My symbiotic connection to the 1950’s continues to amaze even me. I don’t honestly know how this bit of trivia escaped my notice until now, but here goes:
I’ve been a die-hard fan of the Ozzie and Harriet TV show since I was a teenager. The early shows are undoubtedly the better shows for a variety of reasons, which include the appearance of Don DeFore as the Nelsons’ friendly neighbor, Thorny. He has truly always been my favorite character on the show.
Don DeFore is a little-known name among most people today, but he appeared in many movies and TV shows and served as the President of the National Academy of Television Arts from 1954-1955. He was instrumental in bringing the Emmy awards to be broadcast on television. He has a star on Hollywood’s walk of fame, and Judy Garland was maid of honor at his wedding.
In addition to his career in Hollywood, Don DeFore holds the distinction of being the only sole proprietor to ever run a business inside Disneyland. From 1957 to 1962, Don and his brother ran Don DeFore’s Silver Banjo Barbecue in Disneyland in a space formerly occupied by a mexican restaurant called Casa De Fritos. After 1962, the building became Aunt Jemima’s pancake restaurant, which eventually became what it is today – The Riverbelle Terrace.
Where do I fall into this story? Well, in 1988, and 18-year-old kid (an unlikely fan of Mr. Don DeFore) got a job at Disneyland bussing tables. Guess where my most regular assignment was. The Riverbelle Terrace.
I sent an email to Ron DeFore, the son of Don DeFore to inquire about any existing reproductions of Silver Banjo memorabilia. Apparently there are none…only the original sign, menu, etc, which are in his basement. He suggested if I was a millionaire collector, I might offer him an exorbitant sum. Alas, I am not and cannot.
It’s cool to think that in some dimension of fate, my life is linked to the 1950’s era I love so much. The Lost Transmission-Ozzie and Harriet connection is just the latest in my own “six degrees of separation” story to mid-century American culture.