Thousands of dollars worth of guns were stolen from a guest shop at Disneyland, and that’s not the weirdest part of the story.
Walt Disney first dreamed up the idea for a family-friendly theme park in Southern California while on an outing with his two young daughters, Sharon and Diane. By his own admission, Saturdays during the late 1930s and early 1940s were some of the most memorable and meaningful days in the lives of the genius visionary and his only two children. As he would later explain in numerous interviews about Disney’s first theme park resort, Saturdays were always very special for those in the Disney family household.
“Saturday was always Daddy’s day, and I would take [my daughters] to the merry-go-round, and sit on a bench eating peanuts while they rode,” Walt explained. “And sitting there alone, I felt there should be something built, some kind of family park where parents and children could have fun together.”
It was in that moment that the idea for a magical place called Disneyland was first born. Walt immediately began making his plans for the new park, which included all kinds of attractions–some that made it to opening day, some that made it to the park years later, and some that never came to fruition. But one thing Walt didn’t plan on having in the park was crime, though he wasn’t oblivious to the potential for crimes taking place.
Strange Offerings at Disneyland
Disneyland Park in the 21st century is very similar to the Disneyland that Walt initially built. Over the years, there have been scores of additions, improvements, and even deletions, but by and large, guests who visit the Happiest Place on Earth can still see Walt’s “fingerprints” around the park.
In recent years, there has been growing angst among Disney fans when announcements are made about the removal of attractions and experiences. This year, Disneyland Resort and the Walt Disney World Resort saw the removal of the guest-favorite Splash Mountain attraction. Disney chose to reimagine the space at both parks with a brand-new experience called Tiana’s Bayou Adventure after deciding that the former attraction’s affiliations might be offensive to some.
The decision was sad for many–and egregious to fans who felt (and still feel strongly) that Disney reimagined the wrong attraction.
But more than a few things have been removed from Disney’s U.S. parks, and they haven’t all been attractions and rides. When Disneyland opened in July 1955, it did so with a few offerings that exist now only in the memories of those who were among the first to see Walt’s take on an amusement park.
Disneyland opened with a branch of what is now Bank of America, as well as a tobacco shop. The only remnant of the tobacco shop is the Native American statue that stands along Main Street, U.S.A., close to where the tobacco shop was once located, just in front of what is now the 20th Century Music Company.
Guests Could Buy Lingerie on Main Street!
And while it might surprise fans to learn that Disneyland was once the home of a tobacco shop, many are far more shocked to learn that Main Street, U.S.A., at Disney’s first park was also once the site of a lingerie shop–known as The Wizard of Bras. Weird, right?
Intimate Apparel Shop featuring The Wizard of Bras, Disneyland
When Disneyland opened in 1955 there was indeed a lingerie store and small attraction that thought you the history of underwear on Main Street USA. The shop closed in January 1956. pic.twitter.com/VNtTgacfPa
— History@Disney (@HistoryAtDisney) July 3, 2020
The Wizard of Bras was a thing of the past just six months after Disneyland opened, closing its doors at the park in January 1956. But a gun shop at Walt’s first theme park held on much longer–and was the site of a robbery in 1961.
Two Robberies at Disneyland in Less Than One Year
The only bank heist to ever take place at Disneyland happened in August 1960, and from its inception to its investigation, the entire thing was a bungled mess that ultimately left Disneyland guests, as well as cast members and investigators, with far more questions than they had answers And the whole thing was a complete mess from its inception to its investigation. Though the robbery was “solved,” since that time, it has never been determined what became of the criminal responsible for the robbery.
Less than a year later, in 1961, another robbery took place, this time at a different location at Disneyland–the Frontier Gun Shop located between The Golden Horseshoe and what was once the Oaks Tavern–now the Stage Door Cafe. According to a newspaper article from 1961 (clipping seen below), two burglars stole $1,330 in guns from the shop in April 1961, but a sudden attack of conscience led the two thieves, each reportedly about 18 years of age, to return the stolen guns and to also write an apology.
The weapons were returned to Disneyland and left at one of the security gates. The written apology read in part, “We’re sorry for what we’ve done. We didn’t realize the seriousness of the situation.”
While $1,330 might seem only slightly worse than petty theft, it’s important to point out that the amount in 1961 was no petty amount at all. In fact, when adjusted for inflation, that amount would be closer to $13,350 today. That’s when an average inflation rate–over the last 62 years–of slightly more than 3.8% is used.
But perhaps the weirdest part of this story is not that guns were stolen at Disneyland. The weirdest part of the story isn’t even that guests could once buy bralettes and other unmentionables on Main Street. No, perhaps the strangest–but refreshingly strange, mind you–part of this story is that the young thieves felt bad about their lapse in judgment–and then took steps to make it right.
Today, it seems nearly inconceivable that a Disney park ever had a lingerie shop, a chain bank, or a gun shop. But in Disneyland’s earliest years, such was the case. If you were in charge of Disney’s parks, what types of shops and establishments would you install?