All photographs © Mel Birnkrant. Some of the images © the Walt Disney Company
Our tour continues: By now, you should know what it was like to walk around the show. It was an experience far removed from the then troubled world of Newark, New Jersey, in 1973. Stepping through that magic archway meant leaving reality behind, to enter a red and yellow land of fantasy. That, in itself, was memorable, but it was only half the story. One had to look into the showcases to see what was actually on display, the results of a lifetime of loving Disney, and five short impassioned years of consciously collecting Mickey.
The Catalogue lists everything in detail, so, I will keep my comments short, and only remark about what pops into my mind on this tour. In the case below, right in the middle, is the Ideal jointed composition Mickey doll. This was my second mouse. By the way, the tiny pink flower on Minnie's hat in the upper left, was missing when she got back home again. That turned out to be the only casualty of lending the collection to the show. I considered it a Miracle!
The Mickey in the middle is one of the earliest made by George Borgfeldt Company. There are two very charming pairs of Steiff dolls as well. A pristine tiny Steiff is on the lower right.
This Gang of three got the only close-up. Then, I realized that I was running out of time, before the opening of the show. Thinking back, I find it quite amazing that these far from perfect photos came out as sharp as they did, considering that the camera was hand held. Goodness knows, I couldnít do it now.
The Mickey mascot on the lower left, happens to be a family heirloom. It decorated my father-in-law, Alexander Richardís lorry, in Dover, England, circa 1933. He sold the vehicle to his chum, Smudger Smith. When Alex learned that his daughter, Eunice was marrying a Mickey Mouse collector, he managed to get it back again. Smudger still had it, after all those years.
The first Mickey Mouse toy is on the lower left. When I saw this showcase, on the night of the opening, I realized that some of the Siberling rubber mice were melting from being under the hot lights. The one in the upper middle had already keeled over. Needless to say, they went home with me that evening.
This showcase displays the four Blue Ribbon Pop-Up Books. My favorite, "King Neptune" is in the middle.
This case contains a nice selection of early books, along with a fairly rare set of Mickey boy scout bookends, and a matching lamp. The Mickey lightbulb continued to glow, throughout the six weeks of the show, and still lights up, today.
Here is a selection of Mickey games, ranging from Mickey Dominos to Mickey Mouse Old Maid.
The Paas Easter egg decorations made for a colorful display. An item that one hardly sees, these days, is the Mickey popcorn popper. In 1973, I thought it might be commonplace.
In the middle of the showcase, are the Madame Alexander Marionettes. They always looked like Dick Clark era teens to me. Left and right, are the beautiful Mickey and Minnie paper dolls.
Here are a couple of strange Mickey masks. The one in the middle had seen better days. The cast iron doorstop, on the left, might have been homemade, then again, maybe not. The large doll is interesting. It was made to commemorate the 1939 Worldís Fair; and it is clearly marked. Note that the pie-cut eyes had changed that year.
Oh! Here it is, the amazing Snow White cell that I finagled into the deal. Beside it, is the original pencil drawing for the background. Here, too, is the set of Snow White figurines that I got for my eighth birthday.
Here is a random selection of other Disney odds and ends. The Panchito doll was made in Mexico
This showcase is musical. It contains all three variations of the Emerson Mickey Mouse Radio. Donít miss the tiny Austrian bronze orchestra, on the left side, below. I still find it incredible that I dared to loan these precious treasures to the show, and they survived.
I never collected Mickey Mouse watches, enthusiastically, but, nonetheless, here, most of them are, anyway.
This showcase full of Celluloid toys is almost embarrassing. It illustrates, dramatically, how far I still had to go in 1973. Forty-three more years of avidly amassing more of these, still lay ahead of me.
Well, here it is, the modest beginnings of the pyramid of bisques that dominates Mouse Heaven, today. This showcase contains the images that, at the time, seemed slightly secondary.
Last but not least; this case is almost entirely filled with Mickey and Minnie. Itís amazing how many of these bisques I had, way back in 1973.
Dare I insert this photo here? Just to refresh your memory: This is what the pyramid of bisques looks like, today, in Mouse Heaven, USA.
Now, follow me, and we'll attend the Grand Opening. The Bambergerís MICKEY MOUSE-EUM is hosting a Private Preview Party. There is even valet parking. Entry is by invitation only. Donít worry about that! Just turn the page, and stick with me; and I will get you in!