For the love of Disney

Brian WilkinsonSeptember 26, 2012 

Whether you're 7 or 77, it's near impossible to stand in front of a Disney memorabilia display without a smile washing over your face. That was the case at the Sept. 22 Disney Daze event at Oakhurst's Masonic Lodge.

"The kids usually come running up shouting 'Mickey, Mickey.' Even the most grizzled person can't help but smile when they see the display," said Judith Pansarosa, who along with her husband Chuck, had a booth at the event selling hundreds of Disney items.

The display featured iconic Disney figurines from the 1930s and 1940s including Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Bambi, Dumbo, Tinker Bell, Goofy, Pluto, Pinocchio, Snow White and Cinderella. In addition to the icons, Disney fans could also find items from the original 1955 opening of Disneyland and the era of Walt Disney, along with Disney connections with World War II, the Olympics and Coca-Cola collectibles.

Other vendors had more recent Disney characters such as Buzz Lightyear and Woody from the movie "Toy Story," Ariel from "Little Mermaid" and Beauty and the Beast merchandise.

"We like to focus on vintage pieces from the Disneyland park opening in 1955, but we also have items priced from $1 for children to buy like Pirates of the Caribbean promotional coins and Disney collector cards," Judith said. "We try to have a wide range of prices so even children clutching their pennies can purchase something they will be happy with."

Chuck said Disney memorabilia collectors come from all walks of life and all economic levels, but they all have one thing in common -- Happy memories of Disneyland.

Judith said Disney memorabilia is keeping its value despite the sluggish economy.

"During the Great Depression and wartime, live entertainment and movies did well because people would go to a Disney or other movie or a live stage performance to escape the harsh realities of life during that period," Judith said. "And it's pretty much like that today with Disney memorabilia. A serious Disney collector will not hesitate to buy an eight-inch tall vintage Cinderella porcelain figurine planter from the 1940s for $500.

Judith said the three areas in the antiques and collectibles world that have maintained their value and allure are Coca Cola, Disney and railroad items.

Chuck started collecting as a young boy in 1955 (the year Disneyland opened), putting on his official Davy Crockett boots and pulling his red Radio Flyer wagon around the neighborhood looking for treasures.

He got serious about antiques and collectibles opening a booth in Fulton's Folly Antique Collective in Fresno's Tower District 23 years ago. The business grew and became Antico Antiques & Collectibles

"We don't have any Disney items in the store," Chuck said. "We started doing Disney shows three years ago separate from the store."

Judith said they were looking for something to do in addition to the store when they both retire from their Fresno teaching positions and decided on Disney memorabilia due to the name recognition.

"Disney merchandise has an instant appeal to people all over the world," Judith said.

Judith said they believe in honoring history and passing on collectibles that once meant something special to somebody.


Special guests

Special guests at Disney Daze were Margaret Kerry and Donald W. Ballard.

Kerry, at the age of 23, was the model for Tinker Bell and Ballard has written two colorful books on the history of the world-famous Disneyland Hotel.

Kerry, 83, called Tinker Belle, who became well-known from the animated Disney film "Peter Pan," 'beguiling.'

"She was bad but we adored her," Kerry said. "I think she changed the direction of women associated with Disney forever -- She was curvy and wore a low cut costume, much different from Cinderella."

Her first show business job was in "Our Gang" comedies when she was 4 years old. Since then she has acted in numerous movies and television shows including three episodes of "The Andy Griffith Show," and has done close to 50 voice-overs for more than 600 animated shows.

She remembers the day she went into labor with her daughter Christina and her husband, Richard Brown, told her to wait because he had an important appointment that day with Walt Disney.

"In those days, husbands were not allowed in the delivery room, so he dropped me off at the entrance to Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital and drove off to seer Mr. Disney as I walked up the steps of the hospital with my suitcase in my hand."

Kerry said originally Disneyland was going to open on eight acres near Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles and was going to be called "Mickey's Village." That plan changed said Kerry, because Disney had property in a town no one had heard of at the time -- Anaheim.

The 5-foot-2 Kerry hopes to release the book she has been working on for 13 year, "Tinker Bell Talks: Tales of a Pixie-Dusted Life" in early 2013.


Ballard is the author of "Disneyland Hotel 1954-1959" and "Disneyland Hotel -- The Early Days 1954-1988."

It was shortly after Walt Disney decided to build his theme park in Anaheim that Los Angeles/Dallas industrialist Jack Wrather began construction on a nearby 30-acre site for the $10 million Disneyland Hotel.

The hotel ground-breaking ceremony was held on March 18, 1955. The first 104 rooms of the 650 room hotel opened that same year on Oct. 5 with no signage. The grand-opening was held in August 1956. Room rates ranged from $9 for a standard room to $22 for deluxe quarters. At the time, adult admission to Disneyland was $1 and the cost for attractions and rides in the park ranged from 10 to 35-cents each.

Ballard's two books are full of historical photos, reproduced promotional material and detailed information about the hotel. His collection of Disneyland Hotel memorabilia includes 7,000 photos, 20,000 documents and rare 16-millimeter films.


Karen Jones of Clovis, brought her two daughters to the show for the third time.

"Our whole family loves everything Disney," Karen said. "My daughters love seeing all the Disney items and they get to pick out a collectable to take home."

The event was sponsored by 49 EARS, a chapter of the National Disneyland Fan Club.

According to Joanna Spence, club president, about 200 people attend the show, down a little from last year.

"It's a great little show," said Spence. " We have people attend not only from the Mountain Area, but also from throughout the Valley. Disney Days offers some expensive, hard to find Disney collectable items, but also many items that are reasonably priced for Disney fans."

Almost 90 items, including 70 gift baskets, filled with Disney items donated by club members from their personnel collections, were available at a silent auction.

The show made about $1,200 for the area non-profit groups.

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