I grew up in the late seventies and the early eighties in Manchester, United Kingdom. Holidays, up until the early 80’s when my Mum changed jobs from just plain old admin to import/export; entailed trips to Blackpool, Lytham St Annes and very occasionally Wales or Devon and Cornwall (usually in a caravan).
Don’t get my wrong, each was an adventure in their own right and I loved every minute of them.
But then in 1979 my Mum moved into Import/Exports and the circle of her colleges totally changed. From the usual admin/office girls to the very better heeled and traveled managers. With a combination of me going to work with my mother during the summer holidays and meeting them (and my constant chatter about travel) they always seemed to take the time to get me something from their travels. But not the usual, funny T-Shirt or hat, I always wanted something to look at or read.
So it came to be that one of her friends was going on holiday with his family to the United States of America and he brought me back some items that were treasured possessions throughout those formative years. But in retrospect, they are a little odd.
Were most people would have dreamed about owning a genuine Mickey Mouse doll, I was genuinely ecstatic to receive;
A Road Map
A large scale road map of the major roads of the US. This was in the form of an A3 paperback book. The maps were presented in pastel shades of urban, rural and agricultural usage. With major routes and places displayed in vivid colours, along with famous monuments, places of interest and historic locations. To my 8 year old eyes it was the most beautiful map I’d even seen.
But at some point in the late 80’s it disappeared, cleared out no doubt during a spring clean, in total error. At that point almost 10 years had gone since I’d sat up at night, duvet over my head, “driving” across America with my finger. All the time lighting the way with a tiny flashlight.
A Walt Disney World souvenir booklet
As part of the collection of items that were handed over was a crisp and clean (but actually 2 year old) copy of the 1977 “Wald Disney World… a pictorial souvenir” guide.
37 bright colour pages, packed with pictures, of what seemed like another planet.
I remember turning each page and studying each picture postcard image in exact details, reading the eloquent prose and dreaming about the day I’d be able to go, preferably with my best friends Martin Ingham and John Rowbotham.
Both of which I was convinced would get as much a kick of it as I clearly would.
Then I came to the page with the images of the monorail and the Contemporary Resort.
It was 1979 and this was EXACTLY how I imaged we’d all be living by the time 2000 came around. After all, it was contemporary right? So that MUST have been how every city in the US looked in 1977. So it was only a matter of time until we caught up in the UK. Right?
Sadly the sleek modernist designs of the A framed Contemporary resort never came to the UK. It hard came to the US either. In later years a wave of nostalgia for the past would result in a ghastly return to basics look and feel for housing planning on both sides of the water. In a world where we all deserved to be living in the beauty, simplicity and elegance of Le Corbusier, we all ended up in carbon copy boxes. Made cheap for maximum profit.
Back then I didn’t have to care about that. It was only a matter of time… and a matter of entertainment to be had.
In Disney’s brochure the world (both literal and actual) was made up of happy people of all races, getting along with each other and having a fun time.
What’s not to appeal about that.
Space mountain looked impossibly fantastic to me. And the Tommorowland Transport Authority looked like the sort of thing I’d be jumping aboard on the way to my cool job working with computers. Silently whisked along, the fresh air of the future blowing through my (now) straight hair. Sadly, for most of the late 1970’s I looked like a poor mini-me version of David Starsky.
But don’t be fooled into thinking I managed to keep hold of this souvenir also. I bought my replacement copy from eBay at the bargain rate of £8 or so. For me it was worth every single penny.
Martin, John and I never did get to go to Florida to see the Mouse.
It was another 26 years and an extraordinarily generous gesture from my father in law that resulted in my first visit to Walt Disney World. I had the great pleasure of being able to enjoy “the World” vicariously, via my kids.
We’ve been again since.
Update: I’ve since found out that the map and Disney brochure came courtesy of Bob Brookfield, who was working at Air Express at the time.