Today’s Wheel of Years stopped at 1937, so here we go. Our family had moved in 1934 from living at grandmother’s big home in the Los Feliz area of Hollywood to nearby Glendale California. We located on Davis Avenue just across the railroad tracks from the Grand Central Air Terminal.
Note: Los Feliz is the community where Walt Disney lived on Woking Way, just one block up from grandmother’s home. The southern section of Davis Avenue was later re-named WEDway. See, this connection stuff is everywhere.
I loved Davis Avenue – the sky was filled with airplanes circling to land, and I could hear the big steam trains from the nearby tracks, but could see them only when riding in our family’s 1931 Chevrolet sedan. I knew the airport was over the tracks. Oh how I wanted to see the place. I’d graduated from nursery school in summer 1937 and started kindergarten at Thomas Jefferson Grammar School a few blocks away. For a while I was walked to and from school by my mother, but later on I was trusted to go by myself when I reached first grade.
She’d trust me to walk 1/2 block to the local Mr. Todd’s drugstore to browse the comic books – one featured a mouse, another a totally crazy duck. I liked the cowboy ones better. When given some coins to buy comics, I bought a cap pistol and coiled ammo instead. When my dad found out, he made all further purchases in a deal with Mr. Todd to “watch out for me”. OK, I’ll do something else.
One day, faking my time, supposedly on drugstore visits, I got across busy San Fernando Road, crossed the tracks and entered the airline passenger terminal. Oh gee! A great big black and chrome radial aircraft engine was the center display in the lobby. Lots of well dressed people were coming and going for travel on the big propeller driven airliners. I was so close to an airplane for the first time – but I’d better hurry home so as to not get caught that far from home.
Another time I was able to sneak under a hole in the fence outside the hanger where the big planes were kept. I got all the way into one before a mechanic dragged me out and sent me away. I had seen enough to know this is what I wanted to do when I grew up. At some point I was drawing airplane cartoons with crayons on my closet walls until caught again doing something bad. But it turned out OK, I was given lots of paper and crayons so I could draw everything I wanted. I even made up crazy airplanes, and cars too.
My parents finally understood my airplane passion and would occasionally drive me to the Grand Central Air Terminal and to the bigger United Air Terminal way out in Burbank. I was then allowed to go right up to where the passengers and planes were at the gate. Oh boy how I loved the noise, smoke and smell of the big round engines starting up and moving out to the runway. The take off! Oh thrill thrill. One great looking plane, a DC3, after landing,would arrive at the gate sporting two orange flags outside the cockpit windows – the American Airlines Flagship.
Grand Central Air Terminal opened in 1930 as the airline capital of Los Angeles, remaining so the until a big new air terminal was built in the mid 1930s west of Los Angeles, eventually becoming the now famous LAX. The first transcontinental airline flight was from Glendale to New York City in 1930, American Airlines Ford Trimotor – Captain Charles Lindbergh.
In 1939 we moved again, this time to North Hollywood. War clouds were gathering, Army Air Corps biplanes were filling the skies above Grand Central, while bombers and fighters were being manufactured at the former United (Lockheed) Air Terminal to help England fight off the German Nazi attacks on their Isles. Soon came Pearl Harbor and WWII was in full swing. Both these airports stayed busy 24 hours a day with manufacturing and training all the way to the war’s end in August 1945.
When WWII ended, Grand Central became the hub of private aviation for Hollywood’s wealthy sportsmen, like Howard Hughes and Robert Cummings, who kept their luxury classic airplanes there. Part of the old American Airlines hangers became Curtiss-Wright Technical Institute where I planned to learn aircraft design after graduation from high school in summer 1949 (but I switched to car design instead).
Grand Central Airport closed in 1958 to become the Grand Central Industrial Park. In August 1961 WED Enterprises leased a small building at 800 Sonora Avenue to house all the WED folks who’d been squirreled away at the Walt Disney Productions Studios in Burbank since 1952. My office was at 800, then later moved to the adjacent new MAPO building, WED’s manufacturing center. Those old American Airlines hangers then became another MAPO factory called Airway. Many of my ride vehicles were built there – the same place where Howard Hughes built his famous H1 world record setting racing plane.
In my last year at Disney, before being fired in August 1981, my office was located in the old passenger terminal building where decades earlier I first encountered aviation close up. I loved being around that wonderful old place with it’s modern airliners and wealthy travelers. What a wonderful time of life, spanning age 6 thru 50 living thru so many eras centered around the same place.
Over the years, WED became WDI and expanded extensively thru out the industrial park. By 2013, the WDI activities had become centered in a beautiful facility, now called the Creative Campus. When you drive down Grand Central Avenue today thru the Campus, you’re on the runway of the old Grand Central Air Terminal. Yes indeed, from the original LAX to Disney’s WDI Creative Campus in 83 years.
The books have been printed, shipped and should be here very soon. Watch for a special “They’re Here!” issue of the newsletter!
May Miss Macintosh interview:
MM: Last month you said the books are all printed – where are they now?
BG: The books are on a big container ship headed straight for Long Beach, California. The ship will arrive Monday May 7th, then after they clear customs, get to a shipping forwarder, they’ll all be safe at my nephew Eric’s farm in Riverside, California.
MM: Why Riverside – don’t you live in Tujunga near Los Angeles?
BG: Free storage and free labor for shipping out the books! Eric and his three kids volunteered to do a lot of the work – I pay them with beer and pizza. Eric gets the beer.
MM: So, isn’t this a lot of work to ship 1,000 first editions?
BG: You bet, but I’ve worked out a system where each person has a simple task; Eric unpacks each case of books, Marilee folds up the Post Office Priority Mail flats into boxes, Preston adds the labels to the boxes, then I paste in the gold foil Certificate of Authenticity and autograph each book. We wrap them in bubble pack, and Clara seals them into the boxes, then I run them to the Post Office 150 at a time. We’ll do over 700 in just a few days.
MM: Where do you get all the shipping materials?
BG: Easy. The Post office has delivered the hundreds of box flats to me free, the giant rolls of bubble pack arrived here by truck – everything is done on the internet. I print all the shipping labels, maintain the order books and lists for all the buyers. It’s been fun going to the Post office and cashing the checks too. But it all will get easier after June 1st – I’ll be using PayPal for continuing orders after I ship out all the pre-sold books.
MM: Still out of Riverside?
BG: No, I’ll be handling all the rest of the books from my place in Tujunga. We’ll move books as needed out of secure storage in Riverside to Tujunga.
MM: Must be something to be a fulfillment center.
BG: Yep. If you write it, you might as well ship it too!
The pressing are running
We’re rounding the last turn and heading into the station. Final proofs and tests have been approved and the books are in the final stages of printing. Read Bob’s interview with Miss Macintosh below for more info.
April Miss Macintosh interview:
MM: I see that you have TWO editions of DESIGN: Just for Fun. Why is that?
BG: My 1959 Disneyland Monorail design started with two trains…the Red and the Blue. If you look closely at the book cover, you’ll notice that images appear to be attached to the gray metal siding as used on the Monorail. And since the first edition is red, why not make a matching blue edition? It’s just like the red and blue Monorail Collectibles.
MM: Oh my gosh…how logical is that. Who thought that up?
BG: Michael Aronson of Lost Boys Design, who designed my book, thought that keying the book cover design off the original Disneyland Monorail would be real cool. Kinda clever I thought…some folks might now want to collect both book editions.
MM: What’s the difference between the red and blue editions?
BG: The red is a collector’s edition, signed and numbered, so that those folks who buy the book early before it comes out in May are rewarded for their early purchase. The text is the same in both editions, just that early buyers get the collectible one. But I think both will eventually be collectible anyway, knowing just how enthusiastic Disney fans are.
MM: How far along are the books right now?
BG:The pages for all 2,000 books have finished printing, so the book binding process is underway now, and should soon be loaded into shipping cases, which will be sealed into pallet sized shipments.
MM: Where will the books be sold.
BG: I’m still accepting pre-sell orders at bobgurr.com, then we’ll have some book signings starting in mid May. I’ll be using PayPal too. The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco will be the first store to sell them starting in June. Meanwhile my family and friends will be very busy shipping out all those hundreds of pre-sold orders. Well over half the Red Collector’s Edition are gone already. And that’s before hardly anyone has written any reviews yet.
MM: Sounds like they all be gone before the year is out.
We have proof(s)!The proofs have returned from the printer and have been approved!
MM: You tell the story of about fifty projects in your book. Is that all you ever did?
BG: Oh gosh no…from 1952 to 1998 I was was asked to develop designs for 238 corporate projects as well as 21 smaller individual designs of all kinds.
MM: Did you do even more work for Disney?
BG:Yes…lots more. Long after I retired from Disney, as GurrDesign, Inc. I was a consultant to WDI R&D doing lots of secret future stuff that I can’t talk about.
MM: Well, can you talk about projects for other companies?
BG: Sure. I designed car bodies for Malibu Grand Prix, the new Circlevision Camera for Iwerks Entertainment, even their Reversing Projector, for which Don Iwerks and I share the US patent. I did a number of projects for Garner Holt Productions, who later became Disney’s largest theme park attractions supplier. Several Las Vegas companies asked me to produce designs for their shows.
MM: I know you did the big Treasure Island Pirate sinking ship job…what else?
BG: A real fun job was the Sky Parade at the Rio Hotel Masquerade Village. This was a parade of floats that carried guests and entertainers, all while hanging from the ceiling!
MM: Any other kinds of projects?
BG: Why yes…in 1953 I helped work on President Eisenhower’s Columbine II Air Force One at Lockheed Aircraft in Burbank…super secret job I almost forgot I did. And for years I did illustrations for many car magazines…Motor Life, Road & Track for example. A big thrill was painting a cover for Road & Track back in 1954…a national magazine cover!
MM: Was there any project you would have liked to do?
BG: You bet…a Rose Parade Float. Never got the chance. Those designs have fascinated me since I was a teenager. I love to figure out how those wizards do their mechanical animations. Maybe some day.
Off to print
Printed…On it’s way!
We had an exciting milestone this week as the book has been sent to the printer. We’ll be posting a sample, formatted chapter soon for newsletter subscribers. Get a first look at what the printers will be…printing!
Bob Gurr’s assistant, Miss Macintosh, interviews Bob:
MM: Why on earth would you publish your own book. Books are supposed to be created by publishers? You’re just expected to write a rough manuscript and they do the rest.
BG: Why not do the whole book myself? It’s just another learning project like a Monorail or a Flying Saucer. Just start in and learn about all the stuff you don’t know.
MM: So how do you “just start”?
BG: Easy — Carlene Thie has ten years experience publishing her own books, and she said “just do it”. I hired her as my consultant so she could point me in all the directions needed to gather all the legal documents, copyright permissions, even find a great printer.
MM: Writing is one thing, but how do you put it all together?
BG: That’s where the book designer comes in. Michael Aronson of Lost Boys Design has the skills to take my writings and images, then assemble them using Adobe InDesign software. This is a computer file that the printer uses to make the offset lithography printing plates. We work together on book layout to get the overall style I want to see. He is creating a beautiful classic book, I can’t wait to see the finished result..
MM: I understand you can’t type, and you got a “D” in high school english. How the heck can you expect to be an author?
BG: Carlene set me up with a fantastic proof reader, Carolyn Burns Bass, who patiently plowed thru my “speaklish” writing style and delivered a perfect manuscript. It’s a team effort requiring about 7 different proof readings by Carolyn, Michael, and myself.
MM: Who sells and ships the book?
BG: I handle all the sales orders, do the accounting and sales tax stuff, while we do the shipping with help from my nephew Eric and his kids. See, book publishing is a great friend and family deal, and a terrific chance to learn yet another project — just another Monorail or Flying Saucer.
Happy New Year!
As we roll into 2012, “Design:Just for Fun” is also on the move heading into final design and layout. This puts us right on track for a spring 2012 release. Keep up to date with the latest news and progress reports at www.BobGurr.com.
December Miss Macintosh interview:
MM: You are known for designing cars for Disneyland and Walt Disney World after designing cars at the Ford Motor Company in Michigan when you were just 20 years old. But didn’t you also make car designs for another company 58 years ago?
BG: Yes, a car company called Kaiser-Willys asked me to make designs for them thru their Detroit consultant Miller & Grisinger.
MM: Did you do this work in Detroit?
BG: Oh no…I had returned to sunny California when I was asked to start designs for the 1956 Kaiser and Willys sedans. I did this work at the office of my early car book publisher, Post Publications in Arcadia California. Miller & Grisinger would send me template views of the cars, and I would trace over them to make my designs fit the overall design package correctly…no cheating with impractical wild sketches.
MM: What year did you do these designs?
BG: 1954, just before I began to design the first Disneyland Autopia car for Walt Disney. I loved doing car designs by myself without all the Detroit trapping of wearing a suit and tie, no boss demanding certain styles or features. I could just show up around 10am, draw cars until maybe 2pm, then go to the beach! I would make blue print copies of the drawings before sending them to Detroit every week. I was sort of a beach bum, but I pumped out dozens of designs while living an easy California life.
MM: Can car fans find these designs today?
BG: Sure…a 1998 Collectible Automobile interview that shows a few designs can be downloaded HERE.
MM: Disney fans ask for a Bob Gurr autograph, but they get R.H. Gurr – why?
BG: I have many names; Robert Henry Gurr, Henry Gurr, R.H. Gurr, Bob Gurr, even Gurrini – Walt Disney called me Bobby Gurr.
MM:So why R.H. Gurr?
BG:My 1955 book, Automobile Design, was signed R.H. Gurr, which is sort of the British way of professional author naming. From 1952 to 1954 I used Henry Gurr to sign my earlier books. In Art Center School our professor had too many Bobs, so told anyone with a middle name to use it. Henry Dreyfuss was a famous industrial designer, so I used Henry, but which I disliked. I’ve signed everything R.H. Gurr ever since.
MM:Gurrini – what’s that all about?
BG:My favorite moniker. Working as a car stylist at Ford in 1952, Italian sports cars were all the rage, using Stabilimenti as the manufacturer name, thus my sports car sketches carried the identity – Stabilimenti Gurrini, as in Stabilimenti Ferrari. It’s my e-mail name today.
Presenting…the Book Cover!
For the first time anywhere. We wanted to give our Newsletter subscribers the first look at the cover for Bob’s upcoming book. More first looks and exclusive content coming up in the next few weeks.
Bob Gurr’s assistant, Miss Macintosh, interviews Bob:
MM: When did GurrDesign start?
BG: R.H. Gurr Industrial Design originated in 1953, then did early design work for Walt Disney’s WED Enterprises in 1954 shortly before Walt Disney hired me full time to help design Disneyland.
MM: Didn’t you create GurrDesign, Inc. later?
BG: After retirement from Disney in 1981, GurrDesign, Inc. was founded to do a wide variety of crazy projects such as a Sinking Ship in Las Vegas, an Olympic Games Flying Saucer, even a 30′ tall King Kong!
MM: What was the Flying Saucer about?
BG: I designed a wild Olympics Closing Ceremonies lighting gag.
MM: Now that you are 80 and retired, what does GurrDesign do?
BG: GurrDesign is doing yet another crazy project…publishing a new book that will reveal how so many interesting projects were created and brought to success. The book will be available in late spring 2012.