Yeah.. it’s been a year now since I quit Disneyland the -first- time. And I still think about it on a weekly basis. Part of me wants to be back there, giving tours, sharing stories of Walt and the park, and just enjoying being there. The park really is a magical place. When I left, I just couldn’t take it any more. The management was awful and they really did mirror the rest of the company. A lot of people have left Guest Relations. It’s sad. There’s quite a legacy and history to the department.
Walt started the department because he wasn’t able to meet with all the important people who kept coming to to the park and wanted to see things through his eyes. He used to do A LOT of tours in the early years. By the end of the 50’s, he was so busy with so many project, he just couldn’t be at Disneyland on a daily basis. Thus, the Tour Guides. All pretty, skinny, polite, well mannered, proper and sweet girls. With short skirts! The skirts were actually SHORTER in the 60’s than they are today. But they looked great. And eventually, they let me join the department. I’m sure all the women said that was the end of the tradition and the camaraderie, but I think it held up pretty good.
So, as I’m sitting here thinking about being a Tour Guide again, I started going through photos and found my very first tour photo – from my very first tour!
Here’s the story too… I had been pushing and pushing and pushing to become "A Walk in Walt’s Footsteps" tour guide. I was reading everything, studying, preparing, and was finally chosen. We went through training, learning the 20-30 page script, and finally my first scheduled shift as a Tour Guide came up. I was bouncing off the walls-excited, and everyone knew it. I couldn’t wait.
It was the 2:30pm tour (9am and 2:30p were the WIWF tours usually) and I was there much too early for my shift :) I couldn’t sleep the night before. I was excited and nervous – there’s A LOT of information to know! Not only that, I had called to the Tour Office the night before and asked how many were booked on my tour the next morning. Diana told me 15 – the maximum allowed! YIKES! That was going to be CRAZY for my first tour all over Disneyland! But, I was ready.
When 2 o’clock finally rolled around, someone walked past me and said they were sorry but my tour wasn’t going out that day. But there were 15 people booked already! No… it was a mistake. The person from the night before had looked at the wrong date. There were no people booked for my tour. The tour that was to go out in less than 30 minutes now. All that cramming, studying, jitters, nervousness… for nothing. And there’s another thing. At the end of your first successful tour, you are "pinned" with your "D" pin. The "D" pin is a special pin that only Tour Guides get in Guest Relations. As you can see from the picture, it’s beautiful and it stands out on a plaid vest. But, since I wasn’t taking a tour out, I would have to wait another week or more until I was scheduled again.
I was actually very sad – more so than I should have been. The tour office told me I would just do my shift that day in the phone room instead. I went over to the tour cart that was being hosted by Kristel Rowley and offered to talk to guests and get to visit with Kristel until I had to go to the phone room. Then it clicked!! The purpose of the tour cart was to SELL TOURS! But I literally only had 10 minutes to sell my tour. I called and checked to see if it was okay with the tour office, and they said yes, but I would have to start on time and couldn’t hold it past the start time. As I got off the phone, Kristel asked if she could take a quick break and she would be right back. She left, and I did my best to sell that tour.
Not many people stopped at the tour cart. Ever. And if they did, it was for a map or information… not for a tour. A few people came up and I tried to be very relaxed about it without pushing the WIWF tour. Two couples came up, but all of them had already been on the WIWF tour (which is fairly common – if someone takes a tour, it was usually that one. The other tour offerings were targeted at very specific groups or for the holidays.) It was four minutes to 2:30, and there was no way I was going to sell it. Then, a mother and her 12 an 13 year old daughter and son walked by looking at the cart. They walked past, then came back. But, the WIWF tour is more of a history tour than a "let’s go on the rides" tour, which usually meant that kids just wouldn’t be interested.
Well, they came back and asked about the tours, mentioning that they had been on one the previous year. Like I said, if they go on one, it’s usually the WIWF. I mentioned that I hope they had a good time, and that we offered the "Welcome to Disneyland" tour which covered Disney’s California Adventure park and Disneyland, as well as the Holiday tour that would go out that evening. The mother popped up and say "Oh, we went on the Holiday tour last winter." And if they went on THAT tour then they surely wouldn’t go on the "Welcome" tour! There’s a chance!! With two minutes to go! But wait.. this isn’t a tour for kids. I told them about the WIWF tour, but mentioned that it was a 3 and a half hour walking tour of the history of the park and of Walt – not the rides. The son bounced and said he wanted to go on it! The daughter also wanted to go, and the mother asked when it was going out and what the cost was. Another killer. At $49 per person (no discount for kids) it was expensive. I gave them the price, thinking that would cure them (or at least the mom) of wanting to go. She didn’t even blink, but asked again what time it would go out. I told them that one was going out in exactly 1 minute. She paused and told the kids that they would come back the next day and do it. My heart sunk.
But, it wasn’t over… The son and daughter said they’d like to do it today… but she really wanted to come back tomorrow. Then the golden moment. I popped in and told them in a whispering voice like it was a big secret, that I was the Tour Guide for this tour, and that no one else had signed up, so it was be a private tour for them. They all looked at each other and with huge smiles agreed to take the tour.
WAHOO!! I told them they had to hurry to City Hall to buy the tickets, and that I would be at the cart waiting for them. Suddenly, I was freaked out again because I had to remember the script and all the stories IMMEDIATELY to get started! Kristel came back and I was bursting with excitement. I called the tour office and told them, and they were happy for me.
They came back out with their tickets, and we began the tour!
We we got to the end of Main Street USA, one of the stops is the Partners Statue of Walt and Mickey. The photographer asked if we would like a photo, to which I said no thanks and continued on – but the mom said yes (I later found out that this was very uncommon, as most of the photographers know not to interrupt a tour.) So, with the mom telling the cast member yes, I offered to hold her things while they took the photo. But no – the mom didn’t want to be in it – she wanted ME to be in it with her kids! Well, I couldn’t say no. We got the shot and continued the tour.
Now.. I did NOT tell the guests that this was my first tour. Not only was it just not done, but you just don’t want to bring that kind of attention on yourself when you’re not sure of how you’ll do. However, as we neared the end of the tour, I was walking my guests toward the Gallery, and we passed some other Guest Relations Cast Members who were in regular clothes and playing in the park. Holly Bonetti had known how happy and excited I was to do this tour, and as we walked by and smiled and gave a small wave to the group – to which Holly blurted out "Congratulations!" Meaning of coarse that I had taken out a tour, as was going to get my "D" pin. Well, the mom and kids instantly picked up on it and asked what the congratulations was for. I nicely tried to blow it off and said "Oh nothing…" But the mom wasn’t having that for an answer. Her and the kids began guessing things; "Are you getting married?" "Did you win the lottery?" and a few other questions that I don’t recall – but all were way off. They persisted for several minutes, and finally I didn’t know what else to say (besides the fact that I was trying to remember what the next spiel was about and how the facts were supposed to come together!) So, I told them that this was my first tour. They were very nice and said I was doing a wonderful job. Well.. NOW I was nervous. Luckily, the tour was almost over, and I didn’t have to remember much more!
At the very end of the tour as we ate our lunch on the balcony of Walt’s luxury apartment (The Disney Gallery), Diana Williams and a few other people from the department showed up to "pin" me. They explained to my guests that this was my first tour, and that it was very special to receive this pin, and that they were going to be part of my lifelong memory of getting my "D" pin. I choked up… a lot… I was very happy and proud and excited.
The other cast members all left, and I finished my chili and water and cheesecake and visited with the guests until they were done. They wished me good luck and good bye, the mom took a few photos of me and the kids on the balcony and promised to mail them to City Hall. I never got those photos, but I did go back and buy the one in front of the Partners statue – which I will cherish forever.