Sunday, February 22, 2009

Freeze Frame

CIRCARAMA, Disneyland's original motion-picture-in-the-round, was a gotta-see-it Tomorrowland attraction from Day One in 1955.
A spectacular 360 degree tour of the American West - spanning the Sunset Strip to the Grand Canyon - viewed on eleven screens in a giant circular theater. First-time visitors must've been utterly bowled-over by the effect.

But that's not why I've brought you here today. Oh, no. We're going to find another wonder of early Tomorrowland: the FOODARAMA!


Got your ticket?
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As your eyes adjust to the indoor lighting, here's our first view of the theater. Not quite what you expected? Yep, there really are five automobiles parked in here! All sparkly fresh 1955 models by American Motors. But what's really surprising is the absence of ropes or stanchions protecting the displays! Evidently, people of the Fifties were well-behaved and respectful of everything.

Moving to the center of the room, we pass a sporty two-door Metropolitan within our reach. (Well, what do you know... there are fingerprints all over it!)

Glancing back at the entrance, half of the room looks like a Nash dealership...
...while the other half resembles an appliance center!
Let's look around. Try to resist the temptation to tug door handles, or twist the knobs on the washing machines, okay?

And *Gasp* there it is! The fabulous new FOODARAMA by Kelvinator!!

The Rolls Royce of Refrigerators

The "last word in foodkeeping," the futuristic FOODARAMA can hold 166 pounds of meat in its freezer, has a handy Breakfast Bar for eggs and bacon and 2 pitchers of juices, Cheese and Butter Chests, an aluminum foil dispenser, and even an unrefrigerated bin for bananas!

Imagine that! A special bin in your refrigerator that is unrefrigerated! Now that's something!

And the FOODARAMA offers much more. You see, not everybody here in the 1950s can afford a kitchen full of Kelvinator appliances like Donna Reed or June Cleaver have on television. A quarter of American families in 1955 (approximately 50 million people) were poor working class folks - people who had saved their way through the war, and not terribly long before that, had faced the hard times of the Depression.

Extravagances such as the FOODARAMA embodied optimism for a tomorrow stuffed to the rafters with bountiful plenty. Even Richard Nixon, in his famous 1959 "kitchen debate" with Nikita Khrushev, asserted that the superiority of capitalism over communism was not in ideology or military might but in the comforts of the suburban home, "designed to make things easier for our women."

Author Stephanie Coontz in her excellent book The Way We Never Were comments, "Acceptance of domesticity was the mark of middle-class status and upward mobility." By the mid-fifties the "glorification of self-indulgence" in family life was at the center of the postwar American dream.


Okay, shush now, everybody. The movie is about to start, and it's a good one!
As the lights begin to fade, I wonder...will the little light inside the FOODARAMA stay on?

11 comments:

Major Pepperidge said...

Well, I was out of town, so my comment gets to stay. Hooray!

This was an AWESOME post, thanks so much for all of the great photos. Foodarama, who knew. I am a sucker for this kind of stuff, it all resembles displays at a Museum of Science and Industry.

Thanks!

George Taylor said...

Fantastic post, Kevin!

It is rare to see the inside of attractions but even rarer to see what sponors displayed.

Thanks!

designerd said...

WOWEE!
Kevin, I have been reading your blog for the past year and love every update, but something about this one forced me to speak up ( I think it was the Nash Met! ) and thank you for the awesome blog. As a current environmental design student I have drawn a lot of inspiration from these great old designs. When I'm not hunched over a sheet of vellum I work seasonally on Disneyland's Fantasmic! and get to enjoy your work 5 days a week (and get paid too)! Keep up the great work, on the blog and in your designs!

Thanks!

PTA Transit Authority said...

Kevin, this is true Disneyland history. Much of it I personally witnessed. Great memories. Thank you, Richard.

Chris Merritt said...

Amazing. SImply amazing.

Progressland said...

Those are amazing photos of the Circarama interior! Being used to the larger, 1967-era theater that didn't have appliances around the perimeter, it's shocking to see how cluttered the theater is.

My only disappointment is that the video at the end of the post wasn't "A Tour of the West"!

Kevin Kidney said...

Progressland - Imagine how tricky it would be to get those 11 little YouTube screens to align properly!

Designerd - Great to hear from you, and so happy you find inspiration here. I could spend a lot of time with these images just letting my imagination run around in them. Best of luck with your studies, and hope all those viewings of Fantasmic don't wreck your sanity!

Thanks everyone for your comments!

Pete Emslie said...

Gosh, I wish I had a Foodarama by Kelvinator! Of course, I'd probably find it most useful as a storage unit for my DVD library...

Mr Banks said...

Oh dear lord, I wants me one of those amazing Foodaramas! It's only 47" wide, too!!!

Matt Hunter Ross said...

amazing post, Kevin! I had no idea kelvinator even existed, but man, I'm glad it did!

Eli said...

Hello,
I'm curious about the opening day at Disneyland with the Circarama. Do you know if video exists of the opening day ceremony with Hillary Brooke. Also the Nash Ambassador car that was used during the opening day. I as gifted the orginal script from that broadcast. (Disneyland, June 27, 1955) and i'd like to match it with any surviving video of that day. Thanks! my gmail acct is:
eye.would(at)gmai1.com thanks!