Braille Monitor                                              March 2014

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The Life of a Convention Chairman or Disneyland Visited

by Kenneth Jernigan

Kenneth JerniganFrom the Editor: In the November 2013 issue we ran an extensive article about the adventures of members of the Travel and Tourism Division’s experience with Disney World. I liked that article, but it made me wonder about other experiences we have had there. I hope Monitor readers have as much fun reading this as I had, both because of its content and because of the familiar voice that comes through the writing, one I frequently find myself missing, and one I find myself grateful for having when I go to the trouble of finding some of his gems. This article appeared in the February 1967 issue of the Braille Monitor:     

From long experience I have learned that it behooves the NFB convention chairman to do a good deal of personal investigating—sampling, testing, poking, and prodding. When, for instance, (late in the summer of 1963) the 1964 convention at Phoenix was still on the drawing boards, we were considering a trip to Legend City as a part of the package. Accordingly, one hot summer day the sweating convention chairman betook himself to Legend City and commenced a minute inspection.

He was told that the food at the Mexican restaurant was good and would be enjoyed by the delegates. To make sure, he tried it. He was told that the "Wild Mouse" was an unforgettable ride, which would disarrange human bones even more efficiently than a roller coaster. It was, and it did. Toward the end of that hot afternoon he was told that the delegates would enjoy riding on the backs of the burros who trudged dutifully around the park in a pack train. With memories of the "Wild Mouse" still fresh in his bones, the Chairman decided to forego the delights of the burro experience in favor of verbal inquiry. Yes, he was assured, any and all of the delegates would be welcome to ride when the great day of the tour should come. Tired but happy, the convention chairman retreated to his hotel room, soothed by the comforts of air conditioning and a sense of a job well done.

When the hosts assembled at Phoenix and went forth to tour, the chairman, remembering the vicissitudes of the "Wild Mouse," besought his room for a nap—only to be roused in a few hours by returning mobs who beat on his door with threats of lynch and similar pleasantries. Why? It seems that the burros had a notion that they should not carry anyone who weighed more than 165 pounds, and NFB convention goers are notably well fed. The moral to the story (and it is only illustrative. I could give numerous other unhappy examples) is simply this: don't take it on faith! Ride the burro, even if it follows the "Wild Mouse."

With thoughts of the burro fresh in mind, I went to Los Angeles last October and headed for Disneyland. My activities may be divided into two categories—bargaining for price and testing the quality of the wares. The story of the first of these activities is soon told. The businesslike lady in the businesslike office said: "We will be glad to have you if you want to come at the rate we propose, but if you don't six million others will. When may we sign you up?" And that was that for point number one. Point number two was another matter, however.

With thoughts of the burros still in mind, I returned to my hotel room, rested for the remainder of the day, rose early the following morning, put on the most informal clothes I possessed, and headed for Disneyland--accompanied, I might add, by Mrs. Jean Dyon Norris, who does such an excellent job with the Twin-Vision Books for the American Brotherhood for the Blind, and who deserves a medal for bravery and endurance.

When I had talked with the businesslike lady in the businesslike office the day before, the question had arisen as to whether our delegates should go around the park on their own or follow a guided tour. The guided tour is a standard feature of Disneyland, one tour guide handling about twenty persons. Not forgetting the burro, I decided to try it both ways.

I started with the tour. Half of our twenty tourists got on the Jungle Cruise, but the other half had to wait. Being enterprising and still unweary, Mrs. Norris and I made the first section. However, we profited little by the effort, for we simply had to wait on the bank while the other half had their turn. It was only fifteen or twenty minutes of wasted time, but it pointed the way for what was to come. Our tour next went down what is called "Main Street USA," a carry-back to the turn of the century. Each time we passed a store or shop, the guide paused briefly and said something to this effect: "Here is a perfume shop. They have many different fragrances inside, and you may want to come back when you finish your tour to go in and look around. These are basic fragrances and you can smell and order your own combination mixed." It was the same sort of thing at the glassblower's shop, the general store, the penny arcade, and the place with the party telephone line.

After two hours I had had enough. Just as the tour rounded a corner, Mrs. Norris and I ducked down another street and started out on our own. The rest of the day was absolutely delightful. We went back to that perfume shop, and I personally sniffed all of the basic fragrances. They have twelve, and you can make and order any combination of perfume you like. It's great fun. I went to the glassblower's shop and felt of his wares. Again, delightful. You can buy the perfumes or the glassware and take them with you. In the penny arcade I stood on the old-fashioned vibrating exerciser, squeezed the grip-testing machine to see if I could ring the bell, played old-fashioned, coin-operated musical instruments, and tried the various games of chance. In the country store I picked up the party telephone and was treated to a wonderful gossip session.

Leaving Main Street USA, Mrs. Norris and I explored the tree house of the Swiss Family Robinson. No, the convention chairman did not content himself with verbal explanation. He climbed to the top of the tree house and personally examined every object he could reach. Later it was the South Sea Island Restaurant on the water, complete with excellent coconut and fruit ice cream, personally tasted by the chairman. There was the ride in the horse-drawn surrey—experienced firsthand, no verbal inquiry.

There are other things in the park—the monorail, running to the fabulous Disneyland Hotel and all around the park, the old-fashioned Choo Choo Train and train station; the "Land of Tomorrow," with rides that put the "Wild Mouse" to shame. If I told you about the Bobsleds of the Matterhorn, you wouldn't believe it. Disneyland is all that it is cracked up to be and then some.

Now comes the sad conclusion to this story of adventure—the straw as you might say, which broke the burro's back. At the very end of this varied day, when the chairman and Mrs. Norris were heading down the homestretch toward the exit gate, the chairman discovered that Disneyland has mules upon which visitors are urged to ride. The chairman remembered Phoenix and the burros, the muttered threats of lynch, the pounding at his door in the late hours. Even fresher in his memory, was the long day just behind him. He debated between duty and desire, and once again, just as at Phoenix, he went the way of verbal inquiry.

"Could everyone ride?" he asked.

"Yes," the answer came back immediately.

"But are you sure?" he asked. "Is there any weight limit?"

"No," he was told. "Our mules are strong and sturdy. Anyone who weighs no more than 195 pounds may ride. And even that weight is not strictly observed but is only imposed to keep circus fat men and similar undesirables from killing the beasts altogether."

Back in his hotel room, bathed in the comforts of air conditioning, the chairman debated the right and wrong of his ways. He can only say this: Disneyland is a fabulous place. There's something for everybody, and you won't want to miss it. In order to be sure that you don't, you should write immediately to the Statler-Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles for reservations. If we want good rooms, we must get reservations in quickly.

As to burros and mules, the chairman saith not.

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