Behold the glory of the Mark Twain, the prettiest paddle wheeler on the planet. Divine in every Dixie detail, it’s the ultimate old-timey attraction in Disneyland’s Frontierland and has been since the day it was launched, 60 years ago. Here, you see it in 1957.

Over the years, I’ve boarded that beauty more times than I can remember, and enjoyed that round-the-island journey enough times to have gone down the entire Mississippi river at least once.

So, what a surprise it was when I heard you could actually “drive” the Mark Twain, and then get a certificate that says “I drove the Mark Twain,” or something like that.

I was told that when boarding, you kindly ask the captain, and if you’re lucky, he’ll say yes and escort your party upstairs to the big ship wheel and everyone will get a turn.

So, after several trips to Disneyland and failed attempts to get my hands on that paddle wheeler wheel, the odds were finally in my favor. I wrangled my party of six to Frontierland. As we boarded, I caught the attention of the Captain and politely asked if we could steer the ship. He hemmed and hawed for a moment and made me wait for it. “Yes” was followed by directions to the staircase, where he would meet my party right before takeoff.

He opened the gate and ushered my party ahead, up the stairs. As I stepped up, he stopped me and said, “I’m sorry, I can only take five up.” I said, “But, um, there are six of us. Pleeease?”  “I’m sorry,” he said, “Five is the limit.”

Without skipping a beat I began begging, then pleading. I really wanted to steer the Mark Twain. Finally he said, “Well, okay, but you’re going to have to duck down the whole time you’re up there.”

I agreed and went up the stairs, ducking the whole way.

Everyone got their chance to steer, and finally, it was my turn.

As I started to steer, I stood up, and he said, “Hey, duck back down.”

“But how am I going to see where I’m going? I don’t want to run into anything,” I said. He said, “Haven’t you ridden the Mark Twain before?” “Of course I have,” I said. “Then you know where you’re going!” he said.

As the ride ended, he began handing out the souvenir certificates. Everyone got one but me. I said, “What about me?”  He said, “I’m sorry, I just ran out.”   

I have nothing to show for it, but I finally got to steer the Mark Twain. Without even looking!

BTW, Don’t miss my RETRO DISNEYLAND SLIDE SHOW: DAPPER DAY EDITION at Downtown Disney – Sep 19 … and if you love vintage Disneyland, you’ll love my ANAHEIMLAND show – THE MAGIC KINGDOM INSIDE & OUT – Oct 11 in Anaheim.

Cheers to the Mark Twain and YOU !!! …

Charles Phoenix