking forward to it, partly for the nostalgic oldies but goodies attractions and partly because of new attractions not at Disneyland. For instance Epcot Center, about which we'd heard much and would visit for the 1st time on this trip.

Everyone had something they wanted to see. We hit the Magic Kingdom Sunday evening. Karen had an uncanny instinct about where to go. Although it was fairly crowded at Disney World all the time we were there we never stood in line more than ½ hour. Sunday night we sailed through Pirate's Of The Caribbean, The Haunted House, A Small World, and Space Mountain.

Space Mountain. Wow! What a ride that was! Mike sat with me and Karen sat with Ray, screaming all the way down! We also saw the fireworks and the (laser) light show.

And that pace was the pace for the whole visit, On the go all day and night, drag ourselves on to some kind of transportation back to the Condo, fall into bed exhausted at day's end and then repeat the process the next day. We have a picture of Ray on the bus. He was 14 with plenty of energy and even he looked worn out.

And eat! We were entitled to 3 meals per day virtually all you can eat. I was sick of eating before the week was out, gaining weight like I was some movie star whose next role was a big fat man. In Epcot Center you could “visit” other countries and sample their cuisine, Italy, Spain [Ed. Note:  I know that Spain didn’t exist as a country at EPCOT Pavilion], England, and so on.

As I said that package plan entitled us to 3 squares a day. And the boys let no grass to grow under their feet. Since we set no limitations they could have ANYTHING they wanted, refills on drinks, dessert at lunch AND dinner – steak for breakfast. Whatever. One reason is so they could truly have a vacation and another was Karen was keeping a tally and wanted to make sure we got our money's worth out of that deal. Getting one's money's worth meant that point in which the cost of what we would have paid, had we no package deal, exceeded the cost of the deal. I think somewhere around Thursday, helped immensely by the amount of food we were shoveling in, we crossed that line and Karen had her Eureka! Moment.

The only exception to the Plague of the Locusts approach to restaurant eating was for the most part, breakfast. We took some cereal with us, had some of our own sodas, and we'd use that golf cart to go to the local convenience store for milk It saved time for the serious eating and and touring around the park.

EPCOTFireworks2 I have a feeling we might have become a legend there. One night we hustled over to Epcot to see a laser show scheduled to start at 9. We hadn't yet eaten dinner and we swooped into some small restaurant near the show about 8:45 with 15 minutes to spare, not counting the time to elbow your way to a vantage point from which to see it.

A waiter came up, probably thinking he was waiting on normal people, who perhaps wanted to have a nice dining experience. (dining and eating are both about food, but dining suggests ambiance, taking one's time to savor fine cuisine etc., while eating is just taking on fuel) Karen took a quick poll of who wanted what, fired the order off to the waiter, told him to bring it all including the dessert and the bill at the same time, and be quick about it.

I think here's one time that the term “wolfed down a meal” really fits well. We put a whole meal away in about 5 EPCOTFireworks minutes, and this from a lady whose “throat” closes if she's around fast eaters. And MomRayAndMikeWaitingForBus we were off and running. [Ed. Note:  The restaurant was the Garden Grill or whatever was occupying it’s space in 1985]

Remember how we got around? Most of the time we'd go to the bus stop #8 and catch a bus to the Transportation Center and transfer to a monorail to where we wanted to go, e.g. The Magic Kingdom, The Polynesian Village. We couldn't go to EPCOT directly, we had to work our way over. At night we'd reverse the process with bus loads of people. I think once we went on the ferry.

Once in awhile, we'd take the car, like the night it rained a fair thee well and we had to go to a show in the restaurant in the fancy hotel.

Here's the highlights.

Monday July 29th

MomAndDadWithMinnie Speaking of meals, perhaps because it was our first special meal there, or perhaps RayMikeAndGoofyit was the event but a meal we really liked is one in which the Disney characters had breakfast with the guests. It was on the riverboat Empress Lilly. We have a photo showing Mike with pure pleasure on his face. He expressed it well for all of us.

Then off to EPCOT, 1st visiting Morocco, then France for lunch, then to Kodak's RayMikeAndPluto    exhibit where we saw a short 3D movie featuring Michael Jackson (I think..) [Ed Note:  It wasn’t Captain Eo.  There was a lot of advertisements for MikeAndMickeythe coming of Captain Eo when we were there but it was some other 3D movie.  I just don’t remember the name] 

After this we visited Great Briton, then Canada, the Spaceship Earth. In the evening we went to Fort Wilderness and saw the boat show and the Hoop Dee Doo Review.

Tuesday, July 30th

RayHoldingEPCOTGlobe    We returned to Fort Wilderness to visit River Country. Which was a big letdown. As advertised, it sounded really terrific but it couldn't hold a candle to Greensboro's (North MikeAndRay@HoopDeeDooCarolina) water park. But the dinner we had at Fort Wilderness was one of the best, along with that Hoop Dee Doo review.

We returned to EPCOT and Mexico for lunch, then off to China for one of the several 360 theaters in Disney World, then to Germany, then the USA, then to Japan and then the Motion exhibit and back to Mexico and then finished with the MikeMomAndRayOutsideChinaEXXON Energy show after which the park closed. I think this is the one where after they seated everyone in what appeared to be a normal theater, the seating disassembled MikeRayMomDreamFinderAndFigmentand started moving on a track, taking you back in time to the source of the oil, with moving dinosaurs, dense plants etc. Pretty neat.

Wednesday Jul 31st

The boys with a great deal of grumping went to a behind the scenes tour for kids, an energy class showing how Disney meets their power needs. They did see Space Mountain from the inside, the tracks, how it works, how it's powered. It must have been pretty neat because when they came back from it, they were much more happy about going. From what they said, it sounded interesting and I wouldn't have minded going myself. They went behind the scenes and saw how the park actually runs.

RayOnBus [Ed Note:  The Cast Member who was in charge of all of us pubescent and pre-pubescent kids was a “friend” of Cinderella and Snow White.  I also recollect that my parents were late picking us up at the end of the tour.  I don’t think I ever heard what they did with their time at Walt Disney World when we were off having fun learning about how Walt Disney World uses and creates their own energy.  I remember us being taken to see the on-site power plants and learning about the motors that power the TTA.  We got a workbook and a Polaroid camera to take pictures as part of the assignments in the workbook.  I’m still looking for that workbook.  I know it’s in my junk somewhere in the attic.]

After this, the boys availed themselves of the pool that went with the condo. Unfortunately it was heavily laced RayAndMikeAtResortPool with chlorine. We were scheduled to go to the contemporary Disney hotel for a show but Ray threw a legendary hissy fit due to eye discomfort. I made use of the golf cart and bought some eye drops in our nearby convenience store, which eventually helped. It was just as well as we all more or less kicked back today to get some rest.

[Ed Note:  We did end up going to the Contemporary Hotel.  I think there was a show or something associated with the meal at the top of the resort.  I cannot remember the name of either the show (if I’m remember correctly) or the restaurant.  Also, in my defense, the pain was excruciating.  If I tried to open my eyes, they burned like crazy and my eyes seemed to be fogged over because it seemed like trying to see on a foggy day when I could open my eyes.  I was running to the bathroom throughout the meal to put in more drops.  I’m also recollecting that we were at the pool at the Polynesian Resort because I don’t recall the resort we were staying at having a pool]

Thursday Aug 1st

MikeDrivingWaterSprite We all slept late today. The feature of the day was boat riding or rather boat SweatyDrownedRatsdriving. Karen, Ray and Mike got to try their hands at piloting these really neat small motor boats. Two passes at it, once at the Polynesian Village and and once again at the Village.

We returned to the Magic Kingdom in time to get rained on. But expecting rain  (it's Florida in the summer after all) we had bought some plastic ponchos. We may have looked like sweaty drowned rats, but protected from the rain we defied the elements and the sweaty rats did what they wanted to do anyway MikeOnWaterSpritewith a lot less competition from wimps who wanted to stay dry; Bear Country, Tiki Room, the Jungle Cruise and Thunder Road [Ed Note:  Big Thunder Rail Road]. The boy's target for that day was Thunder Road a milder roller coaster than Space Mountain. I wanted to see the parade again. When we got back to our condo this time we were all wiped out!

Friday August 2nd

We were winding down. We hit the Polynesian village again and Karen and the boys had another go at the boats. I MikeOnCarousel RayOnWaterSpritethink without a doubt, that the one thing Mike enjoyed above all else were the  speedboats. We had virtually unlimited use of these little speedboats. Technically at 11 years, he was underage to drive them unaccompanied (the cut off was 12 years old). But a nice young lady in charge stretched the truth a bit so Mike got to drive his own boats. We mostly rented them from the Polynesian Village. I still remember the boys with their life jackets roaring off doing the equivalent in water of laying RayOnCarousel rubber. We tried it at Disney Village again with me as a passenger with  Mike. Not too subtly he wanted me to disembark as the boat was dogging it. With MomOnWaterSpriteme out it still was a dog. The next day even Karen took one out. I read, as I didn't do the boat thing as I don't care for that stuff. They spent so much time with the boats that Mike ran out of gas. But they refueled him and off he went again.

We went back to the condo and the boys voted to hang out there. They went swimming in that infamous pool, this time sans any problems. I think Ray set his expectations and guarded his eyes accordingly or the chlorine was weaker. We all elected to stay home, where the  boys watched TV (Disney programs of course) and Karen and I packed up.

Saturday Aug 3rd

We packed up, checked out, did some last minute souvenir buying, got some lunch to go and we were off. This RayAndMikeOnWaterSprite time I drove straight through to home in Durham NC, over 13 hours, with Weird Al doing the honors again.

A good time was had by all. I don't know if they remember it, but I told them when we got there that they had worked hard through the school year and they had only one thing to do here, have a great time, explained the power of their cards, set minimal rules, the main one being just don't stray off. I don't know if words can describe how much everyone enjoyed the trip. And we all remember it, which was the intention. We wanted to give the boys some fond memories.


disneynorth said...

It looks like and sounds like you stayed at Camp Wilderness. I'm thinking you stayed in one of the cabins. One giveaway is the picture of the bus stop. The theming looks like a camp site.

But that is must my guess....

Unknown said...

I'm positive it wasn't the Camp Wildnerness area that we were staying at because we were in a fairly modern (for the time) 2-story condo-style building and it had multiple shops that were accessible via foot or golf-cart transportation.

I think it would've been somewhere near where Downtown Disney is located now because the Pin Trading store is sporting the same similar architecture that I remember one of the stores I bought one of my souvenir T-Shirts from

Anonymous said...

I think the name of the place we stayed had Villa in the name. Something like ? Villas and Conference center... I don't "do" camping..LOL

Lisa Lu said...

I am a new follower to your blog. I'm apart of many Disney communities out there. Love the blog. Love this entry.

Presley family said...

I think Disney runs in your blood! I see where you got your writting talent from!!!

Presley family said...

Ok, Ray is it about time for an update.... a new entry!!! Come on we are waiting!!!!

The Whiz Kid Forte said...

I really like your post - it was the Disney World before I even first set foot there in 1991! It's so timeless and nostalgic!

Anonymous said...

Hi... just happen to cross your site...

Im planning to go to Tokyo or Hong Kong Disney this Christmas. Hoho and I found some stuffs from Hong Kong Disneyland here as well:

I will definitely take tones of photos there!!!