Tuesday, December 28, 2010

'Disneyland Dream' lives on

I had never heard of Robbins Barstow until Frank Rich wrote about him in his New York Times column this week.

And Rich admitted that he had never heard of him until he came across Barstow's obituary in the Times last month.

Barstow is noteworthy because of a home movie -- "Disneyland Dream" -- he made in 1956. He and his family entered a Scotch brand cellophane tape contest that promised winners a trip to Disneyland, which had opened to great fanfare in Anaheim, Calif., the year before.

According to The Times, little 4-year-old Dan Barstow submitted a winning entry: “I like ‘Scotch’ brand cellophane tape because when some things tear then I can just use it.”

For most Americans -- and I would think especially those who lived east of the Mississippi -- a trip to Disneyland was out of the question. In 1956 one-income American families were chasing the dream of home ownership first and amenities second.


"When the ship comes in," my mother would say in answer to her children's verbalized wants. (I was never sure whether the ship was in the middle of Lake Erie or the Indian Ocean.)

Barstow, who with his family resided in Connecticut, saw the contest as an opportunity to deliver the Disneyland Dream and his movie chronicling the process and subsequent trip was admitted to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress just two years ago.

It captures the spirit of "Ozzie and Harriet," "Happy Days" and "Father Knows Best" and, well, you get the idea.

"Disneyland Dream" might seem rather dorky to Generations X and Y but for us Baby Boomers it epitomizes the Davy Crockett period of our youth.

(The Barstow family sports Davy Crockett coonskin hats and jackets during their trip. Full disclosure: I had a Davy Crockett coonskin cap and my own Davy Crockett dinner plate.)

Rich's essay asks if the Disneyland Dream is dead. I don't know about that. Maybe it is. Maybe we killed it willingly. Let that debate carry on elsewhere.

I think "Disneyland Dream" is worth watching if for no other reason than to really feel America the way it was. According to The Times, the Library of Congress called the Barstow film “a priceless and authentic record of time and place.”

Thanks belatedly, Robbins Barstow, for sharing.

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1 comment:

Scout said...

I could only fantasize about a trip to Disneyland or Disney World as a kid—it was never a real possibility until my marching band went—they still used E tickets for the best rides, and we were given a ration of them. My parents pinched every penny to keep the house and buy food, but now my mother wishes she had gone to Disney World just once. The splurge would have been worth the financial strain, but that generation so rarely allowed themselves such a treat.