Florida Before Disney World: Paisley Florida

Florida Before Disney World: Paisley, Florida

About an hour north of the Magic Kingdom is a cemetery located between Altoona and Paisley in Lake County. The cemetery has an incredible connection to Walt and Roy Disney, and Walt Disney World.

The Ponceannah Cemetery is one of the oldest in Florid and the first burial was in 1860.

But what is the Disney connection to Paisley, Florida?

Disney and Lake County?

On January1, 1888, newly formed Lake County gave out its first official marriage license to Flora Call and Elias Disney. Yes, Walt’s parents met and married in Lake County, less than 70 miles from where their children would plan and build the Vacation Kingdom of the World almost 100 years later.

Flora’s parents (Charles and Henrietta Call) moved from Kansas to the Paisely area of Orange County around 1884. At the time, the future Lake County would be comprised of Orange and Sumter counties. They bought 80 acreas about a mile north of the current area of Paisley. The Calls had five children: Charles, Jr.; Flora; Jessie; Grace Lila; and Julia.

Do you know where this sign is at Walt Disney World?

Kepple Disney and his son Elias (Walt’s father) moved from Kansas and settled in the Paisley area around the same time. From what I’ve read, the Calls and Disneys were neighbors in Kansas and Elias and Flora first met there. Elias took a job as a postman and delivered mail by horseback to over 300 families in the area. One of those families being the Calls and Flora Call continued to catch Elias’ attention.

Flora and Elias were married on January 1, 1888, in a small church in Kismet, Florida. Sadly, Kismet is one of the more than 50 ghost towns of Lake County, and it’s exact location, and the location of the church, are unknown.

What Happened to Kismet?

Image courtesy of Lake County Government

It is not clear why the post offices were discontinued at Ponceannah (1887), Kismet (1890), and Acron (1890). These closings left Paisley with the only active post office in the area.

During these years “Crow’s Burial Grounds” had become ”Ponceannah Cemetery”. The residents of the area formed a Cemetery Association. On November 6, 1891 the Association’s Trustees J.C.Hethcox, G.H. Gardiner, J.J. McEwen, Joshua T. Crow, and R.W. Stokes signed Articles of Incorporation for the Cemetery Association, witnessed by Alfred D. Hancock and
L.J. Owens. At this time Secretary of State J. L. Crawford decided the address of the Cemetery Association should be Paisley.

These actions left Paisley the only settlement in the area with a church, a post office, and a cemetery. There were also a number of sawmills, a gristmill, a cotton gin, a general store and a schoolhouse, all of which contributed to the survival of Paisley, while most of the other small settlements disappeared. (History of Paisley and surrounding area : “The Paisley Precinct” by Paisley Extension Homemakers, 1990, pp. 16-17)

Aunt Jessie and Walt Disney

After Elias and Flora were married, they moved to Daytona Beach where their first son, Herbert, was born in 1888. They would move to Chicago in 1889, where Elias and Flora would build a home on Tripp Avenue. The remaining Disney children would be born in Chicago. Interesting tidbit: Elias Disney worked construction at the Columbian World’s Exposition.

(State Archives of Florida)

The photo of Walt with Aunt Jessie Perkins and cousin Irene Campbell sitting on a porch in Paisley has been passed around and is part of the Florida Memory Collection at the Florida State Archives. To me, based on the caption and the style of the type, it was from an internal Disney communication piece, but I haven’t identified the source. From articles in the Orlando Sentinel and the Daily Commercial, it is stated that Walt would have spent summers in Paisley with Aunt Jessie. There are ruminations that Walt eyed the Paisley area and Lake County as a potential site for the Florida Project, but the lack of major highways would have been a deal-breaker.

Let’s Visit the Ponceannah Cemetery

Visiting the Ponceannah Cemetery offers an interesting piece of Disney history that isn’t discussed often.

As you enter through the gates off of State Road 42, you travel down a dirt road towards a gazebo.

There’s a plaque on the gazebo that discusses Aunt Jessie and her contribution to the cemetery.

In 1923 member Jessie Perkins, Secretary/Treasurer of the Ponceannah Cemetery Association 1927-1946, raised money to have this gazebo built. The present day six-sided structure has served well through the years, as a chapel, meeting place, and a shaded rest area for members on work days.

As you approach the gazebo, which is centrally located in the cemetery, you might spy a familiar color scheme through the distance. As you head deeper into the cemetery, be on the lookout for a very unique grave marker with a red and black structure nearby.

The grave marker looks like a tree stump and there is a red and black bench  for visitors to sit and reflect.

The small stone at the foot of the grave site says FATHER & MOTHER.

The monument is a headstone provided courtesy of the Woodmen of the World Life Assurance Society. The organization was a fraternal order that guaranteed the right of a dignified and marked grave. The Woodmen of the World created a unique marker for every member when they passed. Due to the costs associated, the order stopped providing the free monuments in the 1920s.

The top half has the Masonic Symbol carved on it.

  • Charles Call Born Mar. 22, 1823 Died Jan. 6 1890
  • Henrietta Call Born July, 23, 1837 Died Feb 21, 1910

Aunt Jessie and Walt Disney in Paisley

At the bottom of the monument is a plaque, with the following inscription:

Charles and Henrietta Call were the grandparents of Walt Disney. The Call and Disney family [sic] moved to Florida in 1884 from Kansas. The families settled on land about a mile north of Paisley. Charles and Henrietta’s daughter, Flora married Elias Disney in 1888 and later moved to Chicago where Walt was born in 1900. As a child and adult, Walt was a frequent visitor in Paisley with his Aunt Jesse Call Perkins.

The grave for Aunt Jessie and her husband, Albert Perkins, is in the same plot as Charles and Henrietta. Albert was the postmaster in Paisley until his death, when Jessie took over. Aunt Jessie worked in several schools in Lake County, eventually serving as principal of East High School. Aunt Jessie passed away on March 6, 1956.

Have You Visited The Call Family Gravesite in Paisley, Florida?


For more more fantastic stories about the early days of Walt Disney World, heck out Aaron Goldberg’s AMAZING new book: Buying Disney’s World: The Story of How Florida Swampland Became Walt Disney World

FTC Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

Designing Disney’s Theme Parks Book Review

Designing Disney’s Theme Parks Book Review

Designing Disney’s Theme Parks: The Architecture of Reassurance was first published in 1997 and was edited by Karal Ann Marling. The book is a collection of essays, including a longer one by Ms. Marling, that takes us in-depth with the processes, thoughts, and philosophies of designing Disney themed spaces. There are 224 pages and the book weighs in at almost 3.5 pounds. It’s a large-format book, which means the concept art and photos are reproduced in a fairly large size.

Disney Disney’s Theme Parks Video Review

Do you own a copy of the book? Did you ever get to the the art exhibit?

The exhibit that spawned the book is one that I wish I’d bee able to visit, especially in the late 1990s. As I mentioned in the video, this book was published near the end of the Disney Decade, when Michael Eisner was touting the modern architecture that the Disney Company was proliferating. Eisner was working with the biggest and most acclaimed architects of the day, whenever it was for resorts, corporate buildings, or planned communities. This was all oa time before the advent of blogging and vloggers, so there were very few places to get information about Disney theme parks. (Seriously, how did you ever find out bout the latest cupcake without vlogging?!?!?!) Designing Disney’s Theme Park was also one of the first forays into the scholarship of Disney. Another great title to check out is Stephen Fjellman’s Vinyl Leaves, one of the very best sociological treatises on Disney World and a walk-through of every queued attraction at WDW around 1990. Trust me, you want both of these books!

Additional authors: Neil Harris; Erika Doss; Yi-Fu Tuan; and Greil Marcus.

Looking for other books about Walt Disney World? Check out my list of WDW books!


FTC Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

Disney: The First 100 Years Book Review

Disney: The First 100 Years by Dave Smith

Interested in learning about the life of Walt Disney and the history of The Disney Company? Dave Smith’s book is a great introduction to the first 100 years (starting in 1901) of Walt and the Disney Company. The book covers his life, animation, live-action films, theme parks and o many other projects.

Disney: The First 100 Years Video Review

Looking for other books about Walt Disney?


FTC Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

Energy Efficient Fairway Villas!

Introduction of the energy efficient Fairway Villas of Lake Buena Vista!

Disney News for Spring 1978 shares an article about new energy efficient town home villas in Lake Buena Vista. With the energy crisis of the 1970s, companies were turning towards energy efficient buildings and other means of conserving electricity.

As part of the mission of Walt Disney World and EPCOT Center, Disney was looking at ways of bringing new technologies to the forefront of the Vacation Kingdom of the World. It also gave executives an easier time when being hounded by the press, the public and the cast  members on the future of Walt’s vision for EPCOT Center.

Let’s take a look at how Disney promoted the new Fairway Villas!

Lake Buena Vista Introduces The Energy Savers

Walt Disney World is saving energy while they create a unique, new type of accommodation for vacationers in Florida.

Sixty four Fairway Villas are being built along the Lake Buena Vista Golf Course in Walt Disney World’s Resort Community, each with a predicted energy savings of up to 50 per cent compared to similar structures without the power-saving features.

Several of the power-pinching design features depend not on expensive machines, but on well- studied positioning of buildings and energy-conscious application of construction methods and materials. And, say the designers from WED Enterprises (the Disney architectural, master planning and “imagineering” firm), all of these energy saving features—ranging from site selection to the unconventional heating and cooling system—can be incorporated into the construction of new single family homes.

Another concept incorporated in the Fairways Villas is unique room flexibility. Each tri-level living unit has a living room and kitchen area which may be connected to one, two or three bedrooms just by opening or closing certain sections. With these modifications, a single building can accommodate a large or small family or even a business meeting.

Building sites for the clusters of homes were selected to take maximum advantage of existing shade trees. The Villas are also oriented to give less window exposure toward the south and west, providing shade for the larger glass areas during the hottest part of the day.

Exaggerated roof overhangs will reduce the amount of heat absorbed through the walls by shading large exterior wall areas. Clerestory areas with five-foot-long overhangs will provide natural light to the living, kitchen and mezzanine areas without increasing the interior temperature.

The heating and cooling system for the Villas is a highly efficient air-to-air heat pump. In addition, hot water is provided by heat recovered from the condenser when the air conditioning is in operation—about eight months of the year.

Provisions have also been made in both the heating/cooling system and the building orientation for the future addition of a solar energy system which would employ liquid- type, roof-mounted solar collectors.

High efficiency lighting fixtures in the Villas give adequate lighting at minimum energy cost and heat gain. All interior lighting will be done with fluorescent fixtures employing an electrically efficient frequency converter. Fixtures designed for domestic use, indirect lighting methods, and reflectors will be used to accent and develop relaxing living areas.

The Fairway Villas have also been designed to take advantage of the forces of nature for cooling at certain times. When air conditioner use is marginal, a chimney draft, which augments the ventilation effect of open windows, will create a constant cross-circulation of cool air.

In planning all of these energy-saving features, the WED designers didn’t forget about the good looks of the buildings. The exteriors are finished in attractive, natural cedar siding that will blend into the wooded surroundings. The roofs are covered with cedar shingles.

Inside, heavy beams across the ceilings again show off the beauty and texture of natural wood, while an open mezzanine gives a spacious but cozy feeling to the living area.
All of the Villas will be fully furnished in a luxurious, comfortable style practical for families or business groups.

The new resort lodgings are being built in accordance with the goals of the Disney EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) plan to demonstrate practical ideas and systems for better living.

In all, there will be 24 two- story buildings with 64 Villas and 128 bedrooms. The first six buildings are nearly finished, with the entire project scheduled for completion
in late summer.

Vacationing in one of Walt Disney World’s new Fairway Villas will be like experiencing a preview of the future, when saving energy will become a way of life.

Special thanks to RetroWDW for use of the vintage photos of the Lake Buena Vista Fairway Villas.

Did You Ever Get to Stay in the Fairway Villas?


Lake Buena Vista Community, The Original EPCOT Center Video

Looking for a great book on the first few years of the Magic Kingdom and Walt Disney World? Check out the Story of Walt Disney World: Commemorative Edition.

FTC Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

Hats off to Disneyland Hats

Hats off to (Disneyland) Hats

Paying any modicum of attention to social media, and you would think that the ubiquitous Mickey and Minnie Mouse Ears headbands had only been invented recently.

Not so!

The invention of the Mickey Mouse ears is attributed to Mickey Mouse Club Big Mooseketeer Roy Williams who says he was influenced by a gag in the 1929 animated short Karnival Kid. In the short, Mickey tips his ears to Minnie, creating this wonderful sight gag.

Apparently, this gag was also performed by Oswald the Lucky Rabbit while the series was still being produced by Disney.

Oswald tips his ears to Ortensia in a storyboard for Sleigh Bells (1928)

I ran across a one-page piece for Disneyland hats in the Winter 1976 Disney News…years before Instagram-posing became the norm!

Wear a Disneyland hat
With a ribbon or a feather,
No matter the season,
No matter the weather.
All kinds to choose from,
All sizes and styles.
They’re wonderful hats: they
Bring on the smiles.

So once you’ve “ooh”ed the chapeaux
And “ahh”ed the frilly bonnets,
Have priced them in poems
And written cap sonnets,
There’s one thing to do
To honor them: that’s
Bow very low-and take your
Hats of to hats!

At the time, film and the process of developing photos was still an expensive process. A photo shoot lie the one in the one-page piece would have been done with a professional photographer and model. Still, it’s interesting to see that things haven’t changed!


Looking for a great book on the history of Disneyland?


FTC Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

Murals at Walt Disney World

Murals at Walt Disney World

The Disney News from the summer of 1976 showcases two very important murals at Walt Disney World: Cinderella Castle and the Grand Canyon Concourse murals. Both of these works have stood for almost 50 years and are a part of every Walt Disney World vacation. Check out the article to learn more about the artisans and how the murals were created.

Murals, an art form originated in 5000 B.C. by the Mesopotamians of southwest Asia, have been popular through the ages and are still used as ornamentation on many buildings. At Walt Disney World, two charming tales are visually depicted through this ancient art.

Adorning the foyer walls of the Magic Kingdom’s 18-story, gold-spired Cinderella Castle, five glittering, richly hued glass mosaic murals beautifully portray the classic fairy tale of Cinderella. Each ornate panel, shaped like a Gothic arch, is 15 feet high and 10 feet wide.

Expertly designed by Disney artist Dorothea Redmond at WED Enterprises, Disney’s “Imagineering” firm in Glendale, California, and skillfully crafted by world-famed mosaicist Hanns-Joachim Scharff, the murals took more than two years to complete.

Thanks to Retro WDW for the image.

Each of the murals was redrawn from Ms. Redmond’s paintings to life-size proportions on heavyweight brown craft paper. The entire finished drawing, called a “cartoon,” was then divided along natural lines into work- able sections, called “sheets.”

Mosaicist Hanns-Joachim Scharff

Meticulous attention to details in the original paintings was faithfully maintained by Scharff as he re-created the design on mural sheets in his California home. In the first mural there were approximately 55 sheets, each less than two feet wide.

Then, using the indirect method of mosaic design, the tesserae (tiles) were first glued in reverse (both backwards and upside down) on the paper sheets bearing the design.

When completed, the sheets were packed for shipping across the country. After being sprayed with a water mist to prevent the glue from drying and the mosaic from bulging and shedding the glass tiles, the sheets were wrapped tightly in polyester film.

Then, when all the sheets arrived at Cinderella Castle, they were reassembled on the wall by pressing the reverse side into the wet plaster. Later, the glue and brown paper were sponged off.

The five completed murals contain hundreds of thousands of exquisite jewel-like pieces of glass; some of them are fused with silver and 14-carat gold. More than 400 regular colors and 100 additional accent colors are used in the picturizations.

Both smooth-faced Venetian glass and rough, irregular pieces of glass called “smalti” (used traditionally by Italian craftsmen) are included in the mosaic panels. Some pieces are as small as the head of a tack and many were hand cut and shaped by using a power grindstone.

Grand Canyon Children

Another tall tale in tiles can be found in Walt Disney World’s Contemporary Resort Hotel, only minutes from the Cinderella Castle via the futuristic monorail system. Towering above the hotel’s longer-than-a-football-field concourse mall is a massive 90-foot-high ceramic mural, unlike any in the world. The design of the mall and mural were inspired by the concourse’s theme—the Grand Canyon—appropriately named because of its vastness and similarity to a great open canyon.

Special Thanks to Gorillas Don’t Blog

Based upon the culture of the Grand Canyon and southwestern Indians, the mural’s motifs were designed by Disney artist Mary Blair at WED Enterprises. Her inspiration for the mural came from a broad spectrum of resources, including Pueblo murals and Navajo ceremonial art, such as sand paintings. She also designed the two tile murals adorning the main concourse of Disneyland’s Tomorrowland.

“Children and animals are such a part of the art of Disney that they were chosen for the mural to show activities of the people of the Grand Canyon—with a whimsical touch of fun,” explained Ms. Blair. “If any Indian art sources were to be singled out they would be Pueblo, Navajo and Apache”

The mural and concourse colors are keyed to the earth and sky tones of the Grand Canyon as well as the vibrant colors commonly used in Indian art. The glazes used on the ceramics are both mineral and chemical based; the color pink is made partially from gold.

Brilliant oranges, yellows, blues and greens blend to show happy-faced Indian children playing with birds, rabbits, little brown bears and other animals of the plains. Other children are shown gathering flowers and merrily doing their daily chores as white, fluffy clouds float by overhead.

Using a full-scale paper model of the mural, tile setters, working in sections, used high-rise lifts and scaffolds to mount the tiles. A 54-ton jigsaw puzzle, the nine-story mural took more than two months to assemble; the complete creative process took more than a year and a half.

What Do You Think About These Two Murals at Disney World?


Looking for a great book on the first few years of Walt Disney World?

Check out the book, Mary Blair’s Unique Flair!

FTC Disclosure: A copy was provided by the company for the purpose of a review. This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

Brer Bear and Brer Fox Are Waiting to Meet You!

Brer Bear and Brer Fox Are Waiting to Meet You!

This fantastic cover from the Fall 1976 Disney News shows Brer Bear and Brer Fox waiting for us on dock at the Magic Kingdom.

You get a glimpse of Cinderella Castle and The Hall of Presidents to the left go the characters.

Check out Jason Surrell’s Disney Mountains to read more about Splash Mountain and the other Disney mountains.

Splash Mountain is also home to the rarest Disney book of all time!


Epcot Space Pavilion Part Two: The Speculator

Epcot Space Pavilion Part Two: The Speculator

In a previous video, I looked at a proposed concept for a redo of the Horizons pavilion. This 1996 concept would have kept the original Horizons building intact and kept most of the interior attraction layout…and added a second attraction with it’s own pre-show: The Speculator.

The Speculator?

Exactly.

This concept for a Space Pavilion would have straddled pre- and post-millennium Epcot with an attraction that, well, had the best of both worlds. The first segment, which would have retained a major portion of the original attraction layout showed us how we saw space throughout our history. It would have been a bit slower, like World of Motion and Spaceship Earth, as it explained how we came to understand outer space. The second half of the attraction took us into another pre-show and debuted a fairly new style of vehicle that would have been a cross between Soarin’ and Flight of Passage. Sort of…

Catch up with Part One of the video here.

Epcot Space Pavilion Concept Video Part Two

So, what do you think about The Speculator and the message provided by the second half of the attraction?


Looking for the ultimate EPCOT Center book?

Locomotives of Walt Disney World

All Aboard The Fire-Breathing Locomotives of Walt Disney World!

The Winter 1975 Disney News offers an article about the Walt Disney World Railroad and how the engines were acquired and brought to Central Florida. I ran across an interesting tidbit concerning the name that the Maya Indians called early locomotives. Read on to to learn about the Walt Disney World Railroad.

ALL a-b-o-a-a-r-d!

Nowadays, that familiar conductor’s cry, announcing that a train is ready to depart the station, is rarely heard in America. Faster modes of transportation have left most passenger railroads by the wayside and many children are unaware of the charm of riding across the country in a coach or Pullman car.

But reviving the days when clouds of billowing steam, the shriek of a whistle and the distant clickity-clack, clickity-clack meant “Old No. 1″ would soon be rounding the bend are four steam engine relics, chugging down the railroad tracks of Walt Disney World in Florida.

Disney railroad scouts acquired them in Mexico before the Florida theme park opened. Each narrow-gauge locomotive and its five passenger cars takes guests on a grand circle tour of the fabulous Magic Kingdom.

Originally built in the United States, the engines had hauled freight and passengers through the rugged countryside and jungles of southern Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula since the early 1900s. The trains were smoke- blackened and shabby when they were purchased by Walt Disney World from the United Railways ofYucatan in late 1969.

Frightened Maya Indians nicknamed the first wood-burning, fire-breathing locomotives to appear on the Peninsula “Huakax-Kaak,” or “fiery bull.” Today, Mexico’s remaining steam- powered locomotives are still called “Toros de Fuego” by the Spanish-speaking people.

Before the steam engines could be put into service at Walt Disney World they had to be completely overhauled and renovated. They were loaded onto railroad flatbeds at the Mexican yard and transported to a ship repair dock in Tampa, Florida.

“Every nut, bolt, screw and part was removed, inspected and reworked or replaced,” remembered Bob Harpur who was the Disney assistant project engineer during the reconstruction.

“New boilers and fiberglass cabs were built, and new tenders and tanks were added, using the original tender trucks (bottom portion, including wheels). The cast-iron wheels, side rods, frames and some of the hardware are all original parts,” he said.

When first constructed, the engines ran on coal or wood, but were eventually converted by the Mexican company to burn oil. Now, the boilers are heated by diesel fuel, which does not emit the sooty smoke that blackened the trains and, sometimes, the passengers.

Walt Disney World Railroad passengers ride aboard open-sided cars lined with benches for comfortable scenic touring. The shiny cars were completely fabricated in the same warehouse where the locomotives were rebuilt.

“Years ago,” said Bob, “the railroads had beautiful colors and polished brass, but the public began to think that they had to pay for all this. So, a big railroad owner had all his trains painted black to make the public stop complaining about the money they thought was going into maintenance.”

Disney’s trains are brightly painted, like those of earlier years. To help celebrate the nation’s bicentennial, they have been festooned with red, white and blue bunting and flags. Every day, the brasswork is polished, and the engines are completely steam cleaned once a week.

One of the alterations made on the vintage engines was to replace the headlights with a type more common in the heyday of the railroad. Real oil paintings of nature scenes decorate the box-shaped lamps which were installed.

Behind the lamp on each engine sits the smoke stack, a bell, a sand dome and a steam collecting dome. The sand dome releases sand on the track when the brakes are applied or during rain to help prevent slippage on the slick steel.

“There is a certain romance and a lot of nostalgia associated with the steam trains,” said Bob. “At one time, every small boy in America wanted to be a steam locomotive engineer.”

Railroadiana, a craze which befalls many rail fans, prompting them to collect and study anything to do with railroading, must have struck Walt Disney. Some readers may remember television films of Walt riding on the tender box of his 1 1/2-inch-scale train, which ran along a track in his backyard. It was named after his wife, Lilly Belle. Now, a larger namesake chugs along the tracks of the Walt Disney World Railroad. The Magic Kingdom’s “Lilly Belle” is a Mogul engine, meaning it has two small front wheels and six drive wheels.

The “Walter E. Disney” and the “Roger E. Broggie” (named for the man who worked with Disney on the engines and railroad systems of both Parks) are 10-wheelers, having four small forward wheels and six drive wheels.

The “Roy O. Disney” was named for Walt’s brother, who was a lifelong partner in Walt Disney Productions. Before his death, Roy served as President, and later Chairman of the Board of the company. The engine is an American Standard eight-wheeler, with four small wheels in front and four drive wheels.

A blast on the whistle signals that one of the trains is leaving the Main Street Railroad Station bound for Frontierland Station and points beyond.

Building up 150 pounds of steam pressure on its 1 1/2-mile journey, the locomotive operates at speeds of 10-12 miles per hour. The train must stop at the Frontierland water tank as many as five times a day to fill up the tender to its 1,500-gallon capacity.

Thanks to RetroWDW for the photo of the Frontierland Railroad Station.

Clanging the same bells that for half a century an- nounced their arrival at the Mexican stations, the Walt Disney World Railroad steam locomotives continually roll into the Main Street depot. For them, time has brought the glory of a returned youthfulness.

Check out my history of the Walt Disney World Railroad.

Check out my review of Walt Disney’s Railroad Story by Michael Broggie.


Looking for a great book on the first decade of Walt Disney World?


FTC Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

Fife and Drum Corps of Liberty Square

The Ancients of Liberty Square

The Summer 1972 Disney News presented an article on the Fife and Drum Corps, an idea that was borrowed from Colonial Williamsburg and played heavily of the Bicentennial fever that was sweeping the nation. Let’s check out how they presented the Fife and Drum Corps in Liberty Square.

“And the fifes they made a fearsome sound, and the long roll of the drum did strike terror unto the enemy.” Anonymous…1779.

Special thanks to RetroWDW for use of the photos of the Fife and Drum Corps from Liberty Square.

Brandywine, Bunker Hill, Yorktown, and Valley Forge are familiar names that ring clearly across the long reaches of history. Almost every American schoolchild has read of the battles waged there by the Continental Army of General Washington. But the pages of history can only summon up silent images, they cannot conjure up the fierce sounds of the piercing fifes and booming drums that routed the Redcoats during the Revolution.

Today, in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom theme park, the same sounds of those distant drummers fill the air of Liberty Square.

The Liberty Square Fife and Drum Corps is composed of eleven musicians—five fifers, four drummers, one color bearer, and one drum major—dedicated to preserving the ancient style of fifing and drumming. Known as “Ancients” among devotees of fife and drum music, the corps was organized and trained by George P. Carroll, formerly Director of the Colonial Williamsburg (Virginia) Fife and Drum Corps and one of the foremost drum authorities in the world.

“The art of fifing and drumming is very old,” George explained. “It is martial music, actually, and was used to issue commands on the field during battle.The drum, principally, beat the different commands, and the fife was used as accompaniment.

“Ancient fife and drum music arrived in this country via Europe prior to the American Revolution and is quite unlike contemporary military music. Today’s instruments are different in size and composition and the cadence or marching beat is much quicker. Even though tunes dating back to the Revolution are still played—like “Yankee Doodle”—the versions are generally modernized and not authentic.

“To qualify as an Ancient Corps, a group must fulfill certain requirements. Uniforms, instruments, tempo, and tunes must be as authentic as possible.”

The “Ancients” of Liberty Square wear uniforms that closely resemble those worn during the Revolution. Dark-gold knee breeches and waistcoats are worn under long-tailed jackets of bright blue with royal red cuffs and lapels. A black tricornered hat with a white cockade is precisely centered on each man’s head.

The instruments of the corps are exact replicas of those used during the Revolution. The six-holed fifes are 17 inches long and handmade from boxwood, a wood that is increasingly hard to find. The three snare drums and the one bass drum are also handmade with an American eagle emblem painstakingly painted by hand on their Birch plywood shells.

“Our drums are very special for several reasons,” George pointed out. “First, of course, because they exactly reproduce the drumming of 200 years ago—and until you’ve heard that sound you haven’t heard anything! And, second, because they were the last drums made by the famous drum maker Charles Soistman before his death last year.

“Mr. Soistman was acknowledged to be the greatest maker of antique drums during his lifetime. He came from a long line of drum makers that began with his great-grandfather who made drums for the Union Army during the Civil War. A drummer can recognize the timbre of a Soistman drum immediately.”

The rope-tension snare drums created by Charles Soistman for the Liberty Square drummers are much larger than modern drums with wooden shells and leather heads. On a clear day, the sounds of the drummers can be heard for several miles.

Charles Soistman courtesy of Drummers Service

“You have to remember,” said George, “that these drums had to be heard over the sounds of neighing horses, cannon fire, and rifle shots. “To give you an idea of just how loud and effective they were,” he continued, “two sisters in Massachusetts, Abigail and Rebecca Bates, were able to scare off a British warship by playing one fife and one drum while hidden behind a sand dune. The British decided against landing troops because they thought a regiment of militia were preparing to fight. And that,” he laughed, “is not a drummed-up story.”

When the men of the Liberty Square Fife and Drum Corps came together one year ago, several of them had never held a fife or heard a Revolutionary drum. Hard work, extensive research, and great pride have earned them the right to be called a truly AncientCorps.

And when the visitor to Liberty Square hears the fifes and drums render the ancient tune of “Yankee Doodle,” he will hear the same sounds heard by General Cornwallis when he surrendered to General Washington at Yorktown on October 19, 1781.

Do you remember the Fife and Drum Corps from the early years of Liberty Square?


Check out my book review of Disney’s America on Parade.