Owen Pope and Main Street USA

While looking for interesting bits of trivia in the Magic Kingdom to share with you, I recently came across a Main Street window that brought back an old memory of mine. This window isn’t located high above your head on a second story pane, but rather on the side of the Car Barn. The Car Barn is located between the Fire Station and the Emporium and houses the trolley cars and horses being used that day in the park.

Car Barn Main Street

Car Barn Main Street Window

The name on the window that jogged my memory was Owen Pope.

Owen Pope Main Street Window

Owen Pope Main Street Window

Because I used to work at Disneyland, I knew the story of Owen Pope. But I thought he was strictly a California icon and I wondered why he’d have a place of honor here in Florida, so I did a little research.

In 1951, Walt hired Harper Goff to begin drawing up plans for the little park he was visualizing being built on the Studio grounds in Burbank. Walt also hired horse trainer Owen Pope and his wife Dolly. He wanted the couple to begin training horses for the western section of his new park. Being close to the livestock was necessary for the amount of training that was to ensue so the Pope’s moved into a trailer on the Studio lot. Besides teaching horses and mules how to behave, they also helped build wagons and coaches for the new park.

As plans for Walt’s dream changed and grew, the location of his park moved from the Studio to Anaheim. Eventually the Popes needed to move to Anaheim as well to be near the horses.

Before construction began on Disneyland, something had to be done with the houses that belonged to the former owners of the land. Walt told the Popes they could choose any one of them to live in. Their selection was soon moved to a ten acre area behind what would eventually become Fantasyland. This area was known as the Pony Farm and at one time, the Pope’s cared for as many as 220 animals. The Popes are also the only people to actually ever live at Disneyland. Walt may have had an apartment above the Fire Station, but he never lived there. This honor belongs to the Popes alone.

The Popes continued working and living at Disneyland until 1971. It was at this time that they moved to Florida to help open the Magic Kingdom. They created the Tri Circle D Ranch at Fort Wilderness where it still stands today. They retired in 1975 and it’s due to their efforts here in Florida that they earned a window at the Magic Kingdom – and it is appropriately located on the Car Barn.


But why did this window bring back memories for me? I started working at Disneyland the same year Owen and Dolly left for Florida. I never met them and I worked at Disneyland for several years before I even learned of their existence. What is to follow is a personal story that I’m not sure will be of any interest to you, but for me it’s a walk down memory lane.

After I had worked at Disneyland for four years, I interviewed for, and was selected to be, a University Leader. This is a high honor as only those Cast Members who exemplify the true Disney spirit are chosen. A University Leader serves for six months and is responsible for instructing new-hires in the Disney ways. We taught them the proper lingo – things like “costume” not “uniform” and “cast member” not “employee.” We taught them about grooming. We taught them about Disney history.

Today, this class is one-day in length and is called Traditions. But in my day, it was a two-day session and it was called Orientation. The first day was spent in a classroom and the second day was out in the park. It’s the second day that I’m writing about now.

The morning would begin at the Flag Pole in Town Square. I would read the inscription plaque to twenty to thirty new-hires and try to instill the reverence it deserves. Then we would tour the park as I pointed out such things as the “draw concept” and “forced perspective.” But most importantly, I pointed out each and every restroom. Believe me, this is one of the most commonly asked questions of any cast member.

Around noon we arrived at Bear Country and I arranged lunch for my group. Then we headed backstage and my new cast members began to learn how the magic is created. I took them to the carpentry shop and the props division. I showed them the molds and rubber that were used to create the elephants in the Jungle Cruise. As the tour continued, we moved further and further backstage. Eventually we were all the way at the back of Disneyland, behind Fantasyland and entered a classroom in the general vicinity of Owen Pope’s home.

Before I go any further, I need to give you a little Disney history. Walt was very proud of his audioanimatronic figures and often touted their abilities on his weekly television show. In one segment he demonstrates how a prototype of a Tiki Room bird can be controlled with a joystick. Eventually, this prototype (pictured on the right) found its way to Disneyland and was used during Orientation sessions.


After I got my class seated and settled down, I would present Jose. Then I would demonstrate how he could turn his head, breathe, ruffle his feathers, and talk. After my demonstration, I would select someone from the class to give it a try. It always made me feel special that I was allowed to handle this valuable piece of Disney history and touch something that Walt himself had used to promote Disneyland.

After the audioanimatronic demonstration I would turn out the lights and turn on a projector (that’s right, a projector, not a VCR). For the next 15 minutes the class would watch some awe-inspiring Disney motivational movie. It was during this time that I could escape for a few moments and relax.

Okay, here comes the good part”¦

Outside of Owen and Dolly’s house were two old oak trees. Stretched between them was a hammock. For a few minutes each Sunday afternoon, I would recline beneath a canopy of leaves and contemplate how cool it was to be in The Happiest Place on Earth, in a way very few others have ever experienced it. Millions have visited Disneyland, but only a handful of people ever laid in this hammock and enjoyed the park as I have.

The Pope’s home still exists today. It currently houses offices for the Pony Farm and can be seen on several of the backstage tours offered at Disneyland. I have no idea if the hammock still exists. Obviously if it does, it’s been replaced several times over the years.

So that, my friends, is why I chose to tell you about the Owen Pope window on Main Street.

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12 Replies to “Owen Pope and Main Street USA”

  1. Hi Jack,

    Your story is amazing and I want to say a very personal “thank you” for your article on our dear friend and family member Owen “Buddy” Pope. (Only close family members called him Buddy.) Owen passed away in 2000 in Mt Dora FL at the age of 90. We brought back Dollie to TX to live (their original home state) with us until she died in 2003 at age 89.
    They were 2 of the most wonderful people in the world. We listened for hours to their stories of Disney over the years and never tired of them. I have many, many photo’s and momentos of them and have been working on a story about them for quite sometime. I hope I can get it finished someday. Maybe you have inspired me. Again thanks, they were very special people and both worked very hard to earn that window at Walt Disney World. Did you know their monkey “Judy”?

    1. Hi Barbara,
      Was curious to know if you were able to get your story finish on Owen and Dolly Love Pope? I have been doing research on part of my family heritage and Owen turns out to be my 2nd cousin. please let me know if you were able to and would enjoy seeing photos that comes with it.

  2. Hi Jack!
    My name is Marcelo and I am from Brazil, i am a total disney freak and in fact a future cast member. See, I’m 17 and next year I’ll be on the International College Program (well, I hope so)
    and I just wanted to thank you for the amazing stories and this awesome blog

    but reading this owen pope story, made me even more wishful, even more disney lover, I am now more anxious for 2010 then I ever was
    it’s amazing how you’ve made a simple window, that most people just pass by, such a memorable thing for yourself, and for everyone that reads your story

    that window will now be one of the first things I’ll look for when I get to WDW, you’ve made it special for me too
    thank you for that!

  3. Jack, the Owen Pope story brought tears to my eyes. Very well written and I am so glad you shared your memory with us. I will be at WDW in 2 weeks and will make sure to take a pic of the window.

  4. My husband and I have been to Disneyland Paris for my birthday, the last two of three years. I really enjoy reading your blog and reliving our memories there. Tokyo Disneysea is next on the Disney list. Thanks for taking the time to share your pictures and comments with us.

  5. Jack, AllEars owes you a great debt, though I’m sure you wouldn’t agree.

    Thanks so much for allowing us to share your Disney thoughts and memories.

    Good stuff.

  6. Another Awesome story from an Awesome individual. Thank you so much for these bits of trivia. I enjoy reading each and every one of them!!!!

  7. Well we are off to Paris tonight and on Thursday the 23rd we get to go to Disneyland Paris for the day! Thank you for all of your advice and views of Disneyland Paris! It is just for the day but I feel I can navigate it better thanks to you!!

    ps. I loved your story about Owen Pope and the hammock! A memorable moment to be sure! Thanks for sharing.

  8. Thanks for sharing your memory. It’s interesting to see the human element of such a large company. To me that’s what makes history interesting–not the big important figures, but the everyday people that lived and helped along the way.

  9. Your blog has the best stories, not only on the AllEars® site, but on the entire web. The photos are the best of all. Thank you for the quality of your content. However, after following your blog for more than a year, I am extremely curious. How do you get to spend so much time at WDW and all the others all over the world? Are you independently wealthy or do you have some really neat job? Thank you.

  10. Thank you for sharing. I love hearing stories like yours. Using a piece of Disney history that Walt himself had used, WOW! a privilege in itself.

    Subsequent comment from Heather:

    From being very small I have vivid memories of a programme we used to get here on holiday weekends and Christmas. It was Disneytime and usually presented by the A list British celeb at the time. It was only 30 -60 mins long and we used to gather excitedly around the TV waiting to see if our favourite clip would be shown.

    When I was six years old I was allowed to stay up and watch the news as Roy Disney officially opened the Magic Kingdom. I was snuggled on my Dad’s lap and I asked him if we could go there. At the time it was so expensive to get to USA and it just wasn’t feasible for the money to stretch for 2 Adults and 5 kids to get us there. He never ever said ‘NO’ but answered ‘One day chicken, one day…’ He died before we could go there together but as long as I can get to WDW or even just hear stories like yours my dad will never be far away. He was a Disney nut too.

    Once again thank you for sharing and I discovered all ears by pure accident one day and have visited daily for almost 5 years. Keep up the great work you all do on the blogs, I look forward to the updates.