In May 1974, RBOY drove me home from Brooklyn College. We decided to go for a bite and took the scenic route to Original Pizza, on Canarsie's fabulous Avenue L.
TODAY'S ORIGINAL PIZZA, THE LAST VESTIGE OF THE "L," FROM THE 70's.
While we ate, summertime plans dominated the conversation. RBOY mentioned that getting jobs in Florida at WALT DISNEY WORLD (WDW), might be a fun "working-vacation." I was intrigued as RBOY told me more. We got back into his car. As his enthusiasm for this great adventure grew so did mine. My house was only ten blocks away but I was sold before we got to Avenue M.
He said, "We should call down there today."
Reflexively I said, "Stop the car, we can use the phone in Grabstein's." LIKE AVENUE "L," THE REST OF OUR NEIGHBORHOOD CHANGED. THE STALWART KOSHER DELI FROM THE 50's TO EARLY 90's HAS BEEN REPLACED BY A CHINESE TAKE-OUT, APTLY NAMED, "LONG WON."
In the back, three steps up from the dining room, between the two restrooms, Grabstein's had an old-fashioned sit-down pay phone with the louvered door. RBOY armed with a load of loose change sat down and started the process. I stood next to him and paced like an expectant father in the narrow passageway that separated the kitchen from the rest of the restaurant.
RBOY was told that there was a wealth of entry-level positions open for the summer. We decided to proceed without a promise of employment. In mid-June, we packed our bags as soon as our our semester was over. Coincidentally, RBOY's folks were driving down south, so we rode halfway with Millie and Bernie.
Our scenic route to Orlando continued when we were dropped-off at the tired, old bus depot in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Before we went in, we learned two lessons from a blond bus driver loading suitcases. These insights helped shape our realization that there is a different and at times cruel world beyond the bounds of what we think is right and/or used to.
First, that southern accents were difficult to understand. The driver's answer to our question about the next bus to Orlando was answered in an unintentional Foghorn Leghorn voice and concerned the fact that he already had lunch. We all had a good laugh after we sorted that all out.
Our next question involved the bathroom's location. This gentleman made it clear that we shouldn't use the small one on the ground floor because it was, "for the help." When we saw the set-up, his statement became a grim reminder of a by-gone time when segregation and Jim Crow Laws were the norm.
RBOY and I arrived in the Orlando Greyhound station only to find out that we still had another one-hour bus ride to Disneyworld. Sixty minutes later, we were brimming with positive energy as WDW came into view. The bus dropped us off in front of the employment center. Complete with luggage and looking disheveled from 24+ hours on the road, we entered the serene office. Fifty teenage applicants dressed as if they were going to the sophomore prom plus another twenty clerical workers all stopped to gape at us as if we were Ratzo Rizzo and Joe Buck from, "MIDNIGHT COWBOY."
We took a number and to the beat of elevator music, filled-out forms. When we were finally called to a woman's cubicle, we were told before she even looked at our applications that the only jobs available were food service or sweepers. I pictured us flipping burgers over a hot grill in the Florida heat. RBOY agreed that was a bad idea.
We chose to be sweepers, at $2.40 an hour, at a time when $2.25 was minimum wage. The interviewer then whispered that for an extra nickel an hour, we can follow the horses in the parade. RBOY and I certainly would have failed the concept of, "anything for money." We politely turned her down.
She continued scanning our paperwork, grimaced and asked, "Where do you live now?" We had already told her our saga of coming from New York so she was concerned when we said, "We'll start looking for a place after we get the job." She said, "Sorry, we can't hire you unless you have a permanent address and reliable transportation."
She took our case to a higher court. Luckily, her supervisor gave us the number of a place that catered to seasonal Disney employees AND provided shuttle service.
We called "THE YOUNG AMERICAN INN, (YAI)," in Kissimmee and they still had limited availabilities.
YAI was a failed Ramada Inn. They offered a modern, yet standard motel room with two king-sized beds...and no TV...for $95.00 a month. YAI had a pool, restaurant, gift shop and an hourly shuttle to Disney. We said okay even before we realized it was a teenage Disneyland of its own. But they wouldn't give us the room without a job. It was the classic CATCH-22 until we put both parties on the line at once and begged.
Disney orientation was long and boring. When it was suddenly over, RBOY and I were caught off-guard. We only heard the part about reporting to Hartford Hall. Being knuckleheads, we were too inhibited to ask the presenter to repeat himself.
WE READ A DISNEY MAP AND COULDN'T SPOT A RIDE, ATTRACTION, SHOP OR RESTAURANT CALLED HARTFORD HALL.
Our first stop was the Hall of Presidents. Nobody there could help us. It was the only place on the map with the word "hall." While continuing to aimlessly wander, we invented a system of looking pitiful and asking pretty girls for directions. Some of them loved our foreign accents and we loved their lost-puppy sympathies. Others must have felt threatened by our yankee-ness and ignorantly led us astray. All of their help left us zig-zagging the park for over an hour. Along the way, we saw other sweepers using two tools of our trade that we learned about in orientation.
The "AVAC" machine was a 1974-era, industrial strength-sized, state-of-the-art garbage disposal. On the outside, it looked like a porthole. Inside the round door was a mnemonic-like tube that sucked trash underground to be treated and carted away.
"ZIP-ZORB," was a saw-dust-like substance that was spread over vomit. It's job was to dry up the mess, absorb the stink and make it easy to sweep-up. I vowed to RBOY that I'd run the other way before getting involved with that.
RBOY (right) BECAME THE GREAT TOILET MAVEN OF FRONTIERLAND. HIS JOB WAS KEEP ALL THE PAPER FILLED IN THE THOSE RESTROOMS AND SWEEP-UP THE AREA. I WAS A REGULAR SWEEPER IN FANTASYLAND. HE LASTED THE WHOLE SUMMER. ME, I DIDN'T DRINK THE DISNEY KOOL-AID. I DIDN'T SEE HOW CLEARING $78.38 FOR A 45 HOUR WEEK...WITH A 90-MINUTE COMMUTE IN EACH DIRECTION WAS A PRIVILEGE. I QUIT DISNEY AFTER THREE WEEKS AND BECAME A WAITER AT RED LOBSTER.
Under the broiling sun, we were exhausted. Our scenic route to Hartford Hall felt like we had walked 20 miles. RBOY declared that we were completely buried. He spotted an older hostess, (she was probably younger than we are now), and said, "Let's ask her." To save face, I went through the preliminaries of saying stuff like; its our first day, before saying, "They told us to report for our first assignment at a particular building. But its not on the map and nobody ever heard of it." She said, "Oh. Where did they send you?" RBOY shrugged, "Hartford Hall." The woman's reaction combined shock, anger and sarcasm, "You two finally found the one person in the park that could help you." Her pause caused our eyebrows to raise in anticipation before she added, "Wanna know why you can't find that building...because Hartford Hall ain't no building...he's a person...he's my son."
MY WORKING VACATION IMPROVED WITH RED LOBSTER. MY HOURS, PLUS COMMUTING TIME WERE CUT IN HALF AND MY INCOME MORE THAN DOUBLED. I EVEN OPENED UP A SAVINGS ACCOUNT AT OSCEOLA SAVINGS BANK ON ROBINSON AVENUE, (KISSIMMEE'S MAIN DRAG). IT WAS NEXT TO SCHULTZ BROTHERS USED FURNITURE AND UP THE ROAD FROM THE WAFFLE HOUSE. PHOTO TAKEN IN THE YAI PARKING LOT.