While rushing to their favorite “E ticket” attractions, Disneyland guests often hurry past the Disneyland Fire House on the west side of the Town Square, next to City Hall. If you really want to experience Walt’s Disneyland — the parts of Disneyland that reflect Walt’s memories, experiences, and love of the past — then you owe it to yourself to spend some time at the Fire House (shown here decked out in Halloween bunting). Take a good look at the firefighting equipment and historic photos on display on the Fire House walls.
Notice the horse-drawn fire wagon parked there. When Disneyland opened in 1955, guests could ride down Main Street on the fire wagon. It was pulled by two horses, Bess and Jess, whose stalls in the Fire House now stand empty. The fire wagon was retired and permanently parked in 1960.
Notice also the brass fireman’s pole. The second floor of the Fire House was Walt’s private apartment, where he lived during construction of the park, and where he spent many days and nights after the park opened. The pole connected Walt’s private apartment with the Fire House below. I have read reports that Walt was so eager to start his day at the park that he’d often slide down the brass pole and exit through the Fire House onto Main Street.
Walt’s daughter, Diane Disney Miller, was often asked if her father slid down the fireman’s pole. Her reply: “I’m sure he didn’t.” However, Diane did recall a time her father invited others to slide down the fireman’s pole.
“I remember there was some event [at Disneyland] that day,” she said, “and Fess Parker and Buddy Ebsen [stars of the Davy Crockett miniseries] were both out there for it, and Dad was looking out that window and saw them and he said, ‘Hey, come on up!’ . . . He showed [the pole] to them and said, ‘Why don’t you guys slide down that?’ And they did!” [Quoted by Jordan Zakarin in “Diane Disney Miller Remembers Dad: Walt’s Secret Disneyland Apartment, His Passions & More,” Huffington Post, February 11, 2012.]
Walt’s apartment is still in use today as a guest room for VIPs and members of the Disney family. According to legend, a park visitor shinnied up the pole while members of the Disney family were in the apartment. As a result of that unwelcome intrusion, the hole in the apartment floor around the pole was sealed off — at least, that’s what the legend claims.
I doubt that the intruder story is true. Diane Disney Miller recalled that access to the fire pole from the apartment is inside a closet, behind the closed closet door. An intruder couldn’t simply climb the pole and poke his head up into the apartment itself — he’d only get as far as the closet. I’ve never found a reliable source for the intruder story.
The day Disneyland opened, July 17, 1955, Walt stood at the window of his apartment over the Fire House, watching the crowds entering Main Street through the two tunnels on either side of the Railroad Station. Along with him were a number of Mouseketeers, including twelve-year-old Sharon Baird. She later recalled, “When I looked up at him, he had his hands behind his back, a grin from ear to ear, I could see a lump in his throat and a tear streaming down his cheek. He had realized his dream.”
Whenever Walt was in the park, he would light a lamp in the window of the apartment over the Fire House as a way of letting his staff know that he was on the property. After his death, that lamp has remained lit as a tribute to Disneyland’s late founder — except at Christmas time, when it is replaced by a lighted Christmas tree. It’s fitting, of course, that the lamp remains lit in Walt’s apartment. As long as Walt’s original Disneyland can be found, Walt is on the property.
Looking out of the Fire House toward the Town Square.
ABOUT JIM DENNEY AND WALT’S DISNEYLAND: Jim Denney has more than 120 books to his credit, and has co-written books with sports stars and Hollywood celebrities. His previous book on Walt Disney, How To Be Like Walt (co-written with Orlando Magic founder Pat Williams) has remained in print for a dozen years, and has garnered 4.8 out of 5 stars in 185 customer reviews on Amazon.com. Walt’s Disneyland: It’s Still There If You Know Where to Look by Jim Denney (Anaheim, CA: Writing in Overdrive Books, May 2017) is available at Amazon.com; Paperback $15.99; Ebook $5.99.
Walt’s Disneyland: It’s Still There If You Know Where to Look is NOW AVAILABLE for just:
After you read it, please do me a favor and write a customer review of the book. And if you have any questions or comments, feel free to write to me. My contact information is in the front of the book.