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Vintage Disney Matchbooks Part 1: Disneyland

As much as society has changed, there used to be a time when smoking was much more common (In fact, even Walt himself was a smoker; and more often than not, he’d be seen with a cigarette in hand )…and the activity created lots of opportunities for businesses to promote themselves.

Although smoking is not for me, I DO appreciate the gorgeous matchbooks that used to be distributed throughout the Disney Parks.

Vintage Disney Matchbooks

Nearly every single dining establishment, store, “land,” hotel and lounge had its own matchbook – free souvenirs to visiting guests.  I’ve recently stumbled upon (and won) some online auctions for vintage Disney Parks matchbook collections.  I am completely obsessed with their coolness.

The matchbooks I’ve received include everything from early early Disneyland to Disneyland Paris, to Epcot and Pleasure Island in Walt Disney World.  It was so much fun to go through them and sort out the restaurants and lounges to share here on the blog.

Vintage Disneyland Matchbooks

Because there are so many, this will be a three part series divided into Disneyland, Epcot and “Other.” Let’s start in Disneyland!

Disneyland Vintage Matchbooks

Club 33

The Club 33 match book is one of the more recent matchbooks in the collection.  Not sure that it would be considered vintage, but it’s still pretty awesome.

Years ago, personalized match books awaited you at your table when you dined at Club 33, but when a healthier trend started to spread, the matches were replaced mini pads of paper that looked exactly like a matchbook.  This photo though, is an actual matchbook.

Club 33 Matchbook

Plantation House and Red Wagon Inn

The other three matchbooks are much older.  The one below features two restaurants, The Plantation House in Frontierland and the Red Wagon Inn on Main Street USA.

Both restaurants debuted at Disneyland’s grand opening and were operated by Swift Meats.  The Plantation House served up fried chicken dinners for $1.70.  Meals could be enjoyed on the patio of a plantation style home along the Rivers of America.  The Plantation House closed in 1962 to make room for New Orleans Square.

The Red Wagon Inn and Plantation House

The Red Wagon Inn was said to be Walt’s favorite restaurant at Disneyland.  A lovely table service restaurant, The Red Wagon Inn was the most popular place to dine as well as the only restaurant in Disneyland to serve full course dinners. They also served breakfast and lunch.

The Red Wagon Inn housed the first cast member only dining room, which was dubbed the “Inn Between” because its location was “in between” Tomorrowland and Main Street.

In July of 1965, after the Swift Meats’ lease was up, the restaurant was converted to a buffet style counter service venue and reopened as the Plaza Inn, which faithfully serves up the best fried chicken in town!  For more information on the Red Wagon Inn, check out this post on MousePlanet.

Disneyland Hotel

The Disneyland Hotel matchbook is very mid century modern looking. I love the gold and blue.

When the Disneyland Hotel first opened, its restaurants were run by “Gourmet.”  There was an “affordable” coffee shop, the ‘Round the World Lounge, and the Gourmet Restaurant.  There was also this fab Hotel Bar and the Top of the Park Lounge.  In 1986 the Coffee Shop converted into the ultimate 80′s awesomeness of the Monorail Cafe.

Disneyland Hotel Vintage Matchbook

Casa de Fritos

My absolute favorite book in this Disneyland collection is the Casa de Fritos matchbook.  The artwork, colors, composition, and even the out of registration printing makes it so classic.

Casa de Fritos Vintage Matchbook

Originally located in what is now the New Orleans Square area, the popular restaurant, after two years of business, outgrew its space. In June of  1957 it had to be relocated to Frontierland in the space that currently houses Rancho del Zocalo.

The “Mexican” restaurant and I say that very loosely, served original menu items that included Frito Chili Pie (Fritos topped with chili and cheese) as well as a taco in a “Tacup” which was ground beef taco meat, cheese, lettuce, and sauce served in a fried corn corn dough “cup.” Other menu items included tamales (there was a Frito tamale!), chili and beans, Mexican rice, and a combination plate that went for a whopping $1.00!

It is also rumored that Doritos were actually invented at Casa de Fritos.  Unused tortillas were cut up, fried, and seasoned. Due to their popularity locally, Doritos were released nationwide in 1966 and were the first tortilla chip on the market.

Another fun part of Casa de Fritos? Here you could meet the Frito Kid and buy a pack of Fritos from him for a nickel.  Put in the nickel and out of the mine slides a bag of Fritos.

Frito Kid Chip Mine

I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down one of Disneyland’s many memory lanes.  Join me next time when I share Part 2 of this fun little series: Vintage Matchbooks of Epcot!

Do you have any vintage Disney Parks matchbooks stashed away from years ago?

Heather Sievers is the Disney Food Blog’s Dining in Disneyland columnist. See more of her columns here!

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20 Comments

  1. Lori Ketcherside says:

    Oh my goodness, they are beautiful. I didn’t know matchbooks could be so interesting.

  2. Jess says:

    This is so cool! Thanks for sharing! The Frito Chip Mine seemed really neat!

  3. Wendy says:

    Oh, wow… seriously cool! They are like mini works of art. Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. Heather Sievers says:

    @Jess – I know! I wish I could go back in time!

    @Wendy – Thanks for reading, I love the artwork on them too!

  5. Phil says:

    Neat stuff. I’m looking forward to what Epcot was handing out… that would have been back about the time smoking was really beginning to become frowned upon (as opposed to being the “default” state of social interaction).

    The Frito Kid looks awesome… I’d pay a nickel to buy a pack from him.

  6. Deb says:

    Casa de Fritos, I have wonderful memories of that place:) We loved getting Fritos from “The Frito Kid” when we were kids.. I seem to remember he also talked..

  7. Heather Sievers says:

    @Lori – I didn’t realize it either. The artwork is just so fabulous!

    @Phil – I do have a handful of interesting Epcot ones. Will start working on that post soon!

    @Deb – I so wish I had experienced Casa de Fritos!

  8. Beth in MI says:

    They used to serve Pepsi and Coke in Disneyland?! Wow! Wonder what Coke did to win out?

    Thanks for sharing. They really are beautiful. I have a collection of matchbooks at home. I used to take one from where ever I went as a souvenier. As happy as I am that smoking is no longer as acceptable as it once was, I miss the matchbooks.

  9. Essie says:

    I wasn’t sure about this article when I saw that it was about matchbook covers, but gee, did I enjoy it! I, too, appreciate the artwork and a look into the past. The Frito ‘mine machine’ is cute as can be; too bad that it’s not preserved and still in use somewhere. I can’t wait for the next articles, thanks.

  10. Laura says:

    That is amazing! I never knew these existed. How cool that you have been able to collect some of these. I agree that I’m glad smoking is not as prominent as in the past but these are pretty darn fun.

  11. Tim says:

    Thanks so much for sharing, Heather. Contemporary Disney is fun but there is nothing quite like that old style these matchbooks depict. Looking forward to Parts 2 and 3!

  12. Marla says:

    I have been collecting disney matchbooks for years. I love finding new ones. If you find a full Casa del fritos ( with matches intact) they have the menu printed on the matches themselves.

  13. Heather Sievers says:

    @Essie – So glad you enjoyed it!

    @Laura – I found them on accident on eBay, I had no idea either!

    @Tim – Thanks for reading!

    @Marla – Would love to see your collection!

  14. Jennifer Lambert says:

    We were at an Estate Sale earlier this summer and came across some WDW matchbooks ourselves (which we happened to pick up for FREE). Again, non-smokers in our household, but I love old matchbooks and we found some great ones at this estate sale from the Polynesian, Contemporary and a few other WDW locations I can’t remember. Thanks for this post, can’t wait to see what other ones are out there!

  15. Patty Clark says:

    I do have a couple. I had a huge matchbook collection that I purged. I only kept important / interesting ones. I was really surprised to find Disney ones – it has been MANY years since I looked at them and had forgotten what I had. Great article!

  16. Heather S. says:

    @Jennifer – That is a score to get them for free!

    @Patty – Until I did some research on matchbooks when I wrote the piece, I really had no idea how popular of a collection item they are. So many people collect them. Really interesting.

  17. Nancy says:

    I used to collect matchbooks and have some from Disney world, but nothing from Disneyland. Nice article!

  18. Heather Sievers says:

    @Nancy – Thanks for reading! Glad you enjoyed it.

  19. East Coast Mermaid says:

    HI,
    what great articles. I am so envious of your matchbooks and, that out of this world Club 33
    dinner at the Haunted Mansion! Lucky Lucky YOU! I wanta be you. I need suggestions for places to look in Anaheim and Orange this month for the matchbooks. Anyone? Thanks bunches. Let me end this with a Disney Line:
    “Whats eatin him. Nuttin. He’s at the top of the food chain” Timon LION KING.

    Love you guys,

    East Coast Mermaid.

  20. Heather Sievers says:

    @East Coast Mermaid – Best bet for matchbooks is online. Try eBay! Glad you love the article!

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