Monday, July 06, 2009

The Birthday Cake Room


Happy Birthday to you, dear blog readers! Welcome to the Birthday Cake Room, that odd circular gallery at the rear of the Disneyana Shop!  Why don't you come on back and check out some of the beautiful paintings hanging around in here (and I'll be darned, there's one by me!)

What's that you say?  You didn't know this was the Birthday Cake Room?

For many years, I'd hear older Disneylanders refer to this little space as the Birthday Cake Room, and I often wondered why.  Perhaps, as some said, it was simply because the room was shaped round like a cake. Or maybe, as others believed, it was built to house a giant pastry for one of the early birthdays of the Park.  

Well, that answer's nearly right.  Here's the real story behind the Birthday Cake Room...


Sam McKim's 1955 rendering of Swift's Birthday Cake Room

In 1955, April to be exact - only 4 short months before Disneyland was set to open - Artist Sam McKim was asked to sketch a small alcove that could be built at the back end of the Market House.  The store, equipped with marble counters, large glass jars, cracker and pickle barrels, and a pot-bellied stove, was sponsored by Swift & Co. Meats, a company signed on to be a major sponsor in the Anaheim park. Besides keeping those pickle barrels stocked in the Market House, Swift would be providing beef, bacon, poultry, cheese, butter and ice cream to two new restaurants (namely, the Red Wagon Inn and Swift's Chicken Plantation in Frontierland) -- AND they were going to co-sponsor the nationwide opening day telecast.  

So, when it was announced that 1955 also happened to be the company's 100th year in business, a special room in the Market House was set aside to house a huge fake birthday cake... a cake "with 100 candles and topped with the Swift Centennial emblem."  Windows cut into the cake's sides showed scenes depicting "a century of progress in food preparation", as the press release described it.  There were pictures of wood-burning stoves, antique iceboxes and modern refrigerators, great-grandpa butchering a steer and great-grandma cooking a pot roast. It was a veritable carousel of progress in the form of an eight-foot tall layer cake.  Man, what a party!


The new unbirthday cake room, circa 1967 

After the celebrating was over the big dessert was rolled out of there, and the open space became a charming getaway from the crowds in the Market House.  A collection of antique nickel-operated music machines tinkled out old-timey tunes for happy folks who wandered back to enjoy a cookie and a cup of apple cider. 


Hank, honey, get up and 
put another nickel in, 
in the nickelodeon... 


Special details, such as these ceiling ornaments, seen in Sam McKim's original concept drawing remain in the Birthday Cake Room to this day.


Through the open doors above we see the 1967 Burry's Cookie Shop - formerly the Swift Butcher Shop, and our current day Disneyana Shop!   The wall separating the two rooms has since been opened for easy entry into the galleries.  No roadblock to get in your way as you head for that wall of big figs!

14 comments:

Dan said...

WOW, Kevin... That's an awesome piece of Disneyland history!

I was just in there a month ago, and figured the room was designed to maximize presentation space for wall art. Guess I'll have to fly back to the west coast to truly appreciate it!

Dig the blog like no other: thanks for making our Disneyland experience richer, and the internet a better place to be! - Dan

Emily said...

That sounds wonderful...and magical! Thanks so much for sharing. Obviously, I never knew the history, but have been in that lil' gallery plenty of times.

I remember seeing some of Jody's paintings (or maybe giclees) from a series similarly themed to your little boy and girl in disneyland...in that "birthday cake room". There was one of his which featured dumbo in the air. Do you know if any prints are available from that series? I love them.

Thanks,
Emily

Viewliner Ltd. said...

I agree Dan, this is some serious Disneyland history. Sam McKim... what a genius. Great post Kevin.

jedblau said...

Really, really interesting.

Anthony said...

Neat little Disney factoid, Kevin!

Wish I could have seen it in its heyday... but then, I would have loved seeing all sorts of lost Disneyland treasures, back-in-the-day!

Kevin Kidney said...

Thanks all! Archeological tidbits like this are the icing on the cake for me.

The only thing that would have made this post REALLY good would be an actual photo of the Swift Birthday Cake. I've never seen one and haven't met a living soul who has. Start searching everybody!

Major Pepperidge said...

Thanks for this fantastic piece of Disneyland history - - definitely something I have never heard about before!

George Taylor said...

Fantastic post, Kevin!

I love the Theme Parkeology articles that I run into on the web.

Chris Merritt said...

Amazing post! I've never even heard of this before...

Vintage Disneyland Tickets said...

WOW! I'm a little late on this post, but, WOW! This is the same room that was described in the July 1955 edition of Swift News (link) I just figured it was never built. I'm going to the park tomorrow and although I have seen this area before, I'll pay special attention this time. Thanks Kevin, Amazing photos!

Matterhorn1959 said...

Wow- great post and great research. I have not seen any images of the cake, or even of the room post cake. Thanks for the information.

outsidetheberm said...

Great post and great photos. That alcove was always a favorite spot for relaxing and listening to the player pianos etc. - a nice 'secret' place. Thanks, Kevin.

Progressland said...

I'll echo everybody's comments above - "Wow!" I particularly like that it has an official name--makes entering it in the thesaurus easier. :)

Katella Gate said...

I nominate this for the "Most Remarkable Disneyland Post of the Year" award.