Alex’s Photography History

It was a big deal the first time I ever used our family camera.  Our Swinger had cost my folks around $20 in 1965.  Adjusted for inflation, that’s about $150, so I really don’t blame them for waiting until I was seven, even if it was frustrating to see things that I wanted to photograph and not to be allowed to.

Twenty-nine years later, we put a camera into Alex’s hands for the first time.  He was three. We were at EPCOT and Alex was really fussy. Alex was normally a very easy-going kid, so was unusual.  We asked him what was up and he indicated that he wanted a camera.  He had grown up seeing us taking pictures, so he certainly knew what a camera did by then.

We had one of those disposable cameras on us, so we handed it to him. We figured that he might be able to work out how to work the shutter button and we’d have one picture taken by him as a souvenir.  Alex lifted that camera to his eye and pushed the shutter button.  And then he advanced the film and took another picture.  You could have knocked us over with a feather.

So we bought another disposable camera for me to use (my ex had the digital camera) and continued our day. By the end of the day, we had bought him another camera, and when we went to my folks’ house the next, day, he went through a few more cameras.  And he went through a few more during our side trip to Key West that week.

And even from the very first, he had a pretty good eye.  My mom told him that she wanted him to take some pictures of people (my mom seemed to think that the purpose of a camera was to take pictures of people and absolutely nothing else).  And it seems to me that a few pictures of family members once in a while is fine, but I’ve never been that big on taking pictures of (family member) in (location) and then (other family member) in (same location) and whatever.  So Alex took a picture of my dad (whom he adores) and then my mom suggested he take a picture of his dad and me.  So his dad and I posed and Alex looked into the viewfinder and then took a step back.  He looked in the viewfinder again and took another step back.  He did this another couple of times and then finally took the picture.  When the picture came out, there were his dad and me smack in the center of the picture.  And way, off to the viewer’s right was my dad.  That kid, at the age of three, knew how to get the shot he wanted, and he wanted my dad in that photo.

Eventually, of course, we bought him his own camera, an inexpensive digital camera. He took pictures for another couple of years and then when he was in kindergarten or thereabouts, he stopped.  When he was twelve, I think, I bought him a Black Friday special camera and then another year or so later, he got the picture-taking bug again.  He has been taking pictures pretty steadily since then and has filled up, I think it’s two SD cards with pictures in that time.

My Travel Memories: Food at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Florida

On my first and probably second trips to Walt Disney World (assuming those trips would have been around first and third grades), we mostly ate crummy hamburger and hot dog type food from the “quick service” outlets like the oddly named Pinocchio Village Haus. 

Then when I was in I think it was fourth grade (I really wish we could find those photo albums!) my teacher mentioned that there was an actual sit-down restaurant upstairs in the castle.  This was the also oddly named King Stefan’s Banquet Hall.  I say that this name was odd because King Stefan was Sleeping Beauty’s father. Cinderella’s father didn’t have a name, and besides that, he wasn’t the king and wouldn’t have belonged in a castle.  As the 21st Century approached, the suits at Disney apparently decided that a woman could be the host of her own damn banquet hall and the name was changed to Cinderella’s Royal Table.

My teacher told me that we had to have reservations some number of months ahead of time, so one of my parents (likely my mom) got on the phone and made them.  And it was wonderful.  I was kind of an unusual child.  Most “kiddie foods” like hot dogs did little for me, unless they were very good, and I was a teenager by the time the chicken nugget became a common thing (discovering that one of my friends loved McNuggets may well have damaged our relationship permanently).  I did like fried chicken, but it had to be an identifiable part.

I loved King Stefan’s Table, but it was expensive, so it was a one-time thing.  Fortunately, EPCOT was on the horizon by then, and that would change my eating-at-Disney habits for good. But that’s a story for 1982 and not for Before 1977.

I do have one last Magic Kingdom eating experience to share.  It fits in with the theme of “food at the Magic Kingdom,” but doesn’t fit in chronologically.  When my now-ex and I went to Walt Disney World in 1992, we bought a cookbook called Cooking with Mickey, Volume II. This book had a recipe called “Freedom Fighter Chicken.”  My first thought was that sounded more like a superhero from a funny animal comic than an entree, but it’s really good.  It has chicken and vegetables in a sauce made from white wine and white wine Worcestershire sauce.  Freedom Fighter Chicken comes from the Liberty Tree Tavern in the Magic Kingdom, which neither my folks nor I had ever noticed was there during our 1970s visits, but I’m pretty sure it must have been, and it probably served real food at the time.  In 2003, my folks, my now-ex, my son, and I all went to the Liberty Tree Tavern for dinner.  Freedom Fighter Chicken is apparently a lunch menu item, because dinner is a family-style Thanksgiving dinner, which, as one would expect, was a little steep, but very good thus worth the money.

My Travel Memories: Walt Disney World, Orlando (more or less), Florida

Where to start?

Well, the obvious place is 1972, my first visit, but I was awfully young and don’t remember a whole lot.  I remember taking the monorail from the parking lot to the park.  My mom wanted to take the ferry boat, but I refused (more on my old fear of boats later). I also remember some of the kiddie rides, like the Dumbo ride and the Teacup ride (which was my very favorite for probably entirely too long).  I remember, without a great deal of enthusiasm, the food.  I think that was the visit where we ate at Pinocchio Village Haus restaurant with a German name, which is exceedingly odd for a restaurant that takes its theme from a movie based on a book that’s set in Italy.  Casa di Pinocchio would be more appropriate, I would think.

Sadder than the German theme was the food, if I recall.  I seem to remember fast-food type hamburgers and not much else.  I don’t think there were chicken nuggets.  The chicken nugget had been invented, but no one had heard of them yet.  That was still a good eight years in the future.

My parents and cousin went on the Haunted Mansion ride.  I don’t think I went on the Haunted Mansion on that trip yet.  I was still pretty little and very imaginative.  Even though it was all in fun, I probably would have had problems with some of it, like the head in the crystal ball. That would have totally freaked me out.  I do wonder who watched us, though.  The oldest child in our group would only have been nine at the time. Maybe my cousin’s husband watched us.

We didn’t take many, if any, photographs at Walt Disney World that trip.  I seem to recall all of the Disney World pictures in that photo album as being postcards.  Our old Swinger camera was pretty bulky and really didn’t travel very well.

This was the first of many trips to Walt Disney World.  We originally did it as a day trip from my cousins’ house, but one year my family stayed in a hotel in Orlando.  If I recall, that hotel was the first time any of us ever saw a digital hotel room lock.  I think that was the 1974/1975 school year.  Since they reprogrammed the lock for every visitor, they let us keep the key and I brought the room key back to show in school.  My most recent trips were in 1982, 1992, and 2003.  I will likely be back to discuss them in those years.

And why do I refer to Walt Disney World as being “more or less” in Orlando?  Because the resort is not actually in Orlando.  Walt Disney World is actually southwest of the city limits. Most of it is in Bay Lake, Florida, and the rest is in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  But the popular perception is that it is in Orlando, so I figured I’d better reference that, rather than putting either of the other two cities as the location.

(originally posted June 24, 2015)