Pop Half-Century: The Signs of Disney’s Pop Century Resort

Richard Mercer
AllEars® Guest Columnist


Feature Article
This article appeared in the April 23, 2019 Issue #1022 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)


Editor’s Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.


Pop Century sign

During my stay at Disney’s Pop Century Resort some time ago, I took photos of all the signs on the grounds commemorating events from 1950 to 1999. For guests of "a certain age", this is the story of our lives. All it needs is a good soundtrack!

Below are the notes on the signs for each year. My commentary on some (but not all) of the events follows, with thanks to Wikipedia and numerous other sources. Most (but not all!) of my commentary is serious… and true!

1950: The most popular PEZ dispensers to date are Mickey Mouse and Santa Claus. The comic strip "Peanuts" goes into syndication.

Peanuts started syndication on October 2. Charles Schulz was 28.

1951: Color TV becomes available in the U.S. Willie Mays starts with the New York Giants and is named rookie of the year.

The first color broadcast was the Tournament of Roses Parade on January 1, 1954. Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color premiered on October 27, 1954.

1952: Comedienne Lucille Ball wins an Emmy for "I Love Lucy." The show also stars her husband, Cuban band leader Desi Arnaz. That same year, they sign an $8 million contract, the largest in TV history.

1953: For an unprecedented fifth straight year, the New York Yankees win the World Series, defeating the Brooklyn Dodgers four games to two.

1954: Dr. Jonas Salk licenses his polio vaccine. In Brown vs. the Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court rules against segregation in public schools.

1955: DISNEYLAND opens in Anaheim, California. (On July 17!) The word "smog" is first used to described the combination of smoke and fog that hangs over U.S. cities.

Pop Century

1956: A record 54 million TV viewers tune into "The Ed Sullivan Show" to see Elvis Presley, who tops the charts with "Heartbreak Hotel", "Don’t be Cruel", and "Blue Suede Shoes."

1957: Utah becomes the last state on the Navaho Nation to give voting rights to Navahos. Frisbee disc throwing sweeps across U.S. college campuses.

1958: A Hula Hoop costs $1.98. 25 million are sold in two months. The Grammys are awarded for the first time.

Among the winners of the first Grammys were David Seville and the Chipmunks. Yes, seriously!

1959: Alaska and Hawaii are admitted to the U.S. Frank Lloyd Wright’s creation, the Guggenheim Museum, opens in New York City.

With the addition of Alaska, Texas was no longer the largest state!

1960: 10,000 screaming teenage fans greet the Beatles when they land at JFK Airport in New York City. The Fab Four then perform live on "The Ed Sullivan Show".

It was February 9. They played "All My Loving," "Till There Was You," "She Loves You," "I Saw Her Standing There," "I Want to Hold Your Hand", and "Why Don’t We Do It in the Road". OK, not exactly. "Why Don’t We Do It in the Road" IS a 100 percent legitimate Beatles song, but it was recorded and released in 1968 on the White Album (titled "The Beatles"). Hence it was not performed on the Ed Sullivan show, and surely would not have been even if it were available!

1961: The Gateway Memorial Arch, created by Eero Saarinen, is completed in St. Louis MO. Soft contact lenses are invented.

1962: Astronaut John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the Earth, circling the globe three times. Sam Walton opens the first Wal-Mart.

Glenn’s feat was achieved on February 20. Yuri Gagarin was actually the first man to orbit Earth, on April 12, 1961. The first Wal-Mart opened on July 2 in Rogers, Arkansas.

1963: In the largest civil rights demonstration to date, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers his "I Have a Dream" speech. Kodak launches the instamatic camera.

King’s speech was given on August 28 at Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. Sales of instamatics ended in 1988.

1964: The census shows women heading to work in record numbers, up to 34% from 25% in 1940. The Laser is created.

The number for women in the workforce is now at about 57%. And I think "Invented" is a better term for the laser.

1965: Chubby Checker’s number one hit, "The Twist", sets off a dance craze. Miniskirts are shown as haute couture at the fashion houses of Dior and Courreges.

Pop Century

1966: The Clean Water Restoration Act is Passed to combat pollution. Sci-fi series "Star Trek" makes its TV debut.

Despite the Clean Water act, the Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969! Yes, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio, did in fact catch fire, and had to be put out by fireboats! Of course the water itself didn’t burn, but a layer of industrial pollutants and chemicals floating on top of the river did catch fire. And by the way, Star Trek’s debut was actually on September 8, with an episode called, "The Man Trap."

1967: Thurgood Marshall becomes the first African American appointed to the Supreme Court. Disney’s "The Jungle Book" swings into theatres.

1968: The first cash dispensing machine is installed by First Philadelphia Bank. Hollywood releases; "2001: A Space Odyssey," and "Yellow Submarine".

1969: Astronaut Neil Armstrong steps out of Apollo 11 and walks on the moon. Woodstock Rock Festival opens in Upstate New York.

Armstrong’s moon walk was July 20. Woodstock, August 15-18.

1970: 126 runners show up for the first New York City Marathon & run around Central park four times. The Environmental Protection Agency is created to control air and water pollution.

1971: Walt Disney World Resort opens in Orlando, Florida. Intel produces the first microprocessor chip.

Walt Disney World opened on October 1, and shame on you if you didn’t already know! Intel’s chip was "The 4004."

1972: "Pong", the first video game, is introduced to the public. The Miami Dolphins go undefeated and win the Super Bowl.

1973: The Sears Tower in Chicago opens as the tallest building in the world.

The tower is
1730 feet.

Pop Century sign

1974: "People" magazine is launched by Time, Inc. Hammerin’ Hank Aaron breaks Babe Ruth’s career home run record.

Ruth had 714, Aaron finished with 755. Barry Bonds currently holds the record with 762.

1975: Microsoft, located in Seattle, Washington, is founded by Paul Allen, age 22, and Bill Gates, a 19-year-old Harvard drop-out.

As drop-outs go, Gates did OK.

1976: America celebrates its bicentennial. Barbara Walters joins ABC NEWS as the first women to co-host the network news.

That is what the sign says; obviously it should be "woman".

1977: "Saturday Night Fever" inspires a worldwide disco-dancing craze. Woody Allen’s "Annie Hall" wins the best picture Oscar.

And "What’s Up Tiger Lily" finishes last… What? Woody Allen did in fact make a movie titled "What’s up Tiger Lily", released in 1966. In fact, it was his directorial debut, and perhaps is best described as the type of movie that young men ages 13-21 might dream of making, i.e. a sophomoric farce. Quoting Wikipedia: "Allen took a Japanese spy film,International Secret Police: Key of Keys, and overdubbed it with completely original dialogue that had nothing to do with the plot of the original film." It turned into a quest for the recipe for the perfect egg salad.

1978: U.S. fitness craze is launched when 200 million pairs of sneakers and over 620,000 copies of Jim Fixx’s "The Complete Book of Running" are sold.

The US population was 226 million. I feel sorry for the 26 million who didn’t get new shoes.

1979: A nuclear accident at Three Mile Island causes over 100,000 people to evacuate. Health food sales total over 1 billion dollars.

1980: In Washington state, Mt. St. Helens erupts. The laser-scanning process for reading bar codes is perfected by IBM.

I was living in Seattle when Mount St. Helens erupted. You could easily see the ash plume from the city. Fortunately for Seattle residents, the prevailing westerly winds blew the ash to the east, and in fact Chicago got more ash than Seattle did!

1981: Sandra Day O’Connor becomes the first woman Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. MTV gains a huge following of teenage viewers.

They originally showed music videos and not much else. Does anyone else remember that?

1982: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a black granite wall, inscribed with names of more than 58,000 who died in Vietnam, is dedicated in Washington, DC.

Pop Century

1983: The last episode of M*A*S*H draws the largest audience for a single TV show: 125 million viewers.

1984: Los Angeles hosts the Olympic Games and Americans win 83 gold medals. Michael Jackson’s "Thriller" becomes the biggest selling album in history.

1985: Book-to-movie adaptations become box office hits with "Out of Africa" and "The Color Purple." Oprah Winfrey’s talk show begins.

1986: $1.1 million is paid for a one minute TV ad on the Super Bowl. Federal Budget deficit reaches $2 trillion.

Current rate for the Super Bowl ads is $10 million per minute. The current national debt is over $22 trillion.

1987: Engineer, Scott Stillinger invents the Koosh Ball to teach young kids how to catch. The name comes from the sound the ball makes.

Yes, that comma is really there!

1988: Faxphones are $1,295 and a Compaq 286 laptop is $5,399. Internet virus jams over 6,000 military computers.

Faxphones?! ROTFL! And yes there was an Internet in 1988, but the World Wide Web did not arise until the early ’90s.

1989: "The Little Mermaid" swims into theatres. Disney-MGM Studios opens at Walt-Disney World Resort.

The Studios opening date was May 1, which means its 30th anniversary is coming soon! The MGM designation was deleted in 2008.

1990: Space Shuttle Discovery is launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying the Hubble Space Telescope.

1991: A sheet of the original first printing of the Declaration of Independence, found at a flea market in the backing of a painting, sells for $2.4 million.

1992: The NAFTA trade pact is signed by Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. Johnny Carson’s last show draws 55 million viewers.

Pop Century

1993: Beanie Babies are born. The National Science Foundation increases the amount of data that can be transmitted between computers in a second, and everyone starts surfing the Net.

This probably refers to the completion of the T3 backbone in 1992.

1994: "The Lion King" roars into movie theatres. "Forrest Gump", starring Tom Hanks, is released and wins an Oscar for Best Picture. The movie spans the ’50s through the ’90s.

And so did Tom Hanks!

1995:The Dow Jones Index of 30 major industrial stocks top the 5,000 mark for the first time. The first blue M&M joins the pack.

The Dow Jones recently has passed 25,000. And blue is historically the most difficult dye to make.

1996: Toy Story is released. It was the first feature length film animated entirely by computer.

Resulting in Pixar having the biggest IPO of the year one week later!

1997: Rock star Elton John’s "Candle in the Wind," a tribute to Marilyn Monroe in 1970, is revised in memory of Princess Diana and becomes the best selling single of all-time.

1998: El Niño, a large-scale periodic warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean, affects the world climate, upsetting normal weather patterns.

1999: As the year 2000 approaches with a wink 😉 and a smile :), the world awaits Y2K and prepares itself for the various perceived challenges.

As many of you will recall, "Y2K" also represented the fear that computers worldwide would suffer breakdowns because they had not been properly programmed to handle dates containing years starting with ‘2’. As it turned out, they had been, and nothing happened.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We wonder what the signs and events for the 20 years since 1999 would include… Do you think Disney will ever update or add to Pop Century’s signs to reflect 1999 and beyond?


Pop Century Resort Fact Sheet
Pop Century Photo Gallery
Pop Century Video
Reviews of Pop Century Resort
Is an Accessible Room at Pop Century Right for You?
Recipe: Pop Century’s Tie-Dyed Cheesecake

Other AllEars® Features by Richard Mercer:

The Science Disks of Epcot, Part 1
The Science Disks of Epcot, Part 2
Now Go Have an Adventure: Finding Nemo at Animal Kingdom

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Richard Mercer with Alice

Richard Mercer is a recently retired math professor living in Ohio. As a child he loved science and planned to become a scientist, but in high school discovered he was no good in the laboratory, so he did the next best thing and became a mathematician. An otherwise idyllic childhood did NOT include a visit to Disneyland. As an adult he has made up for this omission by purchasing a DVC membership and visiting Walt Disney World on a regular basis.