When you’re standing on the curb waiting for the three o’clock parade do you ever stop to look at the windows on Main Street USA? Did you know that each of those windows pays tribute to someone who has a significant place in Disney history . . . and each window tells a story.
When Walt first imagined Disneyland, almost 70 years ago, he wanted Main Street to resemble the commercial hub in a turn-of-the-20th-century American town. Harper Goff was one of the early Imagineers who played a key role in designing that magnificent park entrance at Disneyland. It reflects Walt’s memories from his younger years in Marceline Missouri and Harper Goff’s recollections from his formative years in Fort Collins Colorado. Walt Disney said, “For those of us who remember the carefree time it recreates, Main Street will bring back happy memories. For younger visitors, it is an adventure in turning back the calendar to the days of their grandfather’s youth.”
The storefront windows display goods on sale in the shops along Main Street, but if you look at the second story windows you will see some make-believe businesses. Walt decided to use those windows, and those imaginary businesses, to honour the many people who helped him make his Disneyland dream a reality.
When Walt Disney World opened in Florida in 1971, the Magic Kingdom included Main Street USA and more of those special tribute windows. In fact, every Disney park around the world has a Main Street.
Let’s take a look at a few windows:
Walt referred to Ken Anderson as his “jack-of-all-trades”. He was an artist and had a background in architecture. Those factors made him an invaluable resource for Walt as Disneyland was being designed and built. The Ken Anderson window, above the Market House in Disneyland, also shows Walt’s tongue-in-cheek sense of humour. Anderson was an avid fly fisherman . . . and everyone knows that fly fishermen do not need bait!
The Disney family is well represented in this window above Crystal Arts in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. It honours Walt’s nephew Roy E. Disney, his wife Patty and their children Roy Patrick, Abigail, Susan and Timothy. The entire family were avid sailors!
Look above the Emporium in Florida for Card Walker’s window. He was President, CEO and finally Chairman of Disney before retiring in 1983. The reference to psychiatry and justice of the peace attest to Walker’s skill at keeping the many divisions in a large and ever-growing organization moving in the same direction.
Charlie Ridgeway worked in Disney’s Publicity Department from 1963 until 1994. His book, Spinning Disney’s World, details his career and gives some fascinating glimpses behind the scenes. It should be part of every Disney fan’s library. Look for Charlie’s window in Florida, above The Arcade.
There’s an interesting story behind Marty Sklar’s window at Disneyland and Marty himself tells the story in the Foreword he wrote for Chuck Snyder’s book “Windows on Main Street”. It seems that Marty was still working, as Executive Vice President and Imagineering Ambassador, at Disney in about 2008 when they proposed a window for him at Disneyland; that created a bit of a dilemma! You see there are very clear rules about the windows at Disneyland, and Marty Sklar was responsible for enforcing them. The rules are: 1) Only retired employees, 2) Only the highest level of service/respect/achievement and 3) Agreement between individual park management and Walt Disney Imagineering. The awarding of windows is a bit less rigid at other parks; Mr. Sklar already had windows at Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland and The Magic Kingdom. But when the Disneyland window was offered he was still working and he respectfully declined. His magic day came July 17, 2009; the day he retired his Disneyland window was dedicated. You can find Marty’s window at Disneyland’s City Hall.
There are several books about the windows lining Disney’s Main Streets and the one pictured above, written by Chuck Snyder and published by Disney Editions, is part of my Disney library. You can buy the book online through Amazon.com or pick up a copy in the theme parks.
Ub & Don Iwerks have a Magic Kingdom window, above The Bakery. Ub was a gifted animator who was with Walt from the beginning and helped create both Mickey Mouse and the multi-plane camera used in those early days of animation. Ub’s son Don was a Disney cinematographer for over 35 years and helped perfect the Circle-Vision camera.
Jim Cora has two windows, one at Disneyland, above Disney Clothiers, and the window pictured below which is in Disneyland Tokyo. Jim began his Disney career in 1957 as a part-time attraction host at Disneyland and by the time he retired in 2001 he had risen to Chairman at Disneyland International.
Marc and Alice Davis are the only husband and wife team to have windows. Look above the Disneyana Shop in Disneyland. Marc was one of Walt’s “Nine Old Men” of animation. He joined Disney in 1935 and spent his entire career there. His achievements are too many to review here, but you can see evidence of his talents in The Enchanted Tiki Room, It’s A Small World, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Marc and Alice are both Disney Legends. During the mad scramble to design and build those four famous exhibits for the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, Alice worked with Mary Blair to create more than 150 costumes for “It’s A Small World“. She continued designing costumes for audio-animatronic figures, live action movies, even animated characters until her retirement in 1974.
Owen Pope and his family were the only people to ever live in the Disneyland park. Mr. Pope was a horseman; he bought all the horses for Disneyland, he trained them, built their saddles, he even built the wagons and coaches used in Frontierland. In 1971 Owen Pope and his wife Dolly moved to Walt Disney World where he managed the Tri-Circle-D Ranch at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. Tri-Circle-D Ranch is home to all the Magic Kingdom horses! Look above the Magic Kingdom’s car barn for this window.
Wally Boag is another Disney Legend and you’ll find his window near the Carnation Café at Disneyland. Walt Disney sat in on Mr. Boag’s audition in June of 1955 and offered him a two-week contract to perform as Pecos Bill at Disneyland’s Golden Horseshoe Revue. The show opened July 17, 1955 and Wally Boag performed there until he moved to Walt Disney World in 1971. He directed and performed in a similar show at the newly built Diamond Horseshoe Revue before returning to Disneyland in 1974. By the time he retired in 1982 Wally Boag had performed close to 40,000 shows in Disney parks!
Walt even honoured his father Elias Disney who founded his contracting business in Chicago in 1895. You can spot Elias’ window above Uptown Jewellers in the Magic Kingdom and above the Emporium at Disneyland.
The final window to look for is Walt’s. He has two at the Magic Kingdom but the one he’d be proudest of is above the Train Station.
Those are just a few of the hundreds of windows; this blog has barely scratched the surface. If you want to read more about the amazing people hidden behind those windows on Main Street I recommend that you buy one of the handful of books on the subject!
I wonder if Disney would ever accept nominations for new windows? If they did, I know who I would nominate . . . Oscar Martinez!
Oscar began his Disney career on Dec. 29, 1956 and in 2011 he was honoured as the one-and-onlyemployee to record 55 years of continuous service in any Disney company. During those 55 years at Disneyland he trained thousands of cast members and became a favourite of many guests, including Carol and I. We always made sure we stopped to visit with Oscar every time we went to Disneyland.
To commemorate Oscar’s 2011 milestone of 55 years service The Walt Disney Company created a special Snow White-themed service award. It’s unlikely that anyone else will ever achieve this milestone, so Oscar’s award is destined to remain one-of-a-kind!
Oscar retired September 27, 2017 with almost 61 years of service and he still drops into the Carnation Café from time to time . . . it seems he just can’t stop being an ambassador for Disney!
What do you think? Doesn’t Oscar Martinez deserve a window?
I’ll end this blog by suggesting a new game you can play at any of the Disney parks!
In an article written for the Summer 2005 issue of Disney Magazine Diane Disney Miller quoted her father Walt, “…if people were waiting in line, then you had to create more entertainment to keep them happy.” That explains the wonderful interactive queues we all experience in the theme parks, and it also suggests a second reason for those Main Street windows. They can help keep you entertained while you wait!
So . . . the next time you’re waiting along Main Street for the three o’clock parade take a minute to look around at those windows. Some of the names you may recognize immediately. But – when you see a name that isn’t familiar, pull out your smart phone and search the name on the internet. Involve your family; make it a game to see how many of the people honoured in those windows you can identify!
Gary is a retired banker who lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1977 and has returned many, many times over the years. Since retiring he and his wife Carol enjoy the parks a number of times each year. They especially like staying at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground with their Shetland sheep dogs.