Car Club Day (from Kustorama)
A Visit to Holidayland (1959)
by Todd James Pierce
To be honest, I was planning to move on from Holidayland.  I was hoping to touch down in the 1940s.  But my brief trip to Holidayland last week inspired so much mail (via the DHI Facebook Group) that I decided to spend one more week in this strange little outpost just outside Disneyland. 
I think for many regular DHI readers Holidayland appears very much out-of-step with the cultural identity of Disneyland.  But in the park’s early years, before Disneyland’s personality had solidified, Walt was still looking to traditional amusement parks for inspiration and guidance.  The Frontierland shooting gallery, for example, was adapted from traditional amusement park fare, as were the pack mules and even the Dumbo Flying Elephants.  (In conjunction with a stock ride manufacturer, the Dumbo attraction was originally envisioned as an adaptation of the octopus ride with elephant-shaped cars, but that ride system never panned out.)  Holidayland grew out of that same impulse: to adapt traditional amusement attractions and services for Disneyland.
from the LA Times

Back in the 1950s, most regional amusement parks had an event area.  These event areas were profitable because they brought large groups into the park.  The area was reserved for, say, a trade union; then the trade union sold tickets to the event and, in some cases, also to the park. 

Most of the questions I received over on Facebook asked the same thing, more or less: So what was a typical visit to Holidayland like?
Over this past week, I’ve done my best to reconstruct one visit to Holidayland.  Now, I wish I had the photos to pull together Dairy Day at Holidayland.  Dairy farmers + live cows + Disneyland = Dairy Day.  Dairy Day also included a beauty contest in which two winners were crowned—I kid you not—the Dairy Princesses.   Also on the program, the Hay Contest.  Exactly what is a hay contest? I wouldn’t know either, except that the LA Times described it in detail.  A hay contest is when teams (two men each) “race to see which can load and unload two tons of baled hay the fastest.”  Some fun, huh?
from Rodding and Re-Styling Magazine (1960)
Unfortunately I don’t have photos to pull together Dairy Day.  Dairy Day was held Saturday, Aug 22, 1959.  But I’ve pilfered enough pics to post up an event that was held two weeks later, on Sept. 5, 1959.  Car Club Day.  To me at least, this event, held just outside Disneyland proper, appears strangely divorced from the purposeful theming that was constructed inside the park.
from Rodding and Re-Styling Magazine (1960)
In 1959, the Road Lords Car Club booked Holidayland for the first annual Car Club Day.  The event was co-sponsored by a police advisory council because, back in the 1950s, car clubs were viewed as a way to refocus teenagers’ interest in street racing into more productive venues.  The event included an autocade and a lavish display of prize-winning and customized cars.  At least one person recalls that the cars—or at least some of them—cruised down Main Street before taking a parking space out on the Holidayland grass. 
from Rodding and Re-Styling Magazine (1960)
But the thing I find most unusual about this particular event is that it disrupts the visual presentation of Disneyland.  If nothing else, Disneyland is designed to remove guests from present-day America and deposit them in lands that evoke the past, the future, and realms of fantasy.  Car Club Day did the exact opposite: it firmly placed guests in present-day America without letting them enjoy the pleasant flights of imagination one usually associates with the park.
The event concluded with a nighttime dance.  Live music and couples slanting together for slow numbers.  At 1am, the band belted out its last tune.  A few minutes later, car owners were packing up their displays and revving their engines for the drive home.
Image from
One strange little side note: in 2011, a few WDI Imagineers dug up an image from Car Club Day to connect the new “Carsland” area in DCA with the early history of Disneyland.  But even WDI concept writer, Kevin Rafferty admitted that Car Club Day mainly attracted “James Dean-like guys with cigarettes.”   
The annual car event lasted exactly one year.
OK, that’s all I got for this week. You can read more about the Carsland press event in Sue Kruse’s excellent column.  You can also jump into the lively conversation on the DHI Facebook Group.  It’s free.  With luck, I’ll be back next week.  By then, Holidayland will be just a speck in my rearview mirror.

from Rodding and Re-Styling Magazine (1960)

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