Thursday, October 31, 2013

Disneyland and The Anaheim Halloween Parade

1954 Anaheim Halloween program features the original concept for Fantasyland

People here in Anaheim, California celebrate Halloween in a rather unique way— with a parade! The nighttime pageant of ghosts, goblins, jack-o-lanterns and witches stretching a mile through Anaheim’s darkened downtown has been a family-fun tradition for almost 90 years. And, as you might imagine, Disney has played a role in the festivities ever since Disneyland moved into town…and even longer than that! A source of city pride, the parade is part of the larger and older Anaheim Fall Festival put on every year by Anaheim businesses, schools, organizations, and residents. For one exuberant October night, the most populated city in Orange County takes on the atmosphere of a small town.

Hallowe'en Past in Downtown Anaheim 

Long before “trick-or-treating” became the huge thing that it is today (since the 1930s), Halloween was typically a time for mischief and pranks by neighborhood youngsters. In the tranquil little farming community of Anaheim, soaped windows, uprooted fences, and damaged property were turning “All Hallow’s Eve” into a major headache for residents and businesses. To steer the energies of Anaheim kiddies toward “wholesome fun and frolic,” a “Halloween Carnival and Festival” with games and costume contests was devised by local merchants in 1923. Incredibly, this solution did the trick, and the following year a nighttime Halloween Parade was added to the Festival activities. 20,000 residents and neighbors from nearby towns crowded onto the sidewalks on both sides of the street on October 31, 1924 to watch the 45-minute procession led by baseball superstars Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson who served as the first Grand Marshals.

Fast-forward to the 1950s, and the Festival with its wildly popular parade has grown to enormous proportions. The Los Angeles Times called it the “biggest Halloween party in the nation” with over 75,000 spectators lining the parade route. Earne Moeller of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce began exploring ways to attract some serious attention to the Festival by reaching out to Los Angeles industries as possible parade sponsors. One of the organizations that received an invitation from Anaheim was the Walt Disney Studios.

1953 Anaheim Bulletin
Unknown by pretty much everyone at the time, Walt Disney had his eye on Anaheim as the perfect location for the world’s first theme park, and Earne Moeller’s invitation to join in the community’s biggest event came at an opportune time. Walt generously responded with an offer to have the Studio design six floats for the 1953 parade to be constructed by “commercial float builders.” The concept and plans for the Disneyland theme park had not yet been revealed to the public, so the unprecedented response of the “Walt Disney Studios of Hollywood” seemed remarkable to many Anaheimers. “In recognition of the unusual interest shown by the Disney studios,” marveled the Anaheim Bulletin, “the division of the parade will be called “Walt Disney’s Fairyland.”

1953 float designs by Disney Studio artist Roy Williams

 The float designs were sketched by Disney storyman Roy Williams (who would later gain fame as the quick-drawing “Big Mooseketeer” on TV’s Mickey Mouse Club) and included the following themes: Cinderella, Pinocchio, Trick or Treat, Peter Pan, Snow White, and a special Halloween themed float depicting favorite Disney characters enjoying a carnival ride through a “Tunnel of Spooks.”

Comparing the concept art with the few existing photographs showing the finished floats, it’s important to keep in mind that Disneyland hadn’t even been built yet, and it was up to the local residents who performed on the floats to provide their own home-made costumes of the famous Disney characters. It may have been a tad hit-and-miss, but it’s a sure bet that Disney made a spectacular first impression upon Anaheim.

First Disney character as Grand Marshal, accompanied by his voice.

The next year was even better, with Donald Duck himself as Grand Marshal, leading the parade (accompanied by his voice, Clarence “Ducky” Nash). An entire segment of the spectacle was dedicated to “Disneyland”-- now that the cat was finally out of the bag -- with marvelous float concepts drawn up by Disney artist Yale Gracey, who years later would go on to conjure the Haunted Mansion attraction’s most chilling, thrilling illusions. Sketches show a parade-sized Sleeping Beauty Castle, Mark Twain Riverboat, the Casey Jr. Circus Train, and a sleek prototype Tomorrowland rocket; possibly the first three-dimensional preview of Disneyland’s delights to be seen by the public.

1954 float concepts by Yale Gracey and Phyllis Williams.

Most notable is the float representing “True-Life Adventureland”-- an area originally planned for the Park that would have been themed to Walt Disney’s Oscar®-winning series of nature films.  The float was never built, as the concept rapidly evolved into the tropical Adventureland familiar to us today.

1954 Tru-Life Adventureland float by Yale Gracey
Disneyland welcomed the world into its fabulous realms on July 17th, 1955, and Anaheim welcomed its newest neighbor with special prominence in the Halloween Festival. The Disneyland Band, led by Vesey Walker, opened the Disneyland section, followed by the Park’s horse-drawn Mickey Mouse Club Circus Wagon carrying Jimmie Dodd and the Mouseketeers, making their first public appearance outside of Disneyland. Nearly 150,000 people came to watch the parade that year, with Buddy Ebsen, (Davy Crockett’s television sidekick, Georgie Russell) honored as Grand Marshal.

Disney continued to bestow its own special Halloween magic on Anaheim over the years in surprising ways.

In the 1950s, the original Mouseketeers appeared at a special parade pre-show, featuring a ballet performance by Annette. The original Golden Horseshoe Revue - complete with can-can girls - was performed one Halloween in Anaheim’s Pearson Park, with cast members Betty Taylor, Donald Novis and Wally Boag.

Disneyland's Wally Boag in the Anaheim Fall Festival, 1961

1973 Anaheim Halloween Parade step off at La Palma Park Stadium

Disneyland’s unique fleet of Main Street Vehicles have all driven “outside the berm” to join the parade, including the Omnibus, fire wagon, horseless carriages and Walt Disney’s very own “Runabout” car. Even various Main Street Electrical Parade units have been known to disappear from the Park for an evening’s spin through downtown Anaheim.

"Disneyland Salutes Anaheim's Halloween Festival", 1969
1970's Halloween Parade featured the great Scatman Crothers with the Aristocats.
1973:  Shared golden anniversaries
In 1973, Walt Disney Productions and the Anaheim Halloween Festival celebrated their shared golden anniversaries with a “Fifty Happy Years” cavalcade of thirty-one familiar Disney characters dancing atop six giant drum floats. Naturally, Mickey and Minnie were the star attractions traveling through the streets of downtown Anaheim in one of Disneyland's own "horseless carriages" from Main Street U.S.A. It was Disney's biggest involvement in the Halloween Parade's history - before or since!

Real-life Disney film stars-turned Grand Marshals have included The Love Bug’s Buddy Hackett and a very young Jodie Foster with her Napoleon and Samantha co-star Johnny Whitaker!

The 2013 Anaheim Halloween Parade stepped off this past Saturday evening at dusk. As the sun began to set, Disneyland's latest entry - Minnie Mouse in a lovely horse-drawn carriage - made its way down the long stretch of Broadway past over 45,000 spectators.  Re-discovered by a new generation, the parade continues to radiate old-fashioned charm, and crackle with small town magic!


Research and text by Kevin Kidney, 2013

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Citrus Celebration 2013

Today in Anaheim, it's a CITRUS CELEBRATION presented by the Anaheim Historical Society.

Join us TODAY, September 14th at Founders' Park (400 N. West Street, Anaheim, CA) for historical presentations, tours of the interior renovations in the Woelke-Stoffel House, Citrus Recipe contest, refreshments and carnival games. This is the best possible time to renew your Historical Society membership and be entered into our raffle.

We will also have a limited edition poster print by designer Jody Daily, with a framing option, as well as handmade mini orange crates by local artisan Jeremy Samson.

Come on down, have some fun and support historical preservation in Anaheim!
Anaheim Citrus Celebration
Saturday September 14
Founders' Park
400 N. West Street
Anaheim, CA, 92805

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Disneyland Turns 58 Today

With the city's key in hand, Andy Anaheim toots a fanfare on his trumpet in this prophetic—and quite exuberant—issue of "Anaheim Progress" published in 1955 by the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce. Anticipation for the opening of Walt Disney's magical kingdom inspired a palpable wave of optimism throughout the city. A bright and prosperous future for Anaheim appeared to be just around the corner.

Giant Amusement Area Will Make Anaheim World Center

Now famed as the fastest growing of all American cities, Anaheim is also carefully planning its speedy advance, Ernest Moeller, Chamber of Commerce head, stressed this week.

The people of Anaheim just recently approved a giant bond issue that will assure new schools and playgrounds in the future to keep pace with the city's growth. Adequate schools, parks and playgrounds plus the influx of big shopping areas and industries are all part of the city's master plan for expansion, Moeller assured.

New industries will mean more jobs—and the Chamber's close control will also assure that Anaheim's ideal climate remains "smog free," the Chamber said.

When Walt Disney selected Anaheim, after careful research, as the perfect location for his fantastic new Funland—Disneyland—the film maker's magic wand almost automatically made the Orange County city the new vacation center of the world. Called the City of Good Living because of excellent schools, parks, playgrounds, shopping centers, and weather, now Anaheim will also be noted as a vacation and fun-land.

Anaheim welcomes Disneyland to its midst . . . and also welcomes the thousands of new home owners who are moving to the city each day.
Visit Anaheim . . . or move to Anaheim . . . enjoy life in the new recreation capitol of the universe!"

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Farmers Park Opens in Anaheim

This afternoon, Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait hammered a bright orange spike into the railroad ties outside of the historic Packing House, opening a brand new greenbelt in the heart of the historic downtown area.  Farmer's Park promises to become a vibrant community center and unique gathering spot for the surrounding neighborhood. Today's celebration marks a significant milestone in the area's dramatic revitalization.  

On Saturday mornings (beginning July 27, 2013) Farmers Park will host a farmers market with fresh and local produce.  More music, food and fun is scheduled throughout the year.  Watch our facebook page for news and updates.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Come be among the very first to have dinner in the restored 1919 Anaheim Packing House, enjoy live music, meet your neighbors, and marvel at the incredible progress that is being made on our wonderful downtown.  Anyone is welcome to attend!

The Anaheim Historical Society ANNUAL BANQUET
Thursday, June 6, 2013 at 6pm
at the Anaheim Packing House

440 S Anaheim Blvd. Anaheim, California 92805

Tickets are $35 and must be purchased in advance!

Call 714-397-9182 or email Kandee Beas at

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Birthdays are always a great reason to celebrate, so join us in wishing a Happy 164th Birthday to Friedrich Conrad, proprietor of the Anaheim Brewery from 1872 to 1904.

Friedrich was born in Bavaria, Germany, in 1849, and arrived in San Diego in 1866 where, as a boy of seventeen, he set up shop as a cooper (barrel maker). Friedrich moved to Anaheim in 1870 and opened a winery. Two years later, he opened the Anaheim Brewery.

The party begins at 4 pm, with authentic Bavarian pretzels, and great food from our K&A Downtown Cafe. Vintage swing band Riff Raff will start the entertainment for the evening, followed by Brother Yusef and his “organic deep-fried fatback blues.”

Of course, no brewer’s birthday celebration would be complete without a special beer, and, of course, the Anaheim Brewery has brewed one: “Conrad’s Kolsch” is styled after the top-fermented beers of Koln (Cologne), Germany.  It is a light golden, pleasantly hoppy ale.

The label is an interpretation based on a fragment from an Anaheim Beer label dating from the early 1900’s, skillfully recreated by artists Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily. “Conrad’s Kolsch” will be available in bottles, growlers or draught.

Notice the phrase “In Pursuit of Happiness and Lager”? In 1899, the Los Angeles Turnverein (a German sports club) visited Anaheim to compete with our city’s Turnverein. The Anaheim Gazette reported that after the exhibition, the group “dispersed, and went in pursuit of happiness and lager.” The reporter then added that “they came for pleasure, and they got it.”

The Anaheim Brewery is located at 336 S. Anaheim Blvd. in Historic Downtown Anaheim.


Edgar and Barbara Gonzalez in front of their historic home at 330 S. Ohio with their Siberian husky, Maya. 

Each year, the Margaret Atkins Award, named to honor one of Anaheim’s most dedicated preservationists, celebrates attitude and perseverance in historic preservation, and credits Anaheim’s true heroes who volunteer their time and passion against all obstacles to preserve our city’s significant architecture and public art. 

This year’s award goes to Barbara and Edgar Gonzalez. They have lived in their striking 1923 Mediterranean Revival house on 330 S. Ohio since 1985, and together, they've made a tremendous difference in the quality of the Anaheim Colony Historic District.

In addition to making significant restorations to their own home, earning them an Anaheim Beautiful award, they've purchased numerous rental properties and meticulously restored them to their original architecture and historical integrity. They bought a tiny, run-down property on 308 S. Clementine and stripped the exterior siding down to bare wood, restoring the home to period-appropriate colors. The couple even tackled the restoration of an eight-room rental unit at 115 W. Stueckle, and set about restoring it to its 1923 vintage by furnishing all eight units with subway and hexagonal tile detail, vintage pedestal sinks and stoves, and refinishing the original cabinetry and wood floors. Upon completion, both properties became a part of the historic preservation/property tax reduction program called the Mills Act.

A local realtor selling hundreds of houses since 1986, Barbara has served on the ACSD Board, and remains active in the Historic Preservation Committee, the Anaheim Historical Society, the Central District Neighborhood Council, and Anaheim Beautiful.

Barbara also partners with fellow Realtor and this years’ Andy Anaheim Award winner, Meghan Shigo, to put together an annual calendar featuring pictures of Mills Act houses, distributing nearly 3,000 free of charge to residents of the historic districts and City Hall.

Last, but not least, on their frequent walks through the neighborhood with Maya, their Siberian Husky, Barbara and Edgar can be seen picking up litter just to keep the city clean.

Recently, we chatted with the Gonzalez's about restoration, community, and historic preservation.

What is it about old houses that you love so much?

Gonzalez’s: We love the architectural details, quality materials and meticulous attention to the craftsmanship of old homes, many of which are 60-100 years old and still functional. These homes depict the cultural values, trends and styles, and still utilize the materials available in the era. They provide historic continuity to the past, preserving those values for future generations.

Why is the sense of community so important to you?

Gonzalez’s: No man is an island. There is strength and momentum in numbers, permitting us to accomplish far more than in isolation. Each human being has a talent, skill or knowledge that can be shared to the benefit of society, in general, and to our neighborhoods. It makes a person feel valued when he or she can share a skill or provide a service that accomplishes a common goal. Life is more enjoyable when share among friends and neighbors and provides for safer and more close-knit communities.

What do you see as some important issues in historic preservation for Anaheim?

Gonzalez’s: Getting the message out that historic and architectural preservation is the “greenest” of movements. Older architectural features are lost when the houses they created are torn down or materials discarded. The integrity of the neighborhood is diminished when its character is lost. People who don’t care or don’t know better and use flimsy replacement materials thinking they are increasing the value and comfort of their homes, but they are depriving the house of its historic integrity. We have reached out to Mills Act participants and owners of historically contributing structures to preserve their homes, thus increasing their home’s economic and social value.

We like to feel we have served as personal resources in helping our community to understand the value of our historic homes to the betterment of us all.

Barbara and Edgar Gonzalez will receive the Margaret Atkins Award at the AHS Annual Banquet on June 6.  Congratulations to you both!