Camping at Fort Wilderness in 1973!

Camping at Fort Wilderness in 1973!

A lot of people have experienced camping at Fort wilderness at Walt Disney World. But how many got to experience a Fort Wilderness trip in which you caught your own breakfast?

Our make-believe family looks like they are about to have the best Fort Wilderness vacation ever!

I read an article in a 1973 Walt Disney World Vacationland magazine about a seven-day camping trip at Fort Wilderness. What surprised me was what the family did! (Or didn’t do.)

There was no rushing to the Magic Kingdom every morning. There were no extended shopping visits. And there were no Fastpasses! Imagine spending days exploring Fort Wilderness as opposed to visiting the Magic Kingdom.

In their defense, this was a Magic Kingdom bereft of any E-Ticket attractions (although, the Jungle Cruise and the Haunted Mansion were there). It would be months before Pirates of the Caribbean opened and years before Space mountain and Big Thunder Mountain would debut.

Check out My 1973 Fort Wilderness Video

Camping at Fort Wilderness was a completely different experience than you can even find today. There was a little something for everyone, even if it was just lounging around in a hammock. After reading the article, it was obviously a PR piece, but the writer did a great job of conveying the multitude of activities surrounding horses, outdoor sports, canoeing, fishing, and hiking.

Speaking of Fort Wilderness, did you ever get to stay there in the 1970s and experience the Peddlar’s Truck?

Do you miss the Tri-Circle D Ranch at Fort Wilderness?

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

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Walt Disney World Poster Set from 1972!

Walt Disney World Poster Set from 1972!

The Winter 1972/1973 Disney News magazine has a special insert called Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom Club Family Shopper, which offered some amazing products for your family for Christmas.

…a special shopping section devoted to unique merchandise and extra values. Something Special…exclusively for Magic Kingdom Club families.

Walt Disney World Poster Set. Another Magic Kingdom Club exclusive! This set of original Walt Disney World posters can now bring all the beauty of this vacation resort into your own home. Printed exactly as they appear in the Contemporary Resort Hotel, these 19″x 26″ prints will make an attractive addition for any den, play room, or family room. Family Shopper Price . . . $7.50 a set.

When you consider the cost of inflation, the price of the poster set in 2020 would be $45.00.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the six posters that hung in the Contemporary Resort in 1971 and 1972.

Top of the World
Contemporary Resort Towers
Sheila McRae Sings
Dinner Dancing on the 15th Floor
Five dollar cover charge
Reservations / 824-1000

So, who was Sheila McRae? She was an actress and singer who worked mostly in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. She would have been familiar to audiences from her roles on The Jackie Gleason Show and General Hospital.

Ski Show
at the Polynesian Village Beach
Friday thru Monday Only 2, 4 & 7 P.M.
Trick Skiing, Jumps and Kite Flying…Donald,
Goofy, Pluto and Peter Pan on Water Skis

Character skiing on Seven Seas Lagoon has been in operation for most of Walt Disney Word’s history. Although, I haven’t seen many images of Peter Pan skiing. Have you?

Cocktails, South Seas Fest & Exotic Show
Polynesian Village
On the Beach

You are invited to participate in the WALT DISNEY WORLD Golf Championship
Two $5,000 Celebrity Pro-Am Tournaments
November 29, 1972
$150,000 Pro Tournament
November 30-December 3, 1972
Ask fir Information

Golf has always been a driving force behind the construction and development of Walt Disney World. The executives at Disney were major golfers and spent many hours at Disney’s Golf Resort partaking in the sport.

Magic Kingdom Hours
8a.m. to Midnight

Main Street
Character Parades
2p.m. and 8p.m. Daily

What an interesting poster promoting the hours of the Magic Kingdom. I’m confused by the hours listed (8a.m. to Midnight), since even during the first few years, the Magic Kingdom’s hours would vary. Holiday and summer hours were often 8a.m. or 9a.m. until Midnight, while weekday hours were typically from 9a.m. to 6p.m. Maybe this poster was changed daily? That makes sense to have an easily changeable poster that would promote the daily hours the Magic Kingdom.

It’s also adorable to see the two women peering rather surreptitiously down Main Street.

Fort Wilderness Campground
Trail Riding Daily
Nightly Campfires
For Information “Touch 1”

The Fort Wilderness poster is the most intriguing reference to the Vacation Kingdom of the World from this set. Guests and potential visitors would have early associations with Cinderella Castle, the Polynesian, the Contemporary, or, even, golf, in relation to Disney World. But Fort Wilderness was still a new and evolving experience for the time.

The poster displays three people with horses as they navigate a scrub trail. The image seems blurry, at first, until you realize the photographer has placed a pine tree in front of the subject. The focus is still on the people, but it makes you feel as if you are hiding behind the trees and you’re spying on the riders.

Strange, eh?

Do You Remember Seeing These Posters? Did You Own Any of Them?

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

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Winnie-the-Pooh Mini Golf?

Winnie-the-Pooh Mini Golf?

Many plans for the first few years of the Vacation Kingdom of the World (aka Walt Disney World) were shelved suddenly when the gas crisis of the 1970s took hold. People stopped traveling and the executives at Disney made the decision to delay many projects. Most people are familiar with the lost Western River Expedition, which would have been comparable at the time to Rise of the Resistance in scope and scale. There were plans for resorts, new attractions, shows and recreation areas that never saw the light of day.

But what about the miniature golf course located near the ferry boat dock by the Magic Kingdom?

This blurb from the July 1, 1972, Eyes and Ears talks about some construction outside of the Magic Kingdom:

Many a watchful eye has focused on an area next to the new ferry boat dock in front of the Magic Kingdom entrance. Buena Vista Vista President John Wise says the area is being cleared and landscaped and one day may become the site of the miniature golf course!

Obviously, there’s never been a mini-golf course near the Magic Kingdom…but…what about the Winnie-the-Pooh mini-golf course at Fort Wilderness?

Winnie-the-Pooh Mini Golf?

Many of the Eyes and Ears cast member newsletters of the 1970s had a Cast Comments section. The editors asked for questions from the cast and the questions ranged from issues about benefits to pondering about Walt’s EPCOT. It’s interesting because you get a glimpse of all of the different cast members that worked at Walt Disney World.

The November 4, 1972, Eyes and Ears had a very interesting question about putting greens…

Bill Shultz is a Food and Beverage Host at the Contemporary Resort who asks EYES & EARS if putting greens are due for installation at either of our two hotels.

From what we’ve been able to gather from the folks at WED, putting greens aren’t planned but a few miniature golf courses are!

A Winnie-the-Pooh miniature golf course has been designed for Ft. Wilderness, just a quick boat trip away from the Contemporary Resort. The 18-hole course will be situated near the new Western Town and should begin to rise by late 1973.

Future plans call for a miniature golf course near the Magic Kingdom entrance or in front of the Con­temporary Resort. No date has been set yet.
…..The Editor (November 4, 1972, Eyes and Ears)

What?  A Western Town at Ft. Wilderness?

Ok…those were some plans that got scrapped. Who knew they were planning a Winnie-the-Pooh mini golf at Ft. Wilderness. And a Western Town?

I know that Marc Davis had been working on concept art for a fun house and a live entertainment venue that would be a cross between Country Bears and America Sings at Ft. Wilderness.

Yes, Marc Davis planned a Fun House for Ft. Wilderness that would be like the roadside mystery houses that dotted the landscape in the 1950s.

Sadie Mae’s was a show that pre-dated the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review by just a few months. It was a Marc Davis concept that combined animatronic figures and live entertainers. I can’t imagine how amazing it would have been.

Want to learn more about these unbuilt attractions? Check out this book all about Marc Davis and his art:

Do you know anything about the Winnie-the-Pooh Miniature Golf Course that was planned?

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Fort Wilderness Peddlar Truck

The Fort Wilderness Peddlar Truck

I ran across another WDW Bits & Pieces about the Fort Wilderness Peddlar Truck from the WDW News from September, 1975. I’ve only seen one other mention of the peddlar truck (spelled peddler’s) over at Ryan’s Main Street Gazette.

From the September, 1975, WDW News publication.
Every morning and evening, an antique peddlar truck, laden with fresh vegetables, fruits, foodstuffs, and camping supplies, rumbles down the roads of Fort Wilderness beckoning quests with a clanging cowbell.

Ryan at the Main Street Gazette offers this description:

…it wound its way through the campground selling foodstuffs and sundries to guests who were roughing it and needed provisions to survive the wilderness. Or marshmallows to roast at the campfire… The truck was modeled after the old-fashioned peddler trucks that serviced rural areas of the country. […]guests could find fresh fruit and vegetables, including corn, potatoes, and melons, chips, sodas, and even charcoal for cooking.

There is scant information available online about the truck that traversed the roads of Fort Wilderness Campground. Ryan’s site is the only mention that shows up in a search and he offers a fantastic press photo from the time.

Check out my Peddlar Truck video:

Peddlar Truck Update!

Bill Cotter of reached out to me and offered this photo of the Fort Wilderness amenity from the 1970s. This is an amazing color photograph of the truck.

Let’s zoom in a little closer to see what was for sale on the truck.

It looks like the cast member is handing ears of corn to a guest.

As far as I can tell from the image, the truck sold bags of potato chips, vegetables, cans of soda, bags of charcoal briquets, ears of corn and melons. Does anyone remember the truck and its wares? Thanks to Bill for sharing the photo! Make sure to check out his site.

“Funny Old Truck” Update from the Fall 1980 Disney News

The Fall 1980 Disney News has an update entitled Fort Wilderness: An Autumn Adventure. The short article outlines what a vacationer could expect if they spent a few days at Fort Wilderness in the fall of 1980.

Much to my surprise, there was mention of the funny old truck, also called the huckster truck. I was surprised to see more of a description of the truck and some of the wares. The article mentioned a second route in the afternoon with different goods. Also, the article confirms that the Peddlar Truck was in operation through the fall of 1980.

By the time the first cup is poured, you hear a clanging cowbell that announces the arrival of the old “huckster truck” and the half dozen cinnamon buns you’ve been waiting for. Local folks around Fort Wilderness affectionately call the vehicle the “funny old truck’.’  And it is funny looking, with its voluminous front fenders, wheels with spokes, and a square hood adorned by a winged ornament (all original parts from long­-been-gone flying Nellies). On its sides and around the back, wood bins hold the colorful displays of produce, while overhead, red-painted lanterns swing crazily with the bouncing motion of the truck. It possesses all of the charm of any well-traveled, old-time fruit and vegetable wagon.

This general store-on-wheels makes its first tour of the day stocked with fresh fruits, cereals, bread, juice, a pound or two of coffee, and almost anything else you can think of. Break­fast won’t be a disaster if you forgot to bring pancake syrup—because they’ve got that, too.

The “funny old truck” appears again in the afternoon, this time laden with ice-cold watermelons, dozens of ears of corn (which are snatched up to be roasted in their husks over a bed of glowing coals), cool drinks, and even a length of garden hose for the absent­ minded camper who left his home.

Always, the truck makes its way slowly among the campsites, its straw­-hatted driver stopping frequently to oblige picture-takers.

Did you ever get to experience the Peddlar Truck (also known as the Funny Old Truck)?

WDW Bits & Pieces is a series dedicated to sharing ephemera, bits, pieces, and other odd moments from Walt Disney World history.

Walt Disney World: the First Decade Video Review

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Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue 1975 Advertisement

Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue Advertisement From 1975

The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue opened on June 30, 1974. It was part of the Disney World Fine Arts College Workshop Program and was only scheduled to last for several weeks. The show was so popular that a permanent cast was hired and started on September 5, 1974.

The following advertisement is from the September 1975 WDW News publication. The included text with the Dinner Show section stated: Casual dress. Adult $11. Junior (12-17) $8.25. Child (3-11) $5.50. Reservations needed.

Now appearing’ on the velvet-curtained stage — the best foot-stompin’, hand-clappin’, knee-slappin’ entertainment this side o’ the Klondike. Plus homestyle fixins’ and bottom-less pitchers of beer, sangria, or the pioneer punch. Bring the family and Hoop-Dee-Doo it tonight! Nightly at 6:30 and 9:00 pm. Dial 7-8000 for reservations.

And from the Summer 1974 Disney News, the Official Magazine for the Magic Kingdom Club Families:

…In addition to the new Walt Disney World Golf Resort Hotel and “Magic Carpet ‘Round the World” attraction , Walt Disney World also boasts the new ” Pioneer Hall.” Located in Fort Wilderness Campground Resort on the south shore of Bay Lake, Pioneer Hall features a Main Dining Room where singing hosts and hostesses lead the audience in a fun-filled, homespun revue, “Hoop Dee Doo,” in addition to serving them every­ thing from corn-on-the-cob to fried chicken. Pioneer Hall also features the “Campfire Snack Bar,” “Trail’s End Buf­feteria,” and “Davy Crockett’s Wilder­ness Arcade.”

Did you know that the original dessert served at the Hoop-Dee-Doo was apple pie and it was served during the song “Apple Pie Hoedown”? It was replaced in 1979 with the “Strawberry Short Cake Walk” and the introduction of the world-famous strawberry shortcake!

Have You Experienced the Hoop-Dee-Doo?

WDW Bits & Pieces is a series dedicated to sharing ephemera, bits, pieces, and other odd moments from Walt Disney World history.

Tri-Circle-D Ranch at Fort Wilderness

Fort Wilderness Hidden Gems – Tri-Circle-D Ranch; Dragon Calliope; Walt Disney and Horses; and River Country

Fort Wilderness was the first stop on my last trip to Walt Disney World. I’ve visited before, but mainly to eat (I love Trail’s End). This time I wanted to explore the Tri-Circle-D Ranch and the surrounding area.

Fort Wilderness at Walt Disney World opened on November 19, 1971. Originally intended as a camping site, there was a railroad that operated from 1974 to 1980 as well as different recreational activities to help entertain the vacationers. River Country was always a big draw for the area. It operated from 1976 to 2001.

Check out my post on camping at Fort Wilderness in 1973.

For the most part, if you’re not staying at one of the campsites or the cabins, then you’re visiting Fort Wilderness to take part in the Hoop-Dee-Doo Review or eat at the Trails End Buffeteria.

Tri-Circle-D Ranch, Fort Wilderness and More Video

I ambled over to the Tri-Circle-D Ranch area and I was surprised by the number of ponies that were out in the early evening. The original manager of the Tri-Circle-D Ranch was Owen Pope. Walt hired Pope before Disneyland opened, because Walt always wanted horses at Disneyland. The Tri-Circle-D Ranch was always intended to be a working ranch to take care of the Percherons for the parades, and the horses and ponies used for guests. It’s fun to just walk around the ranch and check out the ponies, blacksmith areas and outbuildings.
One of the hidden gems of the Trip-Circle-D-Ranch is the 1907 Dragon Calliope, which is basically a pipe organ that is played by moving it. Walt bought it from an amusement park in Los Angeles and used it as part of the opening-day parade at Disneyland. It also appeared in a few movies and was moved to Walt Disney World in 1981.

The 1907 Dragon Calliope is on display at the Tri-Circle-D Barn at Fort Wilderness.

Tri-Circle-D: Walt Disney Horses

Across the the calliope is a small display about Walt Disney and horses. The display has some incredible photos of the horses in various roles throughout Walt Disney World. Many of them can be quite surprising. Make sure to check out the model of the calliope being pulled by the horses.
There’s a barn tour offered periodically. It sounds like it would be something fun to check out.

One of the horses from the Tri-Circle-D Ranch at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

After visiting the barn, I mosied over to the pavilion that houses Mickey’s Backyard BBQ and found a neat tribute to the Disneys and the area. On top of the soda machines it reads: Elias & Sons Carbonated Elixirs, Inc; Wilderness Ice House Co.; and Bay Lake Bottling Co.

Elias & Sons Carbonated Elixers Inc

This is also a reference to the O-Zell Soda Company that Elias Disney invested in while they lived in Kansas City. Although it wasn’t a family business, it’s still a great nod to the Disney family history.

Wilderness Ice House Co.

Bay Lake Bottling Co.

Fort Wilderness: River Country

I also meandered over to the fence surrounding the remains of River Country and snapped a few photos through various holes. I would never dare to trespass, but there were several holes in the green netting that offered a tantalizing view.
I’d forgotten that they’s filled in the holes during the Zika outbreak. Makes me wonder what might become of the Ole Swimmin’ Hole…

Have you been able to check out the Tri-Circle Ranch and Barn at Fort Wilderness?

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Essential Walt Disney World Books

Essential Walt Disney World Books

There are a few essential Walt Disney World books. Especially if you’re doing any serious research about Walt Disney World. Or even if you’re the world’s biggest Walt Disney World fan. I’ve been collecting Disney-related books for 30 years and I’ve amassed over a 1000 individual titles in my personal library. I’ve published a fairly complete Walt Disney World bibliography but I wanted to offer a more concise list of Walt Disney World books that everyone should own.

Essential Walt Disney World Books: Since the World Began: Walt Disney World – The First 25 Years by Jeff Kurtti

I wax about this book at every opportunity. It’s the only official history of Walt Disney World and covers the first 25 years. To me, this represents the one book that all Walt Disney World enthusiasts, researchers and fans should own. Jeff’s book takes us on a fantastic overview of the Florida property and he’s able to dispense such a large history into a single volume. There were hopes that Disney would update this title for the 40th Anniversary but there wasn’t an interest from Disney. Let’s hope for a 50th Anniversary edition although this might need to be an independent publication.

Essential Walt Disney World Books:  Disney A to Z: The Official Encyclopedia by Dave Smith (2006)

This is a must have for anyone researching Disney. I have all three editions, but the third one (2006) is the preferred title. Dave’s encyclopedia offers short entries detailing the opening, closing and general history of parks, resorts, restaurants and attractions. I’ve run across a few discrepancies in the book, but overall, it’s the go to resource for quick information and for finding out those small details. In case you didn’t know, Dave did start the Walt Disney Archives and is pretty much the de facto authority on Disney history. There is a fourth edition available exclusively from Sam’s Club.

Essential Walt Disney World Books: Walt Disney’s Epcot Center: Creating the New World of Tomorrow By Richard Beard (1982)

This book is pretty indescribable. If you love Epcot Center, then you need this book. It’s 240 pages dedicated to Epcot. The concept artwork is incredible and the narrative behind each pavilion is eye-opening. Disney had a hard time explaining the concept of Epcot Center to the world so this book was part of the PR campaign, so to speak. It’s a one-of-a-kind resource; Disney hasn’t published anything like it before and probably never will again. There are at least four different versions of the book, as well (You can read about three of the different editions, here).

Essential Walt Disney World Books: The Art of Walt Disney World by Bruce Gordon and Jeff Kurtti (2009)

This is one of the more expensive Walt Disney World books, and with good reason. When it was released, it was a theme park exclusive, so it had a limited run and few people picked it up. This book is amazing and offers some of the most incredible artwork anywhere. Jeff looks at each of the artists, as well, and offers insight into the creation of the work. Most of the images center around pre-opening and the 1970s Vacation Kingdom of the World. If you can find it, grab a copy.

Essential Walt Disney World Books: Walt Disney World Then, Now, And Forever by Bruce Gordon and Jeff Kurtti (2007)

This is almost a follow-up to Since the World Began, but not quite. It’s a general look at what makes Walt Disney World  such a special place. Jeff and Bruce, well known to Disney book fans, offer a look at Walt Disney World through the years, including sections on long gone attractions and what replaced them. It’s a great addition to your collection. This one is geared more to the casual fan but it’s still a fantastic book.

Essential Walt Disney World Books: Vinyl Leaves: Walt Disney World and America by Stephen Fjellman (1992)

This is a sociological treatise on Walt Disney World. Stephen spent a lot of time doing in-park research and offers insight into how Disney looks at Americana and how American society reacts to Disney in a theme park setting. At times the book can be fairly dense but what are the shining jewels of the title, simply, are the attraction walk-throughs from the author. It’s an amazing time capsule of the attractions from 1989-1991 Walt Disney World. As far as insight into these attractions, there’s nothing better.

Essential Walt Disney World Books: Gardens of the Walt Disney World Resort: A photographic tour of the themed gardens of the Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center and other resort areas by Dee Hannaford (1988)

This book has always been one of my favorites. Before the days of digital film and the interwebz, there wasn’t a place where you could spend months on end just looking at photographs of Disney parks. This book offers stunning images of Walt Disney World pre-1988. These full-page (and larger) images showcase the resort and what a vacation was like before the expansion of the Disney Decade. Not a lot of historical information but the photographs do show a lot of areas of the parks that are gone or have changed. I love this book.

Seriously, it is amazing.

Essential Walt Disney World Books: Building a Company: Roy O. Disney and the Creation of an Entertainment Empire by Bob Thomas (1998)

This official company biography of Roy O. Disney really shares a lot about the creation of Walt Disney World from the perspective of Walt’s older brother. Bob interviewed many company officials and people that were directly involved with building Walt Disney World. Beyond the Walt Disney World history, it’s a great book about Roy and all of the amazing contributions of the more silent partner of the company.

Essential Walt Disney World Books: Realityland: True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World by David Koenig (2007, 2014)

David is well-known in Disney circles. He’s a journalist who’s written a lot about Disneyland (re: Mouse Tales). In Realityland, David looks at the first 20 years of Walt Disney World with the creation of the Vacation Kingdom and Epcot Center. He interviews many cast members from all levels and presents some amazing anecdotes. David is not a fan of Eisner and it’s apparent in this book. Again, it’s a work that seems to stop in the late 1980s leaving us with gaps from the 1990s and 2000s that need to be filled in. It’s a definite for your collection and has a great notes section.

Essential Walt Disney World Books: Story of Walt Disney World Commemorative Edition (Various Years 1971-1982)

A lot of people remember this book fondly and I know that it inspired a few current Imagineers to follow their dreams and work for the company. This is a rare look at the construction of the Vacation Kingdom and offers some amazing photos of the the property, resorts and attractions being built. There are two versions (almost identical) that offer different fun-style maps of Walt Disney World.

Essential Walt Disney World Books: Walt Disney World the First Decade (1982)

A fascinating book from Disney that covers the first ten years of the Vacation Kingdom. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes information and some amazing photos of attractions and lands. Unlike the current souvenir guides, Disney shared a lot of more random photos and more information detailing the attractions. There are also fifteen- and twenty-year titles but the First Decade one is my favorite and offers more information on 1970s Walt Disney World. Epcot fans will want to pick up the fifteen-year title, too.

Essential Walt Disney World Books: Walt Disney World Hidden History: Remnants of Former Attractions and Other Tributes by Kevin Yee (2014)

Kevin is one of the more prolific independent authors. Hidden History is a good look at the hidden (or unfamiliar) details at the parks. Kevin also looks at tributes of former attractions that can be found today. It’s a quick and easy read and is sure to increase your nerdy status with all of your friends. Kevin visits Walt Disney World on a weekly basis and this work helps to document a lot of the changes over the years.

Essential Walt Disney World Books: The Disney Mountains: Imagineering at Its Peak by Jason Surrell (2007)

This book covers the nine mountains at Disney parks around the world and focuses on their history and development. Six of the mountains are at Walt Disney World and offer tremendous insight into the attractions and their differences. Lots of great artwork abounds.

Essential Walt Disney World Books: Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic (2015); From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies (2009 Updated Edition) and Pirates of the Caribbean: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies (2005) by Jason Surrell

Jason writes the unparalleled histories of these two vaunted and inspiring theme park attractions. Covering the earliest concept artwork and inklings of the attraction, Jason shares how the attractions evolved and the Imagineers that worked on them. The spectacular feature of the books is the scene-by-scene narrative of the attractions and the differences between the version in each park. Jason covers the films, as well, but they offer little insight into the theme park attractions. Great for fans of the attractions and for researchers wanting more information on the development of the attractions. There have been three editions of the Haunted Mansion book. I recommend getting the 2009 and 2015 editions.

Essential Walt Disney World Books: Walt Disney World Railroads, Part 1: Fort Wilderness Railroad and Walt Disney World Railroads, Part 1: Fort Wilderness Railroad Gallery Companion by David Leaphart. (2010)

I’m including this two-volume set by David because it’s an area that not many people have covered, especially not at this level of detail. The amount of photographs (mostly from the 1970s) and the maps that David shares is unprecedented. It’s an expensive set, based on it’s size, but the information presented is fairly unique. Sadly, it’s a LuLu imprint so you have to order it directly from them. If you’re a serious historian, then you need to own it, otherwise it’s a little too expensive. Read my full review, here. There has been an updated version, but I have not had the chance to review them.

I could have included at least 20 more titles in this list. To me, these are the most crucial and offer the most information about Walt Disney World.

What’s your favorite of the essential Walt Disney World books? Is there just one must-have book?

Fort Wilderness Camping in 1973!

Fort Wilderness Camping in 1973!

Fort Wilderness camping? Let’s take a look at what a week-long stay at Fort Wilderness was like in 1973.

Walt Disney World Vacationland was a magazine published three times a year and distributed throughout hotels, motels and restaurants in Georgia, Alabama. Louisiana and Florida. Although it was a Disney publication, they presented articles and advertisements from other Central Florida attractions like GatorWorld and the Kennedy Space Center. Vacationland is an amazing resource for researching the Vacation Kingdom of the World.

When I was leafing through the Spring 1973 edition of Vacationland, I ran across a fantastic article about Fort Wilderness camping. The purpose of the Vacationland titles was to promote everything you could do during a week-long vacation at Walt Disney World. At the time, this was a completely different type of vacation and Disney had an interesting time promoting it. I’ve presented the entire article and added my own comments to talk about the changes and differences over the years. The article, although presented as a diary, is simply a way of showing potential visitors the plethora of activities available during Fort Wilderness camping.

It’s a diary of a week-long visit, from Sunday to Sunday. I know that most modern vacationers to Walt Disney World will make a beeline to the Magic Kingdom or their favorite theme park on their first day. Not this trip. Not when you’re at Fort Wilderness camping!

Fort Wilderness Camping: Seven Leaves from a Wilderness Diary


Arrived early this morning for seven days of camping at Fort Wilderness-Walt Disney World’s 600-acre campground. After checking in at the Reception Outpost, a Disney hostess guided us to our campsite. Hard to believe that there are more than 700 campsites, as each site is hidden among stands of cypress, bay, and pine. Our “home” for the next week is complete with a barbecue pit, picnic table, electrical outlet, water system, sanitary disposal unit, and an audacious squirrel who looked us over and seemed to approve, as he chattered continuously as we unloaded our camper.

Decided to stretch our legs after setting up camp. Walked to the beach and watched the boats bobbing about on Bay Lake. Although private boats aren’t allowed at Fort Wilderness, sailors shouldn’t mind as every conceivable type of boat can be rented at the campground dock.

I love the subtle mention of the Bob-A-Round boats. It’s interesting that Disney would feel the need to mention specifically that private boats aren’t allowed. I’m assuming that people assumed they could bring their own boat to a campground.

Stopped for a delicatessen sandwich at the Trading Post- an old-fashioned country store near the beach which stocks almost everything. Bought Mickey Mouse sweatshirts to get into the “spirit” of things.

Learned that there are comfort stations located at strategic places throughout the campground. All are air-conditioned with showers, restrooms, and laundry facilities.

This must be the only campground in the world with a genuine, old-fashioned, narrow-gauge steam-powered train! Took a free trip for several miles around the perimeter of the campground. The engineer told us that eventually it will carry guests to a western town complete with “themed” dining, shopping, and entertainment facilities.

There’s not a lot of research about the “western town” that would have bordered Fort Wilderness. In the mid-1970s, we would see concept artwork for Cypress Point, which would be between Fort Wilderness and the Contemporary Resort (sort of where the Wilderness Lodge is located). You can even find mentions of Buffalo Junction project of the early 1990s but very little about the “western town.”


Up early to watch the sun rise over the lake. Walked quite a distance down the deserted beach to where stands of shaggy cypress marked the path leading to the Fishin’ Hole. Caught several good-sized fingerling bass for breakfast. Noticed a sign marking a nature trail will investigate that later.

There are so many ways to get around at the campground other than shank’s mare. Canoes, bicycles, electric boats, horses- and seldom is a car ever seen, which is pleasant indeed.

Catching your own breakfast? I definitely don’t see that as an option on My Disney Experience.

We rented a tandem bicycle at the Bicycle Barn and spent the afternoon exploring the wilderness on special trails Also pedaled to the Tri-Circle-D Ranch, adjacent to the campground, to look at the western saddlehorses. A Disney “cowboy” told us that there are more than 60 horses available for guided trail rides. Got a kick watching some tiny riders on the Shetland Pony Ride. Fed a persistent African pygmy goat at the Petting Farm and then headed back to return the bikes.

Tandem bicycles could be rented for $2.00 an hour or $6.00 for the entire day.

Tonight we are going to the nightly campfire program to get acquainted with our fellow campers and to enjoy some “live” entertainment.

I’m not sure why there are quotation marks on the word live. I’m assuming they’re talking about the fact that you could have a sing-a-long and a movie. Maybe?


A perfect day for swimming, sunning, and sailing! Spent most of the morning stretched out on the beach and then rented a speedy, little Aqua Lark and cruised around Walt Disney World on Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon. A splendid way to see the Contemporary Resort, the Polynesian Village, and the Magic Kingdom for the first time.

The Aqua Lark was $6.00 per half hour in 1973 which is about $32.00 in 2014 dollars. When’s the last time that you rented a water craft at Walt Disney World?

Tonight we cruise the same waters but on the deck of an authentic, paddlewheel steamboat which stops twice nightly at the campground dock. Dixieland music onboard and beverages! Tomorrow we visit the Magic Kingdom for a full day of exciting adventures.

Wait. They waited four full days before visiting the Magic Kingdom?!?!


Pleasantly exhausted after a day visiting shops, attractions, and enchanting restaurants in the six “themed” lands of the Magic Kingdom. Certainly intend to return again and again before we leave- there’s just too much to see and to do in one visit. Campers are provided with free transportation to the Magic Kingdom, as well as to the two resort hotels. As this includes monorails, steam launches, trams, and minibusses, “getting there” is half the fun.

Within Disney’s literature, the minibuses were touted as having air-condition. How novel, eh?

Tonight we go on a wildlife excursion in a swamp buggy of all things!

From the January, 1973 WDW News:

Wilderness Night Wildlife Excursions in four-wheel drive vehicles leave the campground each evening at 8:30 to explore the surrounding woodland. The trip lasts two hours and affords guests an opportunity to see a variety of wild creatures in their natural state. The cost is $3.00 per person.

So the wildlife excursion was completely new to me. When I looked at WDW News from months before and after the January edition, I found no mention of it. Do you have any details of the Wilderness Night Wildlife Excursion?


The wildlife excursion last night was quite incredible. We all wore a sort of miner’s hat with an attached light, and as we went deep into unexplored areas, we saw several deer, heard a strange cry that our guide said was a bobcat, and caught a glimpse of two, bright-red eyes belonging to an alligator. An exciting voyage into a wildlife habitat.

Horseback riding today and, perhaps later, an archery lesson. Also intend to cross the water to the hotels and browse in the shops. Tonight, if the weather is good, we are going to our first South Seas luau on the beach of the Polynesian Village.

Horseback riding cost $5.00 per person and it looks like they had rides in the morning and afternoon. The luau was $10.00 for adults, $7.50 for juniors (12-17) and $5.00 for children (3-11).


One lesson a camper learns at Fort Wilderness- it just isn’t possible to do everything in seven days. Volleyball, tetherball, horseshoes, croquet, swimming, fishing, hiking, bicycling, canoeing, horseback riding, archery-there’s something for everyone to do every second of the day. Also, campers are welcome to use all the recreational facilities at the resort hotels.

Today we pay our final visit to the Magic Kingdom and tonight we dress up for dinner and dancing at The Top of the World at the Contemporary Resort.

Check out my article on the Top of the World at the Contemporary Resort.

It’s so hard to believe that they only spent two days at the Magic Kingdom. Although, the Magic Kingdom was open from 9-8 most Fridays and Saturdays in the late spring of 1973. Also, there was no Pirates or Space Mountain at the time. With the paper ticketing system regulating queues, it might have been easier to spend a whole day and actually see everything.


Hard to believe that our week is almost over- tomorrow we return to civilization and leave our wilderness home behind. Today will be spent visiting special spots we’ve made our own, perhaps drifting on the lake or wandering on the Nature Trail, making certain that our memories are stored with impressions to share with each other in the future.

And tonight? Tonight we will gather with friends on the beach to watch the Electrical Water Pageant for the last time and to say, with sadness, “Good-bye’ til the next time.”

It’s hard to imagine a Walt Disney World vacation that’s not full of fast passes, ADRs and shopping. What part of this vacation would you like to experience today?

What do you think about this Fort Wilderness camping “diary” from 1973?

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.

Fort Wilderness Trailers

Fort Wilderness Trailers

I ran across this article showcasing the new Fort Wilderness Trailers. Well, new for 1977, that is. Did you ever get to stay in the Fort Wilderness trailers?


By: Vern Conner, EYES & EARS Area Reporter

In a contract with Fleetwood Enterprises, Fleetwood Trailers have become the official travel trailer of Walt Disney World, replacing the older Airstreams. Much like the Airstreams, the Terry Trailers will rent for up to seven-days at a time, and come equipped with color TV, stereo, pots, pans, dishes, dishwasher, and even daily maid service.

One big difference, however, will be in the size. The Terry Trailers are the largest available; they’re 35 feet long with a section that slides out to give greater living room and bedroom area.

In 1973, 10 new Airstream Trailers were delivered to Fort Wilderness. They slept six and cost $25.00 a night.

In the heart of Fort Wilderness, Bette Van Cleeck and Brer Fox welcome one of 10 shiny new Airstream travel trailers which will soon serve as wilderness hotel rooms for guests.

A caravan of 10 shiny new Airstream travel trailers have arrived at Fort Wilderness and soon will begin serving as mobile campground hotel rooms for our guests.

Now featured at Fort Wilderness, the luxury travel trailers come fully-equipped with plush carpeting, a complete line of household goods, dishes and even silverware.

Disney Character Dining History, the Evolution

Disney Character Dining History

It’s hard to imagine a Walt Disney World vacation without a character breakfast experience. Cinderella’s Royal Table and Chef Mickey’s still command long waiting lists and require travelers to fit their vacations around their dining choices, but it wasn’t always like that.

Read on to learn more about how character dining started and some of the changes we saw in the 1980s.

In 1977, one of the first character dining experiences was a simple buffet at Coconino Cove at the Contemporary Resort; guests could join Disney characters for breakfast every Sunday. The buffet would move a year later, but not too far away. A 1978 Walt Disney World News offers this glimpse of the Terrace Cafe at the Contemporary: “As an added treat, guests may join the Disney characters for breakfast each Sunday morning from 8 – 10:30 a.m. It’s a delight for the kids- and fun for adults, too.” Reservations were not required.

The Coconino Cove was located near the glass wall at the back of the the current Chef Mickey’s dining area on the Grand Canyon Concourse level.

So, how did we get to the point where it is necessary to call more than 100 days in advance to make a reservation?

Disney Character Dining History: The Beginnings

Let’s dig into some of our early Walt Disney World publications to look at the history of Disney character dining. In April, 1981, the Walt Disney World News announced the Dining a la Disney evening meal. “Each evening at 5p.m., Walt Disney characters will arrive at the Golf Resort’s Trophy Room to mingle with guests and pass out a gift to each child.” This is the earliest mention of a daily character dining experience that I’ve found besides the 1977 breakfast buffet at the Coconino Cove (which was just once-a-week).

UPDATE! (Added November 14, 2015)

I ran across a blurb in a January 12, 1979 Eyes and Ears:

On January 27 at 8:30 am our Village Restaurant will host a Breakfast with Snow White. Parents are invited to bring their children to breakfast to meet our famous character; call for reservations. Tickets are $5 for Adults and $4 for Children.
I’m not sure if this was a one-time event for employees or a cast preview for something else.

The Breakfast a la Disney appeared shortly after that at the Village Restaurant, the Empress Lilly and the Polynesian Resort. From Walt Disney World News:

On the menu are danish breakfast rolls, scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns and a breakfast beverage of your choice – all spiced with the presence of your favorite Disney characters, who happily hop from table to table, passing out complimentary “fun gifts” (and making sure everyone’s cleaning their plates!).

The 1984 Birnbaum’s Guide to Walt Disney World offers less than a quarter page about breakfast with the Disney characters. At that time there were three spots for breakfast: the Empress Lilly, the Terrace Cafe (Contemporary Resort) and Minnie’s Menehune (Polynesian Village). An additional spot was available as part of an Easter Airlines package at the Village Restaurant. Reservations were needed at each of these locations except for the buffet at the Terrace Cafe.

Disney Character Dining Video

Disney Character Dining History: A More Modern Meal

In 1986, there was the Melvin the Moose Breakfast Show at Pioneer Hall at Ft. Wilderness. This was one of the more elaborate character meals and a step towards what we see today. Chip and Dale would take over the breakfast and rename it a Jamboree a year later. The breakfast lasted until 1991.

Image courtesy of Progress City USA.

Our next big change in character dining would take place in 1990 and center on the Village Restaurant. Let’s take a look back at the Village Restaurant and its history. The Village Restaurant was a prime dining location during the heyday of the Disney Village. It was an elegant and subdued dining experience that offered fashion shows and jazz bands in the Village Lounge.

1978 Walt Disney World News described the Village Restaurant:

A prime choice of afternoon and evening shoppers is the Village Restaurant. Comfortably seated in a countryside setting brought indoors, diners are tempted by unusual lunchtime entrees (served 11 a.m.-3 p.m.), such as Eggs Benedict, Spanish Omelet and King Crab and Artichoke Omelet. They also may choose from among Fried Shrimp, Fried Scallops, or French Dip, Rueben, Beefeater and Turkey sandwiches, and the waist-watchers’ specials, Crab and Shrimp Salad or the Calorie Counter. … The aroma of New Orleans Bouillabaisse simmering on the stove and steaks grilled on an open hearth draw guests for an evening (after 5:30 p.m.) of fine dining. Besides the famous seafood stew, the restaurant specializes in Steak Oscar, Shrimp Mediterranean, Sauteed Frogs Legs and Long Island Duckling.

Disney Character Dining History: Chef Mickey’s At the Village

By 1989, Birnbaum’s Guide to Walt Disney World mentions that Cinderella was appearing at dinner at the Village Restaurant. This was also the time that the Village Restaurant would be closed; when it reopened in 1990, it would be known as Chef Mickey’s Village Restaurant providing the template for character dining as we know it.

 The exterior of the restaurant received the most attention by adding the colorful red overhangs sporting the Chef Mickey logo. At the time, the Disney Village was known for its muted browns and greens, adding the bright red of Chef Mickey signaled a change for the complex.

A view of Chef Mickey’s from the Sassagoula River Cruise.

During a visit in 1994, we reserved a 5:00pm seating. It was surprising to look at the receipt almost 20 years later.
Our dinner for two consisted of prime rib, ribeye, baked potato, fries and two souvenir drinks. Even in 1994, $36.75 was on the high side for dining, but it was all worth it to meet the Mouse. Goofy’s Grog came in a souvenir cup and had actual grapes in it. Not grape juice, but whole grapes. Choking hazard, anyone?

The author’s arm and Tigger watch meeting Mickey Mouse

The Chef Mickey’s Village Restaurant closed on September 30, 1995, it reopened in 1996 at the Contemporary Resort. The Rainforest Cafe took over the spot vacated by Chef Mickey in 1996.

To me, the change from the Village Restaurant signifies a change for the entire Walt Disney World complex. It is one of the turning points when the Vacation Kingdom of the World started its march to the Walt Disney World Resort that we see today.

What other defining points in Walt Disney World history do you think about?

Any fond memories of dining at Chef Mickey’s Village Restaurant?

Resources used in researching this article: