Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 82: A Universally Different Vacation

Episode 82 Website CoverTravel back to this past summer as my family and I talk about our trip to Universal Studios Orlando. First up, you’ll hear Brett tell me all about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter; then, Amanda and I give our impressions of the theme park.

You can listen here:

iTunes:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download 

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 55: Where Dreams Come True (Summer 2015 Part Two)

Episode 55 Website CoverThe summer 2015 recap continues with a Walt Disney World episode! Join me, Amanda, and Brett as we head to Orlando in July and cover past and present vacations, what we loved doing, what we loved to eat, and a little bit of Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure!

Here’s where to listen:

iTunes: Two True Freaks Presents Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download

Two True Freaks Presents: Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

And now for some bonus material!

During the show, I talk about my past experiences at Walt Disney World and also read the section on the now-defunct EPCOT Center ride Horizons found in Walt Disney World: A Pictorial Souvenir, which was published in 1984 and I received either right before or during my first trip to Walt Disney World in 1985.  Below are some scans of the book for you all to enjoy.

First, the cover:

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The beginning of the section of The Magic Kingdom, featuring a gorgeous evening shot:

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Main Street, U.S.A.  I particularly like this page because of the perspective in the picture on the lower left.  You don’t get that view very often.  Plus, I have to admit that the lack of a crowd in the picture on the lower right is amusing:

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Two of the pages on Fantasyland.  I chose the first because of that gorgeous shot of Cinderella’s Castle with the purple sky behind it.  The second, I chose, because it has a picture of the skyway that ran over Fantasyland but closed in 1999 (fun fact: Disneyland had a similar skyway, which took you through the Matterhorn, which sounds awesome):

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A quick look at Tomorrowland, which is definitely one of the lands of the magic kingdom that changed the most since I was a kid.  I rode the Astro Orbiter for the very first time this year, although I have to admit that part of me wishes I’d ridden it back in the day when it had its classic look:

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The opening of the EPCOT Center section of the book, complete with the old EPCOT Center logo.  I own two vintage-style T-shirts with the logo:

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The two-page spread about the EPCOT Center attraction known as Horizons.  This is the section of the book I read on the air.  A little more history about Horizons:  it opened in 1983 and was part of the “phase II” of EPCOT construction/attractions.  It closed in 1994 but was reopened in December 1995 and then closed permanently in 1999.  The attraction was completely disassembled and demolished and is now the home of Mission: Space.  You can see some of the pieces of the Horizons ride on display in the lobby of Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream theater in Hollywood Studios.

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Another defunct ride in EPCOT is the GM-sponsored World of Motion.  This was one of the original EPCOT Center Future World rides before it closed in 1996.  The building still remains, as it was refurbished for what is now the Chevrolet-sponsored Test Track:

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CommuniCore is the original name for what is now known as Innoventions in EPCOT’s Future World.  The buildings haven’t changed in structure–they are still two half-circles right behind Spaceship Earth–and there are still restaurants and gift shops.  The original exhibits were more thematically linked to the various pavilions in Future World, but the Innoventions ones seem to be more of their own thing.  If I may editorialize for a moment, I hope something more interesting is done with Innoventions because while some of the exhibits and interactive games are pretty cool, it seems like there is a lot of wasted space in those buildings:

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The page on Canada in the World Showcase.  Because Canada is awesome, has one of my favorite gift shops in EPCOT, and there’s a guy playing a tuba:

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One of the souvenir guidebook’s pages on the Contemporary Resort hotel.  This one was always a personal favorite of mine, as I think it is with a lot of kids, because it’s the one that the monoral drives through.

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Here are some pages on Discovery Island, the now-closed zoological park that was part of the Walt Disney World resort until 1999.  And if you’re interested in more, here’s a link to a blog post by Shane Perez, who explored the closed facility in 2009:  The Photography of Shane Perez — Discovery Island:

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River Country was Walt Disney World’s first water park and operated seasonally until November 2001.  It was scheduled to reopen in 2002 but that never came to be and the park now sits abandoned:

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One of the other resorts that you could stay at in 1984 was the Golf Resort Hotel.  The property has since been sold off and from what I can tell is no longer part of the Walt Disney World resort; however, if you’d like a trip down memory lane, the blog Passport to Dreams has an excellent post about it from 2012:  Passport to Dreams–Return to the Golf Resort:

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Two other areas that have been around since the park’s earliest days in the 1970s are Lake Buena Vista and Walt Disney World Village.  I am not sure if Lake Buena Vista still functions as a resort the way it did back in the 1970s and 1980s, but you can still shop at the Walt Disney World Village.  Except they don’t call it the Walt Disney World Village anymore–it was renamed Disney Village Marketplace in 1989, Downtown Disney in 1997, and Disney Springs on September 29, 2015:

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Finally, a look ahead at what was coming to Walt Disney World in 1986, the new EPCOT Center Future World attraction known as The Living Seas:

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Summertime has come and gone and everybody’s home again …

A 1970s-era Shasta advertisement, although my grandparents had a different model.

I suppose it’s only appropriate that on Labor Day weekend, I keep thinking of sunsets.  I have seen some gorgeous ones in my lifetime in all sorts of settings, but if I had to choose my all-time favorite sunset it would have to be the one I watched when I was seven years old and spent a couple of nights at the beach with my grandparents.

Now, if you’re my age and come from the south shore of Long Island, a summer at the beach means taking the ferry over to Fire Island for the day, and an overnight probably means that you are staying at someone’s house, either out in the Hamptons or as part of whatever share you have on Fire Island or somewhere else.  But Grandma and Grandpa Chopping were part of a different sort of beachgoing culture, one that doesn’t get as much attention as it used to back through the middle of the Twentieth Century.  Instead of a beach house or time share, they owned a camper; specifically, a 1978 Shasta Camper, which they used to take every summer to the RV camp site at Smith Point County Park, which makes up the easternmost part of Fire Island.

Shasta, along with, say, Winnebago, is often associated with the RV and camping subculture that still exists and I’m sure that people who still hitch a trailer to their cars or drive their camper to a park would say is still going strong.  After all, most national and state parks still have campsites and in my travels both up and down interstate highways on the eastern seaboard, I have seen my fair share of signs for campgrounds.  Although, to be honest, I associate Shasta campers and trailers more with ephemera from the 1950s than with the 1980s of my childhood.  I hear “trailer” or “camper” and I think of spage-age-looking silver trailers with check-pattern tablecloths on the fold-away table and a family of four very happy people using a campsite grill for that evening’s dinner. No, really, like something out of an old Dick & Jane book or an ad for the suburbs.

The bathroom of a 1970s-era Shasta, which had a very 1970s-era color scheme.

And for a while I think that it was.  The Shasta brand is pretty well-recognized and if you do a search for the campers and trailers you see those classic models (which sometimes come in the red and aqua you might associate with that era.  However, what my grandparents owned was manufactured after Shasta had been bought by a competitor, Coachman, in 1976 and it had less of the charm of the 1950s and more of the stifling interior design that you’d expect from the 1970s.  The floor on the inside was a deep brown carpet and every single surface was some other shade of brown, right down to the wood-looking laminate that covered the particle board composite counter.  Even the dashboard of the camper’s cab was a light mocha, as were the padded steps of the ladder that led up to the “Grandma’s Attic” where we could sleep.  This, of course, was in addition to the harvest gold and rust orange stripes that ran across the side and the front of the camper, which itself had the same sort of utilitarian design that so many cars of the late 1970s and 1980s did.  But it did take leaded gas (or “regular”), which I don’t think that many people born after 1990 are that familiar with because it’s been at least that many years since I saw a “regular” pump next to an “unleaded” pump at a gas station.  But back then, when they pulled out of the side yard of their house near the foot of Foster Avenue, my grandfather would lumber the camper down to what was then an Amoco station on the corner of Foster and Montauk Highway and pull up to the yellow regular pump to make sure he had enough to make it all the way out to Smith Point.

Once More to the Twine Ball

The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota, which is the subject of an epic “Weird Al” Yankovic song.

For years, I have identified with E.B. White in “Once More to the Lake” as he takes his son to a lake in Maine where he and his father used to vacation when he was a boy.  He expects that in the thirty years or so since he first visited that lake–a time in which American had fallen fully in love with the automobile, among other more “modern” conveniences–much of it will have changed and the visit will be a disappointment.  To his surprise, though some of modern American life has crept in, the lake is mostly the same to the point where he sees himself in his son and his father in himself.  It’s an essay version of Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s Cradle” (though written thirty years prior) and the sort of tale that you probably would aspire to associate with your life.

Alas, I can’t lie anymore and say that when I think of Kezar Lake in New Hampshire, where my parents still spend two weeks every July, I think of E.B. White.  Because the truth is, I think of Weird Al.