Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Whale of a Tale....Happenin' Down the Street Around the Corner

Hello, readers!

I had other plans, but I think I ought to start a new post for you all with a whole tale. It was intended to be just a "Down the Street Around the Corner" to Walt's Barn in Griffith Park, but the more I thought about it, the more I think this is a story to be shared, hence the half title "Whale of a Tale".

These Disney puns for blog titles working for anybody?

Alright, it's best to begin at the beginning.  Or at least half way through.

In 2013, I met the Disney Legend Marty Sklar at the D23 Expo.  To those who might not know, Marty Sklar is the International Ambassador for Walt Disney Imagineering, having started by writing a Disneyland newspaper, and coming to the company full time upon graduation from UCLA in 1956. He has been a major figure in the Disney theme parks for decades. Anyway, I met him when he did signings of his first book, "Dream It! Do It!: My Half-Century Creating Disney's Magic Kingdoms". As is often the case with the grand old men and women of the Walt era, he was kindly and personable as he autographed my copy. I took it home and eventually read it.

To my surprise, I found out, through the book, his father, Leon Sklar, was a teacher, and actually taught and was principal of Banning High School, the closest high school to my home, and the school many of my family members went to (my grandmother and her siblings certainly). When I told my family this, my grandmother said the name Sklar had sounded familiar.

As one does, we mentioned this story to my Uncle Manuel. For a little more background, my grandmother is the 8th of 13 children.  Uncle Manuel is the 9th sibling.  Not only did he remember Mr. Leon Sklar, but Mr. Sklar was a mentor to him and quite formative in his education.

(And if you think the possibility of Mr. Feeny of Boy Meets World going from middle school to high school with his students isn't believable....Mr. Sklar went from Wilmington Junior High to Banning with my grandmother and her siblings of that age. Yet another funny little Disney connection in an unlikely place.)

When the 2015 D23 Expo rolled around, my mother and I decided to take these memories and deliver them TO Marty Sklar.  We wrote these remembrances down (well, Mom did; her handwriting is pretty as heck) and at an autograph session, we explained the situation to Marty. He was quite touched by the whole story.

With the letter, we also enclosed a picture of my grandmother and uncle at Ariel's Grotto in Disney California Adventure, to more adequately put a face to a name, along with my mother's business card, just in case.

My mother and myself with Marty after
presenting him with the letter regarding his father.

It proved to be a smart move.  A few weeks later, my mother received a letter at work - from Marty Sklar.  It was addressed to my grandmother and great-uncle, thanking them for their memories of his father.  To those who don't know, the Sklars are a very learned family.  In fact, Marty called himself the Black Sheep of the family, being the only member (including his daughter) who isn't in academia.

Well, Sir, I beg to differ.  He has taught a generation of Imagineers how to bring magic to millions of people all over the world. And, as a retiree, he teaches us the history of how all that happened.  Now, if you're reading a Disney blog, you're obviously already a fan, so I don't need to convince you.  But, to those who don't think Disney is important...then I ask why it has survived? Because it's meaningful...and anything meaningful has something to say, to teach.  Marty Sklar has and continues to do his part in teaching us all through theme park experiences.

What does this all have to do with Sunday at Walt's Barn? Well, we finally had an opportunity for my uncle and grandmother to meet Marty.  Up to this point, only my mother and I had met Marty.

It was actually a really nice day, weather-wise. I don't know that I have much more to say, I feel the pictures truly to speak 1,000 words and more as to the kind of moment, the kind of connection this was for all three.  Marty, my Uncle, and my Grandmother.

I can report Marty did say how emotional this moment made him, and I can imagine so. My family, as his seems to be, is very close, and to have someone you love brought back to you in such a way.... The Chinese believe that people are connected by an invisible thread, no matter how far apart they are physically.  The thread Leon Sklar left his son, Marty, and to my Uncle Manny, met again on Sunday in the shadow of Walt Disney's Barn. It's the kind of story I believe Walt would have liked.

The Golden moment my Uncle and Mr. Sklar finally meet.

Now, since we were here to see Marty, I don't have much to report on the Barn just yet.  I plan to come back on another one of the Sundays it's open to get a better look. (Also, my camera was not cooperating with me. Frustration and heat are a bad mix.)

Marty signed his own autograph next to his father's in my Uncle's  yearbook.
Two autographs 50 years apart from one family. 

It was, still, such an important experience to see and go into the barn.  It really anchors you to the man behind the empire.  Just a guy, like any other man of his time, with a hobby.  One of the things that continues to cement his legacy is the fact that Walt was just an ordinary man, who did extraordinary things.  Exhibits like Walt's Barn are wonderful examples.  I hope non-Disney geeks also take the time to see the Barn and all its treasures, including artifacts from Disney artists Ollie Johnston and Ward Kimball.  It really causes my heart to swell, to see the fun and hobby activities that enabled these fine men to do the incredible work they did.

Here are a few pictures, as I said, just for a taste.  I will certainly be coming back for another experience at Walt's Barn, located in Griffith Park.

OK, so in the next couple of weeks, I'll be posting a review of Pete's Dragon (finally!) and a nice little tribute to the 60th.
The Barn itself.  Breathe it in.

Walt's own railroad coveralls.

Everyone have a great week, and remember to #SavetheTower!

This is actually from Ollie Johnston's backyard railroad. 

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