The magic doesn't maintain itself. At Disneyland, skilled mechanics, engineers, and other craftsmen work around the clock to keep Walt's park working to pixie-dust perfection. This is their never-told story.
Rand Boyd put on his ears in 1983 and went to work in one of the Disneyland warehouses. From there, as a full-fledged Teamster, he transferred to Maintenance Services, where his job took to him to every nook and cranny of the park, at all hours of the day and night.
From painting the Matterhorn to rescuing horses that had fallen into the feed trough at the Circle-D Ranch and could not get out, no job was too big, too small, or too unusual for Disneyland's maintenance workers.
In Elbow Grease and Pixie Dust, Boyd immerses you in this essential but little-known aspect of Disneyland. But he tells another story as well—a love story, the Disney-like tale of how two kindred souls in Disneyland's maintenance department fell in love and went on to live happily ever after.
Chapter 1: Disneyland Maintenance
Part One: Eileen's Story
Chapter 2: Eileen Schneider Gets a Job at Disneyland
Chapter 3: Steamboats and Jungle Boats
Chapter 4: Maintenance Rehabs
Chapter 5: The Planning Department
Chapter 6: Some Projects I Planned
Chapter 7: Back to the Machine Shop
Chapter 8: Moving On
Part Two: Rand's Story
Chapter 9: Rand Boyd Gets a Job at Disneyland
Chapter 10: Working in the Warehouse
Chapter 11: Maintenance Services
Chapter 12: Working Nights
Chapter 13: Working on a Forklift
Chapter 14: The Arcade Shop and Beyond
One spring day in early 1990 I was given a coffee mug. At the time, I was working swing shift in the Maintenance Services department at Disneyland and when I walked into the shop at the beginning of the shift, my supervisor, with no ceremony, tossed me the mug. “What’s this?” I asked. “What do you think it is?” He gave me a snarky look, shook his head, and turned away. He was one of those types of supervisors, so I just ignored him. I turned the mug in my hand; it had a blue silk-screen line drawing of our mascot, Facilities Mickey, on one side (wearing coveralls and a hard hat, and carrying a variety of tools). On the other side was the statement “Part of a Winning Team. Disneyland Facilities, Engineering and Construction, Best Maintenance Organization of the Year Award—1990.”
I had already worked for Disneyland for seven years, but like many cast members I didn’t really pay much attention to most of the company announcements. I came in and did my job and then went home again without too much thought to what I did or why I did it. So I didn’t know anything about the story behind the mug and very little about the division that I worked in. In those days, it seemed as if we were constantly being given things. I usually gave them away to friends and family, or else threw it away, so at first I wasn’t going to keep the mug. But I liked the Facilities Mickey picture on it, and decided to keep it. I put it in my locker and used it as a pencil jar. It was one of the few mementos that I kept when I left the company in 2003. Besides the mug, I only kept three other items: two challenge coins that were awarded to me by senior maintenance management for jobs well done (I don’t remember what those jobs were) and my Disneyland spirit award. Spirit pins used to be a big deal because so few were awarded. You had to be nominated and a committee of your peers weighed the arguments pro and con and then voted. I was very proud of that award and I always made it a point of wearing the company-issued plastic name tag so I could also display my spirit pin.
Though I didn’t know much about the story behind the mug when it was given to me, as time went on I picked up more of the lore and culture of the division. In March 1990, Maintenance Technology magazine recognized the Disneyland Facilities, Engineering, and Construction Division with its award for Best Maintenance Organization for, among other things, our 99 percent operational readiness index. This index compared the actual operating time of all attractions at Disneyland versus the scheduled operating time. It was an amazing achievement and we were proud to have been recognized outside of our industry for our success. Representatives from heavy industry visited the park and interviewed management and hourly maintenance cast members and took back to their businesses the things that they had learned at Disneyland. It was a great way for Disneyland Maintenance to finish off the 1980s and cap thirty-five years of maintaining the park since its opening in 1955.
When I joined the company in 1983, Maintenance was still known as the Maintenance Division. It would be renamed and reorganized several times over the next twenty years, but its basic operation always remained the same. To keep the Disneyland park and eventually the Disneyland resort running. Maintenance cast members worked in a variety of environments and situations. Whether it was underwater or high in the air; electrical, mechanical, or electronic; indoors or outdoors; simple or complex; cutting-edge or antique technology, the division kept the show going and provided a safe place for cast members and guests.
My partner, Eileen Schneider, began working for Disneyland Maintenance in 1978 as a machinist apprentice. She would eventually earn her journeyman’s card as a machinist as well as an outside maintenance mechanic. Eileen eventually moved into a variety of salaried and project jobs throughout Maintenance before leaving the division in 2000. I began in the warehouse, moved to Maintenance Services, then worked in the Arcade Shop. Eileen and I never knew each other, never worked together, until late 1997 when we finally did meet. We’ve been together ever since.
Between those years, Eileen was in constant demand as she had an excellent reputation and moved from one success to the next. I worked from paycheck to paycheck and moved from department to department not sure what I wanted to be when I finally grew up, but enjoyed the work and the people that I met. We both worked with amazing, committed professionals who all believed in what we were doing. We believed in the goals of the company—though at times we did not agree with the path that they chose, still we all tried to keep the park maintained to the level that Walt would have expected and that guests deserved. It is this combination of experiences that Eileen and I share that makes our stories complementary to each other and interesting to those people fascinated by how the magic of Disneyland is maintained.
I wrote the following work as two separate, but complementary memoirs that tell the story of Disneyland Maintenance in the 1980s and 90s as we saw and experienced it. This is not a proper history, so there is much of the operation that is ignored or glossed over because neither of us were involved and don’t have the knowledge or experience regarding it. That would be more appropriate for a broader historical treatment. I chose to write it this way because I wanted Eileen to have her own voice. I based her section on six hours of oral history that I recorded in early 2017 along with countless stories and anecdotes that she shared with me throughout the nineteen years that we have been together and tried my best to capture her way of speaking and her unique viewpoint. Any errors or omissions in her story are my responsibility alone.
The story starts in 1978 and concludes in 1997; it seemed like a good year to end on, as Maintenance was at the beginning of some drastic changes and the division that we had both grown up in was soon to be gone, but more importantly, I chose that particular year because it is the year that Eileen and I met.
The story of our experiences in Disneyland Maintenance through the 1980s and 1990s is filled with adventure; treacherous mountains, jungle rivers, Old West towns, and space ports. It is all there because Eileen and I—and, more importantly, thousands of others since 1955—turned the bolts, greased the fittings, poured the concrete, cleaned the projectors, and programmed the rides to keep the adventure alive.
Rand Boyd is the special collections and archives librarian at Chapman University with an interest in history and golf (the order changes with the weather). He has given several talks and written a few articles on local history and is currently working on an oral history project of the maintenance organization at Disneyland. He lives quite happily in Huntington Beach with his partner Eileen and some tropical fish.