A journey back in time on Main Street U.S.A. uncovers author’s ‘Disney side’

The latest marketing effort from the PR folks at the Disney parks urges guests to “show the world your Disney side.” For many fans, that simply means posting photos and video, acting goofy and showing their love for the iconic brand.

A young Hurricane Hayward enjoys his first visit to the Magic Kingdom in December 1972

A young Hurricane Hayward enjoys his first visit to the Magic Kingdom in December 1972. Finding the location of this photo today became quite a challenge.

But to truly show your Disney side, you first have to find it. My search was a bit more complicated than most. It started with my first visit with my future wife in 2009, involved a trip back in time to 1972 in search of a mysterious turn-of-the-century street, and culminated with a simple haircut.

I recalled most of this story in a letter published in the March/April issue of Celebrations, a magazine for fans of the Disney theme parks, resorts, and films. Below are more details along with the story’s conclusion.

My first visit to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando was in late 1972. I have vivid memories of the Main Street parade, the Haunted Mansion, the monorail, and much more. Over the years, the few photos that remained from that trip continued to remind me of that initial exposure to the magic. But it was another 37 years before I returned, and much had changed by then.

The magic was rekindled thanks to my new bride, a Disney World fan who re-introduced me to the monorail, the Haunted Mansion and many other wonders of today’s Disney World. We honeymooned there and have been returning several times a year, always discovering something new on each trip, from the restaurants and resorts, to quiet and cozy bars, to exciting new attractions.
[Click here for the full story of my rediscovery of Disney World]

At the former site of West Center Street in the Magic Kingdom, Hurricane Hayward locates his 1972 photo spot in December 2012

At the former site of West Center Street in the Magic Kingdom, Hurricane Hayward locates his 1972 photo spot in December 2012. (Photo by Susan Hayward)

During 2011 (the 40th anniversary year of the Magic Kingdom) and into 2012, I thought it would be fun to “re-enact” a few of the photos of me from 1972. The shots in front of Cinderella Castle were easy [see photos], but there was one that had us stumped.

It was a picture of me on what looked like a quaint turn-of-the-century street, but it was nowhere to be found in the Magic Kingdom. We scoured Main Street U.S.A. and looked around Liberty Square on our next trip, but the site was elusive. We figured that it had been part of a long-ago renovation and we would never be able to find it. But on our last trip of the year, I showed the old photo to a manager in one of the Main Street shops and asked if he had any idea where it was taken. He didn’t know, but he took the time to escort us to the front of the shop, where there was a longtime employee who had worked at the Magic Kingdom since opening day.

The older gentleman looked at the photo and knew immediately where it was: West Center Street, which was removed decades earlier to make way for the expansion of the Emporium retail store (about midway down the left side of Main Street if you’re looking at the castle). He helped us find the exact spot, and I was able to re-create the photo almost 40 years later to the day.

Hurricane Hayward gets his first haircut at Harmony Barber Shop in December 2013

Hurricane Hayward gets his first haircut at Harmony Barber Shop in December 2013. (Photo by Susan Hayward)

I later learned in a Celebrations article by Disney expert, author, and podcaster Lou Mongello about the rich history of Main Street, the heartbeat of the park that’s based on Walt Disney’s childhood hometown at the turn of the 20th century. I found out that West Center Street was the site of many “lost shops” and was the original home of the Harmony Barber Shop. It was the first working barber shop to be located inside a Disney Park and remains on the west side of Main Street near the entrance. (The only other Disney park to feature a barber shop is Disneyland Paris.)

It’s here that my story comes full circle and my Disney side is revealed. In December 2013, I finally got my first haircut at the Harmony Barber Shop, fully connecting with my childhood discovery of Main Street. I found my Disney side by rediscovering and embracing my inner child, learning that it’s never too late to enjoy the magic.

The “first haircut” at Harmony Barber Shop is a rite of passage for youngsters, but there were plenty of man-children like myself there as well (men can get an old-fashioned shave). I got a very nice haircut and even got to play with a Buzz Lightyear toy. Note to those who want to try this: Make a reservation to avoid a wait, though I’ve heard walk-ups are not difficult during non-peak seasons. And at $19 (plus tip), it’s not a bad deal compared to other Disney World experiences. A small price to pay to find my Disney side.

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* Modern Retro Disney World: Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room
* Artists shine amid copious crowds at Walt Disney World’s 40th birthday party
* Disney World is still cool at 40 thanks to retro artists
* See all the Disney World posts

About Hurricane Hayward

A professional journalist and Florida resident for more than 30 years, Jim "Hurricane" Hayward shares his obsession with Polynesian Pop and other retro styles on his blog, The Atomic Grog. Jim's roots in mid-century and reto culture go back to his childhood in the 1960s, when he tagged along with his parents to Tiki restaurants and his father's custom car shows. His experience in journalism, mixology, and more than 20 years as an independent concert promoter make him a jack-of-all-trades in the South Florida scene. A graduate of the University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications, Jim is a longtime web producer for The Palm Beach Post. In his spare time, he has promoted hundreds of rock, punk, and indie concerts under the Slammie Productions name since the early 1990s. In 2011, he launched The Atomic Grog to extensively cover events, music, art, cocktails, and culture with a retro slant. Jim earned his nickname by virtue of both his dangerous exotic drinks and his longtime position producing The Post's tropical weather website.
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