Sunday, May 27, 2018

now it's time to say goodbye to all our company

In the summer of 1980, I made my first trip to Walt Disney World.... and I didn't even want to go. 

I had graduated from high school just a year earlier and hadn't yet decided what I wanted to do with my life. My friends had all taken the expected educational path and were enrolled in college. But not me. I was working as a cashier at a clothing store as I pondered a suitable (and lucrative) direction for my career. I considered going headfirst into retail — except I hated it. I had been drawing since I was a child, but the thought of making a living at it was inconceivable. I had always heard of the proverbial "starving artist" and I didn't want that to be me.

My friends and I began kicking around ideas for a trip — our first collective vacation sans parents. As summer was approaching and the school year (at least for some) was drawing to a close, a vacation sounded like just the thing we all needed. We quickly dismissed a week in Atlantic City, as that was the "go-to" option we were compelled to take for most of our lives. We wanted to really go somewhere. Somewhere to which we'd never been. We all agreed on Florida, but where exactly in Florida was a point of contention among us. I voted for Fort Lauderdale, lured by my older brother's tales of flowing beer and bikini-ed girls. My friends Alan and Scott suggested landlocked Orlando, home of Walt Disney's variation on his "Disneyland" theme. I frowned at the idea. "An amusement park?," I whined, "I don't want to spend a week at an amusement park!" I was debated and cajoled until I finally relented. Little did my 19-year old self know that by agreeing to go to Disney World, my feelings for all things Disney were about to do a complete one-eighty.

I scraped together every spare cent I could and even had to borrow the last few dollars to purchase my very first airplane ticket. Soon, my friends and I found ourselves face-to-face with actual palm trees of which we had only seen pictured in geography books. Our rental car took us to the ritzy (in our perception) International Inn, dead center on the main drag of bustling International Drive in Orlando, a thoroughfare so exotic in our sheltered eyes that it boasted an International House of Pancakes at either end of the street. We were definitely not in Philadelphia anymore. We checked into our room, tossed our luggage where ever it landed and headed out to the first liquor store we could find. Unlike Pennsylvania, where the state-run Liquor Control Board holds a tight grip on the distribution and sale of distilled spirits, alcohol flowed freely and was as readily available as Coca-Cola (or in Florida's case — Mr. Pibb). And four rambunctious, uninhibited Yankee 19-year-olds took full advantage.

Twenty bucks including tax.
On our first full day in Florida, my friends and I stuffed ourselves with the fine offerings from Davis Brothers breakfast buffet (where a mere five bucks allowed me to eat more waffles in one morning that I had eaten in my entire life up to that point). We piled into our rental car and tooled on over to the Magic Kingdom, the only Disney theme park in Central Florida at the time. We made sure we each had our coveted two-day, all-inclusive Magic Kingdom "Passport" that we had purchased under the guidance of  the travel agent with whom we had arranged our trip. Yessiree! Our "passport" would allow full access to every attraction the Magic Kingdom had to offer without having to fuss with those pedestrian "letter" tickets. As we passed through the turnstile, our admission ticket was hand-stamped by a smiling young lady in a Disney-branded plaid vest and skirt. I began to feel a twinge of actual excitement breaking through my previous "vacation cynicism." This was pretty cool. And perhaps, I thought to myself, this place is something more than an amusement park. The combination of a loud, steamy tooooooot from an old-fashioned train just above our heads, the low tones of a unseen calliope, the distinctive rhythmic tinkle of ragtime piano chords, the scent of fresh popcorn and the sweet aroma of flowers was putting my senses into euphoric overload. A grin stretched across my lips as I scanned the free park guide map, trying to decide which attraction would be my inaugural foray into an eventual lifetime of Disney.... hell, I'll say it.... obsession. I raced with my friends up Main Street, weaving around the crowds, making a slight left toward the path marked "ADVENTURELAND" in decidedly primitive-looking letters arranged across a wicker arch that spanned the walkway. Jungle drums beat out an ominous cadence. Giant palm trees bent down, creating a cool, secluding canopy that effectively blocked out the gaiety on Main Street, a mere fifty or so feet away. We tackled The Swiss Family Treehouse first, making our way up and down the narrow rope-and-plank staircases that threaded through the enormous trunk. On first glance, the whole thing is quite impressive, but, when you realize that not a goddamn thing in the entire place is real — that's when it hits you just how impressive Disney World is. It was the kick-off of a surreal day filled with rollicking pirates and singing bears and spinning teacups and gas-chugging race cars and 999 happy haunts and eighty dolls singing small world after all.

Gotta have 'em.
At the end of my first taste of the immersive world of a Disney theme park, my friends and I made our way towards the exit, but not before an obligatory stop at The Emporium — the largest gift shop in the Magic Kingdom. Excitedly, I sorted through the bins and displays and racks of Mickey Mouse-emblazoned tchotchkes. I began grabbing everything! And I do mean everything! Buttons! T-shirts! Pens! Posters! Magnets! I started filling a shopping basket as my bewildered friends marveled at my behavior. They had never seen me so... so.. possessed, at it were. They also seemed curious as to why I was wasting precious beer money on black felt Mouse ears with "Josh" stitched across the back. When the dust finally cleared, I lumbered out of the store with several bags brimming  with all sorts of Disney treasures.

And that's where it all began. My hobby. My pastime. My collection.

I visited Walt Disney World many more times after my initial trip, including my honeymoon and a wintertime vacation when Mrs. Pincus was about six weeks pregnant. Actually, when I met the future Mrs. Pincus, we each had a small collection of Disney items from previous theme park visits. Her family had been to Disneyland in '68 and to Disney World just after its 1971 opening. When we married, our collections were merged in much the same way as her Grateful Dead albums were placed alongside my Queen albums, but without as much cacophony.

Each visit yielded more and  more Disney items added to "the collection." What had once been a little assembly of cute figurines, novelty buttons and a smattering of ephemera on a single shelf in a spare room now swelled to three full bookshelves and soon an entire room and it showed no signs of receding. Books and toys (still pristine in their packaging) stood meticulously positioned alongside vintage glassware and novelty lunchboxes, all distinct in their inclusion in the Disney canon.

Our Disney collection was expanding almost at the same rate as Disney expanded their theme park roster worldwide. Of course, we obtained items from Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong and the Shanghai locations, as well. My wife and I were always on the hunt for that elusive object that we didn't even know we were missing until we saw it. We had housewares and mugs and records and the much-sought-after "cast member" items... oh, all kinds of stuff. Guests at our house would smile, and yet, scratch their heads, pondering why two adults would have a roomful of kids' stuff. In their defense, it was a pretty good question.

Just before our son was born, the entire collection was moved (by me — in a single night) to a heretofore empty room on the third floor of the home we had purchased a few months earlier. Of course, we purchased a lot of Disney toys and related items for our new baby, as did family and friends who figured that he had no choice but to become a "Disney Kid." Our son E's room was subtly appointed with Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh, in both plush and plastic formats. We watched Disney video tapes as a family and E was a fan of cable TV's fledgling Disney Channel. As E grew up, he would often ask people whose houses we visited if he could see their "Disney Room." He just assumed that every house had one. His house did, as well as the standard living room, kitchen and bathroom, so why wouldn't they have a "Disney Room?" When his requests for a tour were met with confusion, I suppose that's when he figured out his parents were not like other parents.

Over the course of thirty or so years, between numerous vacations to Disney World, Disneyland, Disney merchandise outlets, Disney Stores, eBay auctions, flea markets and collector shows, our "Disney Room" grew and grew and grew. It became legendary among friends, relatives, friends of friends, coworkers and other acquaintances. At our yearly "Night Before Thanksgiving" dessert soiree, invited guests would climb the two flights of stairs to the third floor of our house and cram themselves into the ever-shrinking space in the center of the "Disney Room." With each passing year, the walls seemed to close in a little more and fewer people could fit in the room at the same time.
(click to enlarge... if you dare)
When my parents passed away in the early 1990s, I became concerned about what sort of mess my son would be left with when my wife's and my time on earth has run its course. I certainly didn't want to leave a house full of shit like my parents left me. While our house is way more orderly than the chaotic shambles my parents called "home" (and stocked with way cooler stuff), Mrs. P and I toyed with the notion of thinning out our household accumulations — including our beloved "Disney Room." With our 60th birthdays looming in the not-too-distant future, we really gave "liquidation" some serious thought.

Then, this past February, came the unthinkable. I lost my job. At 56, it was quite scary. Not knowing when my next employment would begin, my wife and I tightened our belts, swallowed our pride and started in on the bittersweet task of dismantling and selling off a lifetime — our lifetime — of Disney memorabilia. At first, it was hard. Very hard, as a matter of fact. I scanned the room and reluctantly cherry-picked a few nondescript items. A book. A die-cast car. A yo-yo. A doll. My wife, who has maintained an eBay store over twenty years, patiently schooled me on the ins-and-outs of listing items on the world's largest internet auction website. The first weekend of our "little project" was admittedly tough, but as the days went on, it was actually a freeing and fun experience. I began to gather up items with zeal. I was not nearly as discerning as I was when the project began. Certainly not as discerning as when I was originally buying the stuff. I was on a mission and that mission was clearing those shelves to both generate income and not leave an abysmal burden for our son. Every weekend afternoon, my wife and I sit side-by-side and list our prized possessions. And little by little, the room is noticeably emptying. For the first time in thirty years, I am able to see the backs of the shelves. Some surprising items are generating interest, while others — ones I thought would be most sought after — are ignored by what is obviously a new crop of collectors who don't share the same sense of nostalgia as Mrs Pincus and me. There is activity among DuckTales and TaleSpin items, a Disney cartoon that was popular when I was 26, so there's this "window of opportunity" for the older, more collectible pieces that may have closed when were were still happily admiring our accumulation. Nevertheless, the majority of our collection is selling at a fairly brisk clip.

Am I sorry to see the stuff go? Not nearly as much as I thought I'd be. As a matter of fact, as the weeks go on and more of our collection is sold, I am less and less concerned. Recently, my son had the opportunity to give the Disney Room a "once-over," grabbing stuff that he had singled out and desired over the course of his lifetime — stuff that, at one time, was off-limits to the touch of a child's hand. He took a mini Pirates of the Caribbean music box from Tokyo Disneyland that he had been eyeing for years. (Actually, my wife had to yank it from her eBay store, as it was already available for sale.)

If you have ever been to my house — I'm sorry — but the "Disney Room" is no longer accepting visitors. If there was something you saw on a shelf that you secretly wished you could own, now is your chance. Take a look at the Disney items available in Mrs. P's eBay store and auctions.

There's enough stuff to fill a room. But it's going fast.

Click here for a panoramic view....that no longer exists.


  1. I'm glad you're finding liberation in the process. I've been going through a similar process lately with basement stuff, though I'll admit that I rather tenderly wrapped up Thumper and Daffy and decided to keep them :)

  2. Sorry to hear that you were laid off. I'd suggest becoming a freelance writer (you've got the chops), but then again, selling your Disney collection is probably MUCH more lucrative

    1. Thanks, Sheri. I am once again gainfully employed, but the selling of our collection still continues.