Skip to main content

When Marty Met Frank

In the good old summertime of 1955
Frank Schmidt appreciated Town Square—the clip clop of the horses pulling the street cars and other vehicles, the birds in the Brazilian peppertrees, the lack of railings or "Keep Off the Grass" signs, Vesey Walker and the Disneyland Band playing songs like "In the Good Old Summertime."

Frank was born in 1877 and he was a grown man before the turn of the century. Automobiles, flying machines, electric lights, the phonograph, and motion pictures had all happened more or less since then. He was now 78 and planning his 12-day vacation, and he couldn't think of anywhere he'd rather be than Walt Disney's brand new creation, Disneyland.

Vol. 1, No. 1
Monday, July 18 was way too crowded, but Frank arrived on Tuesday, waited in line, paid his one dollar admission, and fell in love with the place. A combination of nostalgia and a feeling that the real world was inhospitable, perhaps. Frank came to the park eight days in a row before anyone noticed that he'd been there the day before.

In the park's second week, Frank met a young employee named Martin who wanted to interview him for the Disneyland News. Martin was 21, with dark hair, bookish glasses and seemed Jewish. He was, in fact—his last name was Sklar—and he was smart, Frank could tell. Martin was a UCLA student, the son of a teacher, majoring in political science.

Frank tried to describe what he liked about the Magic Kingdom. Every twenty minutes, a booming, stentorian voice would emanate from the train station: "Your attention please. The Santa Fe and Disneyland railroad is now arriving..." The train would chuff slowly into the station, its bell clanging as it came. People were on their best behavior—they dressed nicely and seemed to treat each other with more consideration. Frank told Martin: "I can jaywalk here."

Martin—Marty to his friends—introduced Frank to Ed Ettinger, Marty's boss and the head of Public Relations. Ed posed with Frank for a photo in the Anaheim Bulletin and put some complimentary passes in Frank's hand.

Disneyland was just a summer job for Marty. He had hoped to visit India, but the trip fell through. In the fall, he would edit UCLA's Daily Bruin newspaper. In June 1955, he made a presentation to Walt Disney and it changed his life. He returned to work for Disney in Fall 1956 and stayed 53 years.

Some pioneer Disneyland employees in 1956. Marty Sklar is front row, center. Ed Ettinger stands behind Marty in dark suit. (Source: blog)
Marty Sklar described his summer job under the blazing sun almost an hour out of town for the Jewish Journal in 2013:

"Here we were, two weeks before Disneyland was scheduled to open, and it was total chaos. It was at that time that I was called in to have a meeting with Walt, the Walt Disney, to present my concept for the tabloid. Remember: I was 21; I’d never worked professionally, still a student at UCLA. …I was plainly scared as hell. If it was no good, I was out the door; they’d find some professional to do it.

“But Walt liked what I presented…if you have a turning point in life, that was mine. I’ll tell you what I learned from that meeting: First, I was shocked that Walt had time for this little thing: a 10-cent tabloid to be sold on Main Street. But, [as] with everything he did, there was always enormous attention to detail. And second, for Walt, Main Street was a real town. And every town, at the early part of the 20th century, had its own newspaper. So Disneyland, at that time, without its own newspaper, was not a complete story. That was what I learned: It’s the details that make the Disney parks work, that attention to detail. And you have to make it a complete story, which means striving to be accurate about whatever story you’re telling, down to the smallest details.”

Marty wrote "Walt Disney's Disneyland," the hardcover souvenir book sold at the park in 1964. He included Frank's comment, along with others he had overheard from guests. By then, Marty had thoroughly absorbed what Walt was trying to do. In writing for Walt, he expressed Walt's ideals, his inchoate concepts.

"What is Disneyland? It is the innocence of youth and the wisdom of age. It is a child examining the hitching posts that line an 1890 street and asking 'Mommy, what kind of parking meters are these?' It is an elderly gentleman on the same street, smiling happily as he tells a bystander what he likes best about Disneyland: 'I can jaywalk here.'"
Martin A. Sklar (1934-2017) Disney Legend 2005


Popular posts from this blog

Where Chemistry Works Wonders For You

Chemistry leads to the future. A future filled with rocket ships, submarines capable of sailing under the polar ice caps, new medicines, fast food, and plastics. No surprise, then, that the entrance to Tomorrowland includes the portal of the Hall of Chemistry.

A bridge over an architectural pool led through the beckoning doorway. Inside, the hall was dominated by a revolving display of eight test tubes—the Chemitron. Each test tube contained one of the "eight basic materials found in nature from which countless chemicals and plastics can be made."

Salt, Sulfur, Oil, Coal, Air, Phosphate rock, Limestone, and Water. You were expecting more periodic table? "Did you know that from coal it is possible to make over a quarter of a million different substances? From plastics to perfumes, from drugs to disinfectants—hundred of the things you use today...and will use tomorrow...are derived chemically—from coal. And thousands more will be found tomorrow."

The Chemitron (spel…

The Incredible Mr. Long

There is a small mailbox next to a dummy door at 110 Main Street. As a teenager, I tried to open that door and—for some reason—I reached into the mailbox. I found a single business card.

Dwight Stanley Long decided to see the world on his 21st birthday, but not like other men might. Dwight turned 21 in 1933, probably the worst year of the worldwide Depression. Like Walt Disney, Dwight had funds when many were poor. He bought a 32-foot ketch, the Idle Hour, and sailed around the world for the next six years as Walt created Snow White and built his Burbank studio.

Long was born in Seattle and studied journalism at the University of Washington. (Long was three years younger than Ken Anderson, who earned a BA in Architecture from UW '34, and the same age as Van France, who was also born in Seattle, but raised in San Diego. Welton Becket graduated UW '27.)

Color movies were brand new in 1933—Walt created the first color cartoon, Flowers and Trees, with help from Technicolor, only …

When is a castle not a castle?

A castle is a fortress meant to protect the regent. The king and queen’s living and entertaining spaces are surrounded by a walled city, which is, in turn, surrounded by battlements and defensive constructions, such as moats and walls which taper out (called a battered wall) to make scaling with ladders more difficult. Bridges across the moat can be retracted or raised, and strategic points often feature a series of obstacles--“defense in depth” as it’s known. A drawbridge typically has a strengthened gate (a portcullis, literally “sliding door”) behind it, and paths toward the central “keep” are more maze-like than linear. Defensive aspects can turn offensive--hot tar can be poured from the parapets, the moving edge of the portcullis often had sharpened spikes, and crenelations (the up and down along the parapet) were meant to shield archers.

Because many fairy tales involve royalty, castles figure in stories from Snow White to Cinderella. As a rule, the military aspects don’t matte…