The Sunkist Citrus House, next door to the Penney Arcade Yesterland
 
Working at Sunkist

 
by Ron Fleischer,
Guest Contributor

 
December 2, 1999

 
I worked at the now-defunct “Sunkist Citrus House” (and "Sunkist, I Presume") from 1966 through 1969. I was in high school when I started and was considered a “permanent part-time” employee. We were one of several “lessees” or non-Disney-owned businesses in the park. (Sunkist, Carnation, Aunt Jemima, Kodak, Upjohn, etc.) During those days it was owned by the Perricone Citrus Company (Sam Perricone) and run by B.C. “Bo” Foster. (Bo, if you're still around, thanks a million, and I miss you.)

For those who don’t know, our menu was limited to orange juice, lemonade, lemon meringue pies and orange cheesecakes. But it was unique, so we did lots of business. The Citrus House boys’ costume consisted of a yellow and white vertical pinstriped short-sleaved shirt with white collar and trim, a bright green bow tie, bright green cotton pants, and black dress shoes. We hated these costumes, of course. The girls wore yellow and white pinstriped dresses with white aprons, kind of like Alice’s (in Wonderland), white bobby socks, and black shoes. The girls disliked their costumes as much as we did ours.

I enjoyed reading the Yesterland memory from Bob Morris (July 31, 1997) about the way the juice squeezers would “automatically” process the oranges into orange juice. Of course, that was only half of the story. The other half is that it still required someone to stand there and constantly feed the oranges, one at a time, into the chute on top of the squeezer. Sometimes for very long periods of time.

On busy days the first question when you got to work was, “Do you want to squeeze and bus, or wait on guests?” Squeezing was boring, but took little thought. Waiting on guests was far more interesting, but it required that you know how to make change. Yikes! Bussing tables wasn’t too bad unless it was really hot outside and really busy inside. It was always at those times that some unfortunate, overexcited six-year-old would choose to vomit... on the table, seats, or floor... or the person sitting next to them—or all of the above. Ah, yes. The smell of sour orange juice, dill pickles, hot dogs and popcorn.

Sorry, I got side-tracked there for a minute. If my memory serves, we used size 138 oranges, meaning an average size so that 138 oranges fit into a single carton. We only used valencia oranges, never navel oranges. We also had to drive the company truck to Yorba Linda frequently to acquire the oranges. The orange juice was always fresh, never from concentrate. The lemonade was made from large containers of frozen concentrate. We had to drive to Corona to pick-up the lemonade concentrate. The orange cheesecakes were made by Marcheta's Bakery in Garden Grove. We had to go pick those up too.

Something you may not know is that the “Sunkist, I Presume” in Adventureland made the “Mint Julep” served on the “Mark Twain” sternwheeler. We would make it from the secret recipe (I know it had orange juice, lemonade, mint flavoring, sugar, and grenadine syrup in it... don't ask me the proportions) and haul it over to the “Mark” on a hand cart in stainless steel milk containers. We would always try to time it so that we were getting on the boat just as it was leaving the dock. Then we could drop off the Julep with the crew and enjoy the rest of the ride around Tom Sawyer Island.

Do you remember the electric shock machines in the Penny Arcade? Put your coin in and grab the handles. The current would increase gradually and the object was to hold on until the machine stopped shocking you, if you could. After a while it felt like you couldn’t let go anyway. That was my favorite thing in the Arcade.

I occasionally worked at the “Sunkist, I Presume” (or “I-P” as we called it) too. It was right across from the Jungle Cruise and the Swiss Family Treehouse, and across the alley from Aunt Jemima’s Pancakes. It had a more relaxed atmosphere. The costumes there were V-neck pullover Hawaiian print shirts, Bermuda shorts, and huarache sandals. Very cool. For the girls—floor length Hawaiian patterned dresses. The drawback to working in Adventureland was all day hearing the “Jungle Jocks” with their, “Please remove your ‘E’ coupon. That’s ‘E’ for extremely excited elephant...” routines. They repeated them over and over. To this clamor you can add the incessant riff coming from the Swiss Family Treehouse, and the frequent distant gunfire from blanks being fired at the crocodiles... AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

One of the attractions I never got tired of was “Slue Foot Sue’s Golden Horseshoe Revue“ in Frontierland. It starred a great comedian named Wally Boag, who use to describe himself as, “that loud, long, loquacious, lunatic who loves to deal, delve, and dabble in delirious dissertation... or in other words... I’m a traveling salesman.” It was truly a great “Old West” show.

My favorite time at Disneyland was after dark, and after the park closed. It was magic. Only the maintenance crews, a few scattered employees, and security inhabited the park after hours. All the lights would be lit on Main Street because that’s when the burned out light bulbs get changed and the streets get swept and washed down. It was so peaceful and quiet, and really beautiful. It was something the public never got to see. I guess that’s what made it special. Seeing the things no one else was supposed to see. (Nothing like seeing Mickey Mouse remove his head and light up a cigarette to destroy the Disney illusion.)

I was working at the park when New Orleans Square, the Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Haunted Mansion opened. And I was working the day “Small World” opened, which I believe was the last attraction Walt Disney personally opened before his death.

I did meet Walt Disney on one occasion. It was early one sunny Saturday morning before the park opened and the supervisors were making their last minute rounds on Main Street to make sure everything was alright before the guests arrived. I was polishing the brass foot rail in the Citrus House when a group of three men in suits came in. One was Dick Nunis, another was Jack Lindquist (behind-the-scenes big-wigs from Operations), and the third was Walt Disney himself. As they strolled through the main entrance and toward the connecting doorway to the Penny Arcade I stood up, and Walt stopped, looked at my name tag and said, “Good morning—Ron.” At this moment I was truly hoping that what I had been told about him only wanting us to call him “Walt” was true. I gathered up my courage and said, “Hi, Walt.” And that was that. It was the best. As far as I am concerned, he was one of America’s greatest men. Who else has done as much to bring happiness to the world as Walt Disney?

I grew up in southern California and graduated from Anaheim High School, so I was around Disneyland a lot. But I never got tired of it. I moved to Colorado in 1986 and have not been back since. It was my first real job. Now I’m retired, and I’m planning a trip to California this month to visit my son. I haven't been to Disneyland with my son since he was a baby, so you know one of our stops will be the Magic Kingdom, always the “Happiest Place on Earth,” at least for me. I’ve got lots of things to show him, and lots of stories to tell.

Greetings to my former co-workers, wherever they may be: Joe and John Foster, Suzy and Sandy Bird, Mark Lindersmith, Richard Marquez, Sandy Sabin, Suzy “Cheetah” Albright, Dudley Kohl, the other Dudley, Dave Lindquist, Trisha, and all the others I can’t remember right now. It was a blast.

Ron Fleischer (ronfleischer @ cox.net) lived in Windsor, Colorado, when he wrote this article. He now lives in Mesa, Arizona.

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Updated September 22, 2006.

Photograph of the Sunkist Citrus House: 1964 by Ron Fleischer.