Missouriland at Yesterland.com Marceline, California

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of visiting Marceline, the town in Missouri where Walt Disney lived as a child. Then, I had the pleasure of visiting Disneyland—where I encountered reminders of Marceline.

Werner Weiss, Curator of Yesterland, October 22, 2010

Box office at the Main Street Cinema at Disneyland

Box office at the Main Street Cinema at Disneyland

Tilly sits in the box office at the Main Street Cinema at Disneyland. There isn’t much for Tilly to do because guests can wander in and out without a movie ticket. But she’s there all day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. It must be her Midwestern work ethic.

Tilly at the Disneyland Main Street Cinema

Tilly the ticket seller at the Main Street Cinema

It’s a good thing that Tilly isn’t required to do anything (except to be well-dressed and well-groomed) because Tilly is just a mannequin. So don’t ask her when the movie starts or to make change from her till.

Name tag for Tilly at the Disneyland Main Street Cinema

Tilly’s name tag

Tilly wears a Disneyland name tag that identifies her hometown as Marceline, Missouri. It’s a clever touch and a fitting nod to the small Missouri town where the family of four-year-old Walt Disney moved April 1906.

Photos of Tilly from before 2009 don’t show a name tag. As I researched this article, I couldn’t figure out how long this mannequin has been there. In old photos of the Main Street Cinema, the box office is completely hidden in a deep shadow. The logical answer would seem to be that a real, live ticket seller occupied the box office back when the Main Street Cinema required a “B” ticket or 25 cents for admission. But that’s not how I remember it. If I remember correctly, there was always a mannequin in the box office. The real, live cast member worked at the turnstile.

Box office of the Uptown Theatre in Marceline, Missouri

Box office of the Uptown Theatre in Marceline, Missouri

There’s also a movie theater in Marceline, Missouri—the Uptown Theatre, which opened in 1930. By that time, Walt Disney was an adult in California, enjoying the success of his Mickey Mouse cartoons. But the Uptown Theater has a rich history and several strong connections to Walt Disney and the company that he launched. (The Uptown Theater will be the subject of a future Yesterland article.)

Hotel Marceline location at Disneyland

East Center Street at Disneyland

Around the corner from the Main Street Cinema, on East Center Street, there’s another reference to Marceline. It’s the Hotel Marceline, conveniently located near the lockers.

Hotel Marceline facade at Disneyland

Hotel Marceline at Disneyland

You cannot enter the Hotel Marceline. The door is locked. It’s just a façade. But there are fake guests staying at the fake hotel. Stand in front and listen to activities inside.

Hotel Marceline sign at Disneyland

The entrance to the Hotel Marceline

In earlier years, the sign that now reads “Hotel Marceline” proclaimed “Disneyland Security Police.” Back then, the fake hotel was a real security station.

Former Allen Hotel in Marceline, Missouri

The former Allen Hotel in Marceline, Missouri

There was never a hotel called the Hotel Marceline in Marceline, but there was a hotel called the Allen Hotel, which opened in 1906, the same year that Walt Disney arrived in Marceline. There’s even a slight resemblance. However, considering that Disneyland’s Hotel Marceline was once a security office, the resemblance is probably just a coincidence. The Allen Hotel is no longer in business, but the handsome building still occupies a prominent corner of Marceline.

Marceline's Confectionary at Downtown Disney, Anaheim

Marceline’s Confectionery at Downtown Disney, Anaheim

The next nod to Marceline is outside Disneyland Park in Downtown Disney. Marceline’s Confectionery was one of the original stores of Downtown Disney when the shopping and dining complex opened in 2001. It’s still going strong, selling delicious sweets. Many are made in the shop’s own candy kitchen.

Candy Kitchen at Marceline's Confectionary at Downtown Disney, Anaheim

The kitchen at Marceline’s Confectionery

But is it really named after Marceline, Missouri? Or does Marceline’s (with an apostrophe-S) refer to a woman named Marceline? The official Disneyland website answers these questions with this “fun fact” about the shop: “Did you know that this shop is named after Marceline, Missouri, Walt Disney’s hometown?”

Sign in Marceline, Missouri about Marceline's Confectionary

Sign in Marceline, Missouri about Marceline’s Confectionery

The civic boosters of Marceline, Missouri spotted the store in Downtown Disney. There are informational signs throughout Marceline explaining the town’s connections to Walt Disney, the Disney family, and the company. There had once been a candy store on the ground floor of the Allen Hotel building—a fact that has been duly noted on such a sign.

Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland

Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland

The biggest connection between Disneyland and Marceline doesn’t involve a name tag, sign, or business name. It’s Main Street, U.S.A., which brings to life the business street of a small Midwestern town just after turn of the 20th century—the period when young Walt Disney lived in Marceline. Back then, Kansas Street was the town’s bustling business street.

Main Street, U.S.A. in Marceline, Missouri

Main Street, U.S.A. in Marceline, Missouri

Today, more than a hundred years later, Kansas Street is still there. Some buildings still look much as they did one hundred years ago; some have been replaced; others have been modernized with bland “modern” façades; and still others have been lost to fire and not replaced. A three-block stretch of Kansas Street through the main business district is now officially named Main Street, U.S.A. But, to tell the truth, it doesn’t look like Disneyland.

Essentially, Disneyland’s Main Street, U.S.A. is a Hollywood stage set of an idealized Midwestern business street of the period, not a replica of Kansas Street or any other real street.

But there is no doubt in my mind that Walt Disney was thinking of Marceline when he included Main Street as part of Disneyland.

The current recession has not been kind to Marceline. Before the recession, the storefronts were fully rented. Some businesses catered to tourists, while others met the needs of the local population. Now there seem to be more “for rent” signs than business signs.

Marceline’s location is both a blessing and a curse. U.S. Highway 36 bypasses Marceline three miles to the north, and the big chains, such as Walmart, opened their branches in the nearby town of Brookfield, away from Marceline. That allows Marceline to exist in its own delightful time warp. Ideally, building owners will eventually realize that the false fronts (which must have seemed like a good idea in the 1950s or 1960s) need to come down to expose the charming architectural features that undoubtedly exist behind them. As the nation’s economy improves, Marceline should also recover.

Even now, there’s plenty of small-town charm, and, of course, plenty of Disney history worth visiting.


You might be interested in these other Yesterland articles about Marceline:

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Uptown Theatre
Midget Autopia 3.0

© 2010-2011 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated September 16, 2011.

All photos in this article: Werner Weiss, 2010.