A Match Made In...

On a recent trip to my parents’ house, I discovered a cigar box full of old Walt Disney World matchbooks and matchboxes that my parents had collected during our trips in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. During every trip, my family would grab these for novelty’s sake and to perhaps light a cigar or two. Unbelievably they have lasted the 20-25 years since those trips. My family doesn't have as many souvenirs from those trips as I would've enjoyed, but I found these to be uniquely fascinating little mementos with an interesting story.

Disney matches aren’t your typical collectors' items and I doubt would fetch much on eBay, but it’s amazing how something as innocuous as a matchbook could be such a relevant window into the past. I have little use for matches, but they were an extension of hotels and restaurants at the time. And Disney of course branded them appropriately. It was as much a part of the theming as everything else Disney did. As such, they offer quite a compelling window to the history of many famous Disney locations. I don’t mean to overload on pixie dust, but I truly felt the rush of nostalgia looking through these matchbooks. You can easily transport yourself to the old branding and style of the Polynesian and Contemporary Resorts during their ‘80s heyday.

It’s also a curious look at a time not long ago where smoking was encouraged even in a theme park! Nowadays you won’t find many matchbooks anywhere as laws prohibit many establishments from allowing smoking inside their buildings. I imagine it was decided that matchbooks would only encourage guests to skirt these laws and there no longer was a reason to give visitors fire-starting instruments. Also, overall safety concerns are much stricter than they were 20 years ago so leaving an implement of potential destruction so easily accessible is simply not going to happen in a family-friendly theme park, and certainly not in this post-9/11 world.

A matchbox for the Tobacconist shop on Main Street, U.S.A. is a particularly telling souvenir and window to a vastly different time. For years, this shop adorned the main thoroughfare from the entrance of Magic Kingdom. It sold cigarettes, tobacco and other related smoking accessories. All at a park named after a man who passed at an early age….of lung cancer!! Obviously these were different times. Many of you may recall flying to Orlando aboard airplanes filled with smoke and visiting Disney hotels, theme parks and restaurants with large smoking areas. Thankfully the times changed. People started valuing oxygen once again and the Tobacconist gave way to plush. (As much as the Tobacconist is an almost quaint throwback to an earlier era, there's no doubt in my mind it doesn't belong in a family theme park.)

In this day and age of merchandise saturating and branding of almost every item imaginable (i.e. Mickey Mouse waffle-maker), it may be hard for some to recall a time when it took a lot just to get to Walt Disney World and as such, you didn't get to leave with a lot beyond those amazing memories. You had to use your imagination to connect to those memories as I have often detailed in past reviews of many of Disney's pictorial souvenirs and books. But something like a postcard or a matchbox was also a fun little keepsake and a prompt for the brain to transport to the Gulf Coast Room, the Polynesian Village Resort, and other long forgotten memories.


Unknown said...

The graphics and logos on those covers are fantastic!

Any chance of getting a better scan of the Villager ones?


Jason G. said...

I know...I love the details in something as innocuous as a matchbox!

I just emailed you the higher res scan of the Village ones.

The Postcardguy - Kevin Hughes said...

I've been collecting Disney matches for years and especially those from WDW. I believe I have probably 60 or so different ones and some are quite hard to find! On an added note I also have quite the collection of Disney plastic drink stirrers (Yes-Disney promoting alcohol!) as well. Thanks for the look at your collection!

Princess Fee said...

These are absolutely fantastic! The logos are such a blast from the past... I love them - thank you for sharing them. I think my favourite are the Main Street USA ones.