Passport to Pixie Dust

My 32 Years with The Walt Disney Company

by Ted Kellogg | Release Date: August 10, 2017 | Availability: Print, Kindle

Forewords by Dick Nunis and Bob Matheison

Ted's Excellent Adventures

Ted Kellogg sweltered through weeks in the jungle. He was far from civilization, and the natives were sometimes restless. The boats were leaky. The skippers were sketchy. The spiels were in Spanish. Fun times on the Jungle Cruise? Think again. This was no E-ticket ride.…

Before Ted Kellogg began his 32 years in service to the mouse, he put on his figurative fedora and channeled his inner Indiana Jones. From tropical jungles to the open sea, Ted survived a deep-sea dive that went too deep, a monstrous storm off the coast of California that nearly wrecked his ship and killed his crew, robbers and night raiders in Central America, and other hair-raising encounters.

With the jungle and the sea out of his system, mostly, Ted took a job in Disneyland, but before long he transferred to Walt Disney World, then being built, and took charge of the park's many water craft. If it floated in or around the Magic Kingdom, Ted Kellogg knew about it.

Equal parts adventure story and Disney cast member memoir, Ted's tale is testament to the power of following your dream, whether on land, on sea, or in a certain Magic Kingdom.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Dick Nunis

Foreword by Bob Matheison


Chapter 1: Travels and Travails through Panama

Chapter 2: “Cruising” Through Colombia…and a “Welcome reception” in Turbo

Chapter 3: An Eventful Bus Ride to Bogota

Chapter 4: A Pickpocket in Cali Meets His Match in Mick

Chapter 5: Paco Camino and the Bullfights in Cali

Chapter 6: Exploring the Jungles in Ecuador and the Long Road Home

Chapter 7: Learning the Ropes in Frontierland at Disneyland

Chapter 8: My Life-long Love Affair with the Sea

Chapter 9: My Experiences in the Army

Chapter 10: Quick Thinking Puts Me on Kitchen Detail

Chapter 11: Returning to Civilian Life…and the Sea

Chapter 12: Making Friends with the Locals in Cabo

Chapter 13: Weathering a Bad Storm

Chapter 14: Earning my Ocean Operator’s License

Chapter 15: Getting the New Boat Up and Running

Chapter 16: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: The Day I Almost Drown

Chapter 17: An Air/Sea Rescue Off the Waters of Cabo

Chapter 18: A Twist of Fate and Four Sheets of Plywood

Chapter 19: Performing Emergency Surgery on the Pilikia

Chapter 20: A Veterinarian Fixes My Dad’s Busted Hand

Chapter 21: Riders on the Storm: Surviving a Killer Tempest

Chapter 22: How I Met My Wife…and Applying for a Job at Walt Disney World

Chapter 23: Taking Care of Business Before Moving to Florida

Chapter 24: Getting Ready to Open the Magic Kingdom

Chapter 25: Big Bang Theory: An International Fireworks Competition

Chapter 26: A Lion Pays a Visit to Walt Disney World

Chapter 27: Pitching in During the Disney/PGA Golf Tournaments

Chapter 28: Meeting a Real American Hero

Chapter 29: Lighting the Night: The Electrical Water Pageant

Chapter 30: The Red Handkerchief Organization

Chapter 31: Life After Disney Watercraft

Chapter 32: A Little about My Family

Appendix A: The Log of Tres Barbones

Appendix B: Letters from Ted

I first met Ted in the mid-1950s at my future in-laws’ home in Laguna Beach. He was just a kid who always seemed to be over there with his friend Gary, my future brother-in-law. As the years went by the boys grew up and Ted took off for the amazing adventures that he’s written about in this book. He eventually returned to Laguna and resumed his regular visits to the beach house, bringing us fresh fish, lobsters, and abalone that he and Gary would catch off the beach.

Ironically, one Christmas Eve celebration, at this same house, Ted met his future wife, Bonnie. It became apparent that Ted would have to end his wild adventures and start thinking about a “real job.” with a steady salary and benefits. Walt Disney World offered such an opportunity,and Ted was ready.

Ted’s life in Florida began on the watercraft team where he had opportunities to operate and train personel on side-paddle wheelers, steam launches, a Chinese junk, the sportfisher Striker, and the ferry boats. Over the years, he went from operations to renovations of park rides, hotels, restaurants, and eventually, the removal of the wave machine from the Seven Seas Lagoon.

In my life, I’ve found Ted to be a born storyteller, a fantastic fisherman, a straight-faced poker player, and one heck of a family man. We’ve shared family times and Disney times and I can say that I will always be grateful for our meeting and friendship.

For much of its history, the Walt Disney organization has operated like a big, creative, and hard-working family. Since the early days of animation and film making, the names of Walt and Roy Disney have attracted individuals of enormous creative ability, and great determination, into their fold. These traits have been obvious in hundreds [now thousands] of different fields, interests, talents, and capabilities.

These same traits have been multiplied over hundreds of times as the Disney name expanded further with entertainment efforts into Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and several other enterprises. This vast energy comes from being seriously challenged, and genuinely excited about, “What can we do differently, and better, than ever before?”

During my career, I remember being frequently asked, “Why do you choose to work for Disney?” My answer was immediate and simple. “It’s because I get to work with such wonderful and creative people.” I am proud to introduce to you one such person…his name is TED KELLOGG.

Ted brought his extensive knowledge and hands-on experience to Walt Disney World and became deeply involved with Disney for 32 years. (And if I may insert a personal note, my appreciation of Ted and his abilities broadened after experiencing his tutelage in catching shrimp and seine-netting in the Atlantic Ocean…very impressive!) Ted’s many successes speak for themselves, and represent the wonderful spirit of the Disney organization. And now I commend to you the writings of TED KELLOGG.

I met Ted Kellogg through Disney Legend Tom Nabbe, one of his “meatloaf Thursday” buddies. You see, there are a handful of former Disney cast members living in the Orlando, Florida, area—all of whom played significant roles in the opening of Walt Disney World—who have remained good friends over the years. Most are now retired and every month or so, they’ll get together at a local restaurant to chow down on the eatery’s meatloaf specials, have a beer, reminisce, and share a few laughs about the early days of Disney in central Florida.

I was working on a blog about the boat system when Walt Disney World opened in 1971 and I approached Tom on the subject; he said there would be no better person to talk to about boating at WDW in the 1970s than Ted Kellogg, who was the supervisor of watercraft when the resort opened. Tom gave me Ted’s email address and Ted and I set up a telephone interview in February of 2016. Unlike many of the Disney cast members I’ve interviewed over the years, Ted seemed a bit reluctant to open up about his life and career, at least at the beginning of our talk. After a few minutes, though, he warmed to the task and began to share fascinating stories about his career with Disney, which spanned 32 years at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, as well as the broad range of experiences he’s had during his life.

At the end of the interview, Ted told me that he had a lot more stories to share, but most of them weren’t related to Disney. Then he asked me, point blank, if I’d be interested in working with him on putting together a book. I promised Ted that I’d get in touch with Theme Park Press founder Bob McLain and would make the book proposal to him. Bob liked the idea and Ted and I soon embarked on the long journey of compiling this book.

In mid-April 2016, I was invited to a press event at Walt Disney World, so I asked Ted if we could get together for a face-to-face interview session. We met in the lobby of Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort, found a secluded lounge area behind the gift shop, and talked for about two hours before I had to head off to the first of several press functions during the three-day event. Ted was excited and well-prepared for the meeting. He brought along photos, letters, and his United States passport, filled with stamps and connotations from his seven-month adventure to South America, which began in the fall of 1966 and ended the following spring.

I had purchased a small, hand-held recording device and was able to get all of the interview on tape. As I was packing up, Ted asked me where I had gotten my hands on the recorder and wondered if he should buy one of his own, since he still had many more stories he wanted to share with me. I told him that that might be the best way to go. He bought a recorder and spent the next few weeks talking into it, relating some of his fascinating life experiences in the comfort of his central Florida home, often, he told me, in the middle of the night, when inspiration hit him. When he was finished, he mailed the recorder to me and I began the arduous task of transcribing those stories. A few months later, he recorded a few more stories and sent them to me. You’re holding the end result in your hands right now.

As most everyone knows, the Walt Disney Company has always been about storytelling. Stories are what fuel the entertainment giant’s engine, be it in the theme parks, on its cruise ships, or on the small or big screens. Ted Kellogg worked for Disney for 32 years and during his time at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, he had some pretty interesting experiences. Prior to working for Disney, though, he participated in a variety of thrilling, sometimes life-threatening adventures on land, at sea, and underwater. He also had a “second career” at Walt Disney World after leaving watercraft—supervising a wide variety of extensive renovations on WDW property, including the lobby of the Polynesian Resort as well as the California Grill atop the Contemporary Resort.

“Some of these stories you might not find truthful, but believe me, they are all true”, he told me, adding, “I probably shouldn’t be alive today.”

We pick up Ted’s story in the fall of 1966, when he and his two buddies, Tim and Mick, set off on a Romancing the Stone-type adventure from southern California through Central and South America. Along the way, the Three Amigos (as they became known to the local authorities) survived many memorable, thrilling, and often dangerous adventures. It was truly the experience of a lifetime for the trio. More than anything, the trip embodied Ted Kellogg’s love of life, his adventurous spirit, and his compassionate nature.

Ted put his knowledge of ships and his SCUBA diving skills to good use during the months prior to the opening of the Magic Kingdom.

When we arrived in Florida, Disney put us up in an apartment until we could find our own housing. I think we had to move in and out of apartments about five times. It was sort of a pain, but it all worked out. The last move that we made was in with Kevin Donnelly and his wife. He owned a house on Wauseon Bay on the Windermere chain lakes. He said he had a bedroom that he wasn’t using and offered it to us. We were planning to have a house built in Windermere, a quaint, quiet community, on a corner lot that we had admired. I didn’t have enough money to buy the lot outright and my parents couldn’t help us, so I had to borrow $2,500 from one of my dad’s close friends. The lot was $5,000. The lot was on Third and Oakdale and it was the first house on that block of 10 lots. Once I had obtained the lot, I was able to finance the house through the bank.

My dad, who was in home construction, had given me drawings for the house and we found a contractor in Florida and had the house built from those drawings. It was nice of Kevin Donnelly and his wife Joan to give us the opportunity to live in Windermere. It was a short drive to work, about eight miles on the back roads. Windermere was peaceful, with beautiful lakes to enjoy and hardly any crime…and it’s pretty much stayed the same to this day.

There were about 26 of us who came out to work in operations from California. We all had specific jobs. We still get together from time to time. We’ve remained close friends and we love to meet up for Christmas, Mexican food, and meatloaf.

At work, I settled in with Pete Crimmings. There were three of us—Steve Baker, who was in charge of the parking lots; Tom Nabbe had the monorail system; and I had the watercraft. In talking to Pete, I asked him whether he had any special way he wanted things done. “No, you just get in there and learn everything you can about the boats. Get to know those boats backwards and forwards and learn how to drive them.” So I went to the dry dock area, where the Osceola-class side wheelers were docked. They were 200-passenger, walking I-beam steam engines, and I was in amazement. Holy crud, I said to myself. How does this thing work?

There were some maintenance people there who were the best. They started walking me through all the specs of the boat, and they gave me books to read, all the proper procedures. I took lots of notes and spent a lot of time walking in the engine room, around the side-wheeler. They weren’t very fast, maybe 5 or 6 knots. You couldn’t put one paddle wheel in forward and one in reverse. They were either both forward or both in reverse. My job was to learn how to drive them, then train other people to do it.

While the boats were being finished, there was a 34-foot, aluminum hull sport fishing boat, The Striker, that Disney had in the dry dock area. Often, I would take Disney officials and their guests on The Striker through Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon. I’d explain to them what they were looking at and what was going to be there. As the side-wheelers got completed and we were able to go out and train, Disney was also hiring new employees. When certain people with boating backgrounds were hired, they would be sent my way and I would talk to them, and if they seemed to have a little bit of knowledge about boats, I would hire them, and if they turned out to have a little more potential, I would make them my foremen.

It took quite awhile learning how to operate those steam vessels, the launches, and the Osceola-class boats. We quickly discovered that if you lost steam or fire while you were out on Bay Lake, you needed a pontoon boat nearby with a big generator. You’d call them on the radio and they’d run out and would pull up alongside, to make sure you didn’t drift too far. All the boats had 90-pound anchors and we would literally have to anchor up out on the lakes until we could fix the problem. Sometimes you’d have passengers on board that we would have to transfer to another boat. I finally got a good crew of watercraft personnel trained and got ready for opening day in October 1971.

All the boats on Seven Seas Lagoon are free-floating, with no guide rails. When high winds or a thunderstorm blew in, it could be quite harrowing. Very often, there was little or no warning to indicate bad weather was coming, so I went to Bob Matheison and suggested that Disney get radar equipment and install it in Security to warn us about approaching storms and what the intensity might be and what direction they were headed. Sure enough, the request was approved and they put in excellent equipment.

Before the park opened, anyone who knew a special skill was asked to help out wherever they could. One day, the call went out for certified SCUBA divers. I was certified, so I applied. I had some free time because my boats were still being worked on in dry dock.

They took me over to the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction in Fantasyland. They had filled the lagoon with water and needed to have the “fish” installed. You were given a drawing and you’d work on a certain section of the attraction at a time.

You’d go down and install the fish by putting air in a hole in the bottom of the fish and that would hold it upright. You’d then attach the monofilament lines to small eye screws on the bottom of the fish. Then you’d have to drill two small holes into the tank floor, twist in anchors, and attach the monofilament line from the fish to the anchors and set it at the proper height.

This project went on for about a week. Getting all the fish in there was really nice, but there was one problem: some of the underwater rocks and coral displays were made of fiberglass and there were lots of tiny fiberglass particles floating in the water. You’d get water in your wetsuit and you’d start to itch. I must have itched for a week after that job. In the end, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was one of the most popular attractions during Walt Disney World’s early years.

Continued in "Passport to Pixie Dust"!

One of Ted's most harrowing adventures happened not on the Jungle Cruise, not on the Rivers of America, but on the open ocean, during a killer tempest.

We began the journey back home to California, with the plywood on the windows. We rounded the Cabo rocks headed up to Cedro’s Island to get fuel. Along the way, we broke out the shotguns and we were shooting flying fish and whatever else. Just a nice, leisurely three days to Cedro’s. No incidents and the water was calm. We pulled into Cedro’s, gave everybody their booze, and topped off the fuel tanks. It was about noon when we left Cedro’s. The fueling dock was at the southeastern end of the island, which is about 15 miles long and sort of runs north to south. I was heading north when I came across a tuna boat that was anchored. Then I came across another tuna boat, then another. There’s four of them anchored. I’m asking myself, ‘Why are they anchored there? Do they know something that I don’t know?’ There were no reports of bad weather. We were pretty much on our own.

I told my dad and Gus that we were going to run for about four or five hours and if the weather changes within that time, I could come back and we’d find a place to anchor at Cedro’s, but if it happens after that time, we would be at the point of no return and would have to continue north. Everybody agreed that that would be the thing to do. So I kicked it up a little from 10 knots to 12 knots, trying to make better time. We got to our point of no return and the ocean was still very calm, but there were big 15-foot swells about 600 feet apart, and out a little farther they were growing to about 20-feet high. If any wind kicked up and we got caught up in these swells, it was not going be good.

We traveled about another four hours, well past our point of no return, and the wind started to pick up. Then it really started to pick up. Now we have whitecaps and I have to slow the boat down. The waves got bigger and they started to break. I slowed the boat down even more, to maybe five knots. I was going up these swells and then down the swells, and as I’m going down each swell, the bow would dip. And that water coming over the bows would hit the salon windows and I said, “Thank God I found that plywood. The water would have broken the windows or I would have had to turn around.” I was afraid to turn around because you couldn’t see anything.

We were in the dark, but we just wanted to make sure we stayed on course. It was about 1 o’clock in the morning when I lost all electrical power. I lost my radar, my depth finder, and all but one channel on my radio. The generator had quit working. So I switched everything over to batteries, because the engines would charge the batteries. In the aft part of the boat, there was a sealed compartment below decks, where the generator was located. I pulled the hatch off and it was filled with water right to the top. Not good. No wonder the boat was acting so funny.

Inside of this compartment in the bilge were two diaphragm par pumps, one in each corner to pump out the water in this section, but occasionally, since it’s a diaphragm pump and not a centrifugal pump, you’d get particles of debris or wood in it and it doesn’t pump efficiently, it only pumps at maybe 10 percent. I figured that when the water leaked in from the deck and started sloshing around, and since it was a new boat, some sawdust got in the pumps and messed them up. I took off my jacket and my shoes and stripped down to my underwear and jumped down into the hole with a five-gallon bucket and my dad said, “What are you doing, Bud?”—he always called me Bud—and I said if we don’t get this fucking water out of here, we’re going down. I’ve got to get this water out of here. I told Jesus what course to stay on and told him to do the best he can. I started bailing with a five-gallon bucket and I soon realized that wasn’t working.

I knew I had to fix those pumps, but they were under water. I asked Gus to get me a Phillips head screwdriver because I knew that the screws on the power pump were Phillips head machine screws and there were two on each side that held it together. I told my dad that I was going to go down and somehow take these pumps apart under water, get ’em cleaned, and put ’em back together. I knew if I dropped a screw or something, we’d be doomed. And my dad said, “You’ll never be able to do that,” and I tell my dad we don’t have much choice; I’ve got to give it a try. So I held my breath, went down, and found the pumps.

Continued in "Passport to Pixie Dust"!

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