|The King Arthur Carrousel did not have all white horses until 1975 (Photo: June 1964. Source unknown)|
Walt struck up a conversation with ride's owner. Ross R. Davis owned and operated merry-go-rounds in Los Angeles' Lincoln Park, Tilden Park in Berkeley, and now in Griffith Park. Davis' newest ride had been built by Spillman Engineering for San Diego's Mission Beach Amusement Center (now Belmont Park) in 1926. It had 68 hand-made horses, all jumpers, and a band organ that played more than 1,500 songs.
|Ross Davis' Griffith Park merry-go-round. (2011 Photo by R Hopkins, Carousel History)|
Walt likely pestered Ross Davis in 1954 to either sell his merry-go-round to Disneyland, or to locate another one. Soon, WED was negotiating with a Canadian carnival operator named J. W.—call me "Patty"—Conklin and his partner, Speed Garrett. Patty, former president of the Showman's League of America, operated shows across the US, but was based in Toronto. In fact, the Metro Toronto Gardiner Expressway project required clearing the Lake Ontario waterfront west of downtown, which meant razing the Sunnyside Amusement Park, and Patty Conklin was the agent selling its rides.
|The carrousel was erected first, then the aluminum roof structure.|
The carousel was purchased in October 1954 and shipped to Arrow Development in Mountain View, California. Arrow signed a $15,000 contract on November 10 for "propulsion with modern power, installations of roller bearings, and the expansion from a three to four-abreast device"—The Billboard, May 14, 1955. Power would be a five horsepower electric motor with a twin disc, 8.5 Hydro-Sheave drive. All seventy-two seats would be horses, and all four rows would be jumpers. The ride turns counter-clockwise so that riders can wave (or grab a brass ring) with their right hand.
|Walt Disney and some of his herd—fewer than half.|
Arrow requested $5,000 more to complete their work. They carefully set aside the unused animals and chariots so that they could be reused on the Casey Jr. Circus Train and elsewhere. The rounding boards, including mirrors and carved jester busts, were painstakingly refurbished.
The story is that Walt sat on the bench and watched his young daughters ride on Ross Davis' merry-go-round and thought "There should be a park that would appeal to both children and adults." What was to stop Walt, the bench-potato, from riding with Diane and Sharon? The three rode real horses together, after all. Walt insisted that the carrousel in Disneyland have all hard-to-mount horses—no benches or chariots—without once thinking "There should be a ride that would accommodate both children and adults."
The ride is about 2.3 minutes, with 3.2 minutes for unload/load, so the theoretical hourly capacity is about 785. That's pretty good, but it's nothing compared to the Haunted Mansion's 2,600 or Pirates of the Caribbean's over 3,000.
The horses were white, black, tan and brown during Walt's lifetime, but the herd was changed to all white horses in 1975.
For more on the Arrow Development refurbishment, see Dexter Francis' "King Arthur's Carrousel."
|Viewmaster photo showing the original horse colors and styles.|