This column appeared in The Herald-Sun in December 2013:
Thursday was Walt Disney’s birthday. If defrosted today, he would be 112 years old.
I owe him a lot, despite the fact that he left this world just a few months after my birth in 1966.
Without him, I never would’ve come up with my irreverent impersonation of “Backstage Mickey,” which proved popular at office parties after a few beers and a hummus plate.
I might not have frequently unnerved visiting relatives by declaring that “a ghost will follow you home.”
And I certainly wouldn’t have gotten my first real job, at the Magic Kingdom theme park, which opened about five years after Disney died.
When I started, if memory serves, I made about $4.80 an hour.
I worked in warehouses scattered throughout a color-coded maze of tunnels beneath the park, keeping shelves stocked with Madame Alexander dolls, stuffed Pooh bears and toy frontier rifles.
Fairly tedious work, really. Yet I credit that job for letting me hone my craft in writing for an audience.
It’s all because of the journals.
Throughout our shifts, stockroom workers would make notes about our activities, accounting for our accomplishments: “Unloaded six cages of merchandise, including 72 Mickey Mouse sweatshirts, 24 Tigger sippy cups and 48 small Care Bears. Drove two loads of broken-down cardboard boxes to the Dumpster.”
I worked a lot of late shifts and holidays. It never took me long to accomplish the more mundane chores on my plate. So, my mind would wander. I’d pick up a pen, open the journal and start writing something designed to entertain the stockroom worker on the next shift.
Back then, I was a fan of “Late Night With David Letterman,” so much of what I wrote in the beginning spun off that show, with Top 10 lists and other attempts at wacky humor.
Over time, though, it evolved into more of a strange alternate universe tale about a Magic Kingdom with politics and intrigue, complete with election campaigns with Mickey and Donald vying for control over the realm.
Co-workers seemed to find it amusing. Supervisors thought (correctly) that I was strange and wondered when I managed to get anything else done. Both reactions just served to fuel my drive to keep going.
I can’t remember how many journals I filled during my four years or so in the tunnel stockrooms. Mostly, they were kept in the Fantasyland, Adventureland/Frontierland and Tomorrowland warehouse areas. I didn’t keep any when I finally left in 1987.
Shortsighted of me, I know. I sometimes wonder if they’re still around and still legible nearly 30 years later.
Maybe I’d cringe at some of it, but it might be worth getting a fresh glimpse into the mind of that teenager I left behind.
Wes Platt can be reached at email@example.com or 919-419-6684. Follow on Twitter at @HS_WesPlatt. Connect on Facebook at facebook.com/wesplattheraldsun.