home > columns > cast member experience > Steve Simmons - The Yippies Invade Disneyland
 Steve Simmons


Please excuse the fact that I can't remember the exact date that this happened, but it is documented in the Mouse Tales. I'd like to provide some things as I remember them.

It was during August of the second summer that I was working at Disneyland when I heard about the upcoming "invasion" that was supposed to take place. It all started due to an article in the L.A. Free Press. Somewhere in the back of the "newspaper" was this article, describing the upcoming day when "10,000 Yippies were supposed to crash the gates and break into Disneyland." It should be noted that the article was written in jest. There was never supposed to be a real invasion.

Well, apparently some people in Disney management took this article to heart. The paper actually printed out what was supposed to be the itinerary for the day. It had events like:

"Breakfast at Aunt Jemima's with speech by a Black Panther member (who was in jail on the date this was to occur)"

"All the women were to meet in front of the Mickey Mouse theater and burn their bra's (it was 1970, remember!)"

"A protest was to be held in front of the Bank of America (Disneyland branch)"

"Take over Tom Sawyer's Island"

There were other "events" but I don't remember what they were.

On the eventful day, every member of management that Disney could muster was called in and given assignments. I remember walking through Frontierland and watching these supervisors as they stationed themselves on benches(two guys sitting together, wearing suits with their walkie talkie's disguised in a Disneyland merchandise bags). In fact, the "yippies" who did get into the park were playing a game of "find the employees" and were winning!

Some yippies did show up on the date. No they didn't "break in" (although I did hear later of two or three that were arrested trying to climb over the berm). These kids actually paid the admission price and then gathered inside. Did 10,000 show up? No, it was more like 100 or so. The yippies gathered into a group and headed off into the park. I wasn't working that day, but decided to go into the park and watch the "event'.

As I entered the park through the employees entrance I remember seeing the riot squad of the police department waiting backstage behind the Bank of America on Main Street. They were decked out in full riot gear waiting for something to happen. Around 9 or 10 in the morning, photographers were told to be at the main gate. At the appropriate time, while the photographers watched, the riot squad showed up and paraded out in front of the ticket booths. They formed a line while the photographers snapped away. There was one memorable photograph of a street sweeper working between two of the members of the riot squad. After several minutes of "photo opportunities" both groups disappeared.

Later I ran into several of the "yippies" in New Orleans Square talking to a young lady who did the silhouettes. We learned that these kids had read the article, knew it was a joke but wanted to come to Disneyland anyway. As I left, I saw a group of "yippies" heading over to Tom Sawyer's Island. I started to follow them and almost ran into a photographer, also in full combat gear, rushing to get down to the rafts so that he could get over to Tom Sawyer's Island. I wandered over into what had once been the Indian Village and watched from near the canoe docks as the "yippies" lowered the flag on the fort on Tom Sawyer's Island and raised the Viet Cong flag. As they cheered, the CM's who were working the canoes began chanting "yip yip yip yippee!".

The "yippies" kept to themselves during the day. They took quite a bit of abuse from some of the rest of the guests because of their dress and long hair but did not do anything to provoke anything. That was until later in the evening (I believe it was about 5 p.m. or so) as some of the "yippies" were heading down Main Street towards the front gate. Now I was not present as most of this occurred but I was in the area on Main Street where Roy Disney, accompanied by several security guards, accosted several of the "yippies". Words were exchanged and pushing ensued. It was then that all hell broke loose. Security appeared from everywhere and began "escorting" the "Yippies" out of the park. Later I heard of several that were supposedly thrown over the fence near the entrance. Because of the outbreak, it was decided to shut down Disneyland for the rest of the day. It was the first time in its history that Disneyland had to close early for reasons other than weather.

As a follow up, I heard of several CM's who had found a way on top of some of the buildings on Main Street who were later released because they had taken photographs of what had happened that day. The reason that they were released was because they were in an area where they weren't supposed to be. A few days later there was an editorial in the Orange County newspaper congratulating Disney on how they handled the "invasion". This article was mimeographed and mailed out to all the employees with a form letter thanking them for all their efforts on this sad day in Disneyland history.

Let me add my own personal feelings on this matter. After talking with several of the "yippies" and watching how events played out, I was under the impression that all events were "forced" by Disney. If management had not blown this thing out of proportion, nothing would have happened. Sure, some kids rose a flag over the fort. Sure they wandered around the park in groups. But as a whole they were organized and did not do anything out of the normal. They put up with quite a large amount of abuse from some of the regular guests (lots of name calling) and still maintained their cool. It wasn't until Roy appeared and made an attempt to force the issues that anything happened. If Disney had let these kids leave without the confrontation, there wouldn't have been anything to write about. It was one of those days that I was ashamed to be considered a CM at Disneyland.

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