In Which The Baby-Sitters Club Goes To WDW In 1988

Adulthood rite of passage: your parents move out of your childhood home, and they do a massive purge of their stuff. Some of that stuff is your stuff. They ask you if you want that stuff. You pick through the stuff, select a very small percentage of stuff you want to keep, and tell them to do whatever they want with the remainder of the stuff. Sell the stuff, recycle the stuff, toss the stuff. The key point is, you do not want the stuff. You have your own stuff. Too much stuff, really. You should probably purge some stuff yourself.

In my case, a lot of the stuff was books. I know – I didn’t want books? Look, I kept the good books I liked and potentially wanted to read again. A couple made the cut purely for nostalgia’s sake. But I do not need 8,000 volumes of The Baby-Sitters Club. Toss.

Too late I realized I should’ve made one exception: did you ever read Baby-Sitters on Board? It was the first Super Special of the series, and sees the BSC going on a cruise… followed by Walt Disney World! In 1988! 

Eager to reread the story with an eye to the differences described in 1988’s WDW vs. today, I obtained a new copy. You absolutely cannot find a text-only version for free on the internet, so definitely don’t google “Babysitters on Board pdf” because nothing will come up, okay? 

The prose is intended for preteens, so it’s a quick and easy read, and only includes two Wacky Outfit Descriptions (this must be before it became de rigueur to begin every story with detailed observations of what every club member was wearing). But in case you don’t feel like slogging your way through several thousand words about “cute boys” and at least two separate instances of the Comet/vomit song, here are my observations:

  • The cruise is not a Disney cruise, because in 1988 there was no Disney Cruise Line. But one character mentions that every single person on the cruise is also going to WDW after somehow. In the ’80s Disney was mandatory. 
  • Once they leave the ship, they are neither at a Disney hotel. Firstly, I’d imagine if they had stayed at a Disney resort, this would’ve been described in detail, but most telling is the mention that there’s a minibar and I’m 99% sure Disney has never furnished those in rooms.
  • They also describe taking a bus to the TTA to the monorail to the Magic Kingdom, but if I recall correctly there weren’t bus stops at MK until the last ten years or so, right?
  • Karen, the little sister of BSC president Kristy, gets her own chapters in this one, and she ends up freaked out in the Haunted Mansion because she legit thinks a hitchhiking ghost actually is following her home. She later gets lost in Fantasyland and decides the ghost is friendly and it helps her find her family again. She wants it to come back to her house so it can live with the ghost that’s already in her attic…? Fred’s and Dave’s headstones are accounted for.
  • Karen also talks about various costume characters like Minnie and Snow White just wandering around freely. No handlers, no lines. Heady times, the ’80s.
  • Another Karen chapter describes a character breakfast on the Empress Lilly, which I had heard of but was hazy on the details. Turns out it was part of the erstwhile Walt Disney World Village, now Disney Springs. The characters (the ones in the book, not the ones in the costumes) note sadly that it’s a fake boat-shaped building, not an actual paddleboat – oh shoot, I just realized this must be Paddlefish now. Boy am I slow on the uptake. Anyway, according to Karen the inside isn’t that exciting. So much for theme.
  • Everyone’s really enthralled with Main Street –  they keep calling it a “little town.” Now defunct shops mentioned include the House of Magic, Penny Arcade, The Shadow Box (what even was that?), and the cinema.
  • Defunct MK rides mentioned include Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (miss you, boo!), Snow White’s Adventures, and the Skyway. Unfortunately no ’80s descriptions are included, aside from a mention of the Witch trying to dump a rock on you in Snow White.
  • Big Thunder gets a bit of detail – one kid mentioned the scenery including bones, possums, a chicken, a goat, and a mine shaft. I think that’s all still there. Pirates of the Caribbean is also described, but even with all the refurbs over the year nothing new (that is to say, old) is mentioned. Typical piracy, I guess. Much excitement over audio-animatronic leg hair.
  • At some point people get ice cream at a place in Fantasyland called The Round Table? Never heard of it. Former name of the Friar’s Nook, maybe? Perhaps the Cheshire Cafe? A slightly more than cursory internet search won me nothing but Cinderella’s Royal Table and round table discussions.
  • Dawn is all snobby about WDW because she’s from CA and has been to Disneyland, oh, SO many times. Turns out she finds the WDW Space Mountain way more intense than the Disneyland one. I can’t confirm; mostly what I remember from Disneyland‘s Space Mountain is that the cars are more comfortable and WAY easier to get into and out of. There is no mention of this in the book, only motion sickness. The babysitters are weak.
  • More characters end up on Tom Sawyer Island in this book than possibly some days in the park. Are there still air guns in the fort?
  • Only one group ever makes it to what was then called Epcot Center. It is led by Stacey, who claims not to know what “prototype” means but whatever. Epcot having changed so drastically, her chapter is pretty interesting. They start at the Universe of Energy, which would’ve been pre-Ellen/Bill, but no one calls it boring; it’s all about the dinosaurs, which, fair. 
  • Next they hit up The World of Motion, which I never rode (that I remember). According to the book, there’s a bike accident AND a car accident, and it is HILARIOUS.
  • At the Imagination pavilion, they do Captain EO, which they find “funny, exciting, and deliciously scary.” I would’ve gone with “bonkers, absurdist, and deliciously bizarre,” but sure. But then they’re right there and DON’T DO THE FIGMENT RIDE??????? They don’t even mention its existence and I feel personally attacked by this omission. (They never make it to or mention Horizons, either. Whoever did the research for this book didn’t like good rides, apparently.) The Epcot portion concludes in World Showcase, where they have lunch at “a restaurant.” I love that place!
  • It is implied that the day parade and the night parade are the same parade except for the whole timing thing. They catch the nighttime version at the end. The only float specifically mentioned is an upside-down birthday cake. I’m assuming this is un-birthday related but it doesn’t ring a bell for me. I checked and apparently the Main Street Electrical Parade would’ve been running at MK during this period, but I don’t remember that float. Afterward there are fireworks, but nobody says anything about a soundtrack or shapes or any of that jazz. 

So that was WDW in 1988 according to some made up people! It occurs to me just now that if the babysitters were all around twelve/thirteen in this book, they were born in the ’70s. That would make them all in their forties now, and older than me. See, sometimes nostalgia makes you feel young!

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