Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Tinkerbell, Buster Brown Shoes, and Santa Ana Winds

Cary Stolpestad submitted some nice memories of growing up in Orange County, including Disneyland, Tinkerbell, roller skating, television, and x-ray machines at the Buster Brown store...

Since Big House was two stories, towering over the one story tract homes, we had a perfect view of Disneyland's fireworks everynight out of the upstairs windows. My dad, an Orange County fire captain, once went on a call to unstick Tinkerbell, whose cable tangled midway between the castle and the Matterhorn. He broke our Disney bubbles when he announced at dinner that Tinkerbell was really a man.

On payday my mom went to the main firestation to get Dad's paycheck. I've heard the station became a youth center and later burned, but in the 1960's it was a child's dream come true as it had a brass firepole that would quickly trasport you from the upstairs dorm to the firetrucks parked below. Neither Knott's nor Disneyland had a better ride.

Life was grand in the old days. When the Santa Anas blew we'd put on rain slickers and roller skates. On the sidewalk we'd open up our rain slickers like giant outstreatched wings, and then -zoom! - the wind would propell us down the street at frightening speeds. Often our metal wheeled skates would catch a little rock, and we'd experience the worst scabbed knees and palms imaginable.

My dear neighborhood pal, Carol, was named after Christmas Carols as her parents were listening to them on the hi-fi when they received a call that a baby was available for them to adopt if they could come down and pick her up now - Christmas Eve. They did, but I'm not sure her mom ever adjusted to children as every stick of upolstered furniture was covered with plastic and there were plastic runners throughout the house for us to walk upon. Her mom always had the best kid snacks, such as Moon Pies and Otter Pops, but Carol's mom dolled them out through the kitchen door so we could receice and eat them in the garage. They moved out of Clinton Ave. tract house to the first developments going in at Knoll Ranch.

After dinner car trips to the Carnation Ice Cream Parlor on Tustin Ave., Sunday dinners st Knott's, experiencing "lung burn" from swimming during smoggy afternoons, watching Hobo Kelly and hoping she'd put on her magic glasses and say, "I see a present under Cary's bed!"... yet she never did. To this day I still sometimes get the "Go see Cal, go see Cal, go see Cal" commercial stuck in my head, and I still wonder if Cal ever had a real dog in his backyard or if his kids had to play with bears and alligators and monkeys.

My sister and I also wonder if we will die an early death as we always were taken to the Buster Brown shoe store, just off The Circle, for our shoes. They had an x-ray machine that you put your foot into to check to see if the new shoes fit properly. As Mom paid for our shoes we'd stick our newly shod feet in and out of that x-ray machine over and over and over again. Radiation maximus.

We moved from OC in 1967. Our one acre of paradise, surrounded by oceans of tracts, wasn't the OC life my parents remembered, nor the smog choked life they wanted us to lead. They bought a plum and peach ranch in the San Joaquin Valley, and moved us, two dogs, four cats, and 47 rabbits (who traveled in cages systematically stacked inside our ski boat) to start farming anew.

Visiting OC in the 1970's and 1980's always seemed a little too busy, smoggy, crowded. Visiting Villa Park stilled seemed low key and country, yet in the 1980's the old dump road, that ran up the canyon behind one grandparents' house, became a road leading to million dollar houses, not a road leading to the dump. Go figure.

Cary Stolpestad
(part of the Thomson, Popplewell, Workman, Smith, and Bennett clans)


  1. I live right around the corner from that old Buster Brown shoe is now the garage of a house......I think the sign on the garage is still visible.......I will see if I can get a picture and post it....

  2. Someone mentioned the Buster Brown store. I totally remember that place! It was so fun to go there, I loved it. They had a wooden carousel that had wooden horses that you could ride. I also remember the big shoe that was a house and you could go inside? Cant remember if that was Buster Brown's or Standard Brand shoes. Either way, what memories! thanks!

  3. The X-ray machine at Buster Brown shoes was a novel and fun attraction, but when my sister and I both were diagnosed with thyroid cancer recently, the Dr. asked if we ever frequented the Buster Brown shoe stores. Yikes!! Little did we know we were radiating our thyroids all those fun times leaning over to look at the x-rays of the bones in our feet. Those machines would never be allowed nowadays.

  4. My father owned a store that had a Buster Brown shoe x-ray machine. We would use the machine every time we would go to visit his store. My brother (age 62) and sister (age 60) have both had thyroid cancer surgery. Every 1950's "Buster Brown" child should include in their annual physical a check for thyroid cancer. Very interesting what your Dr. said..

  5. John Thompson? Richard Workman?

  6. Richard Workman of Villa Park (VP Class of 1965?) was Cary's uncle.

    When he passed away in March 2008 -- at the age of 61 -- he was still as tall, tan, and lean as he was at the age of 16. What had changed was his means of transportation as he had decades earlier traded in his VW Bugs and Buggies for Chevy pickups for they better served his professional needs as a carpenter.

  7. Thank you, guys/gals for these wonderful memories! My 1950's/60's childhood was spent mostly in the "across-the-tracks" town of Norwalk, so by proximity, I share all the OC memories as well. Fascinating about Tinkerbell! I actually Googled 'tinkerbell' & surfed onto this site because I was remembering watching "him/her" get ready to get on the cable before the 9 pm fireworks were starting-- around 8:45 pm-ish at Disneyland ... and I was curious if anybody had posted about the history of that particular nightly acrobatic feat! :-)
    Question: Did Tinkerbell only "fly" in the Summer? That's my recollection.
    I'm so glad there are other sentimental saps out there like me! Take care, fellow boomers!

  8. Hi Cary. Chris C here.

    My dad worked as assistant to Tommy Walker at Disneyland from 1960 or so to after Walt died ('68?).
    I would go to work with him many summer days. His office was above the Court House. Saw lots of cool things there. One day, I looked out of his office to see a little old lady, light hair up in a bun, talking to some of the other execs. there. I asked who she was - "That's Tinkerbell" my dad said. "Oh, yea. Right, that little old lady's Tinkerbell...." But, she WAS. He said she used to work in the circus doing highwire acts. Maybe the person your dad saw was one of the people who took over after she died.
    Dad got all the talent for things like to parades, etc.

    Also, funny story: I heard a phone conversation there between one of the workers out in the park and the secretary in the offices. She said they needed help. Some kid just kicked the MadHatter character in the teacup!....... Look up picture of that character's costume. The "teacup" is held by long fabric arms, down around the (ouch!) area of the poor person performing in the mascot costume that day!

  9. I moved to Newport Beach in 1993 as an East Coast transplant. I was so hoping for the 1960's and 1970's Orange County. I'm in the automotive performance industry, and thought it would be a PCH beach cruise life. Low life latinos (as opposed to the respectable latinos)ruined it. Modern society ruined it. Wish it could have stayed as it was in the 60's. My wife, born in 1971 La Habra and raised there convinced me to move to Indianapolis suburbs in 2007. I miss California, and my sentimentality paints a rosy picture. Yet I know it can't be the old times anymore.


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