The Disney Zurcher Story

Walt, Albert, and Roy at the Zurcher building |

Zurcher’s Jewelry Store would have been a bustling business during the time the Disney family lived in Marceline. It was prominently located by the town center and was described as one of the most handsome buildings in town.  The business served almost every need the town had, other than food. Jewelry, furniture, optometry, radios, cameras and later TVs and electronics. During Walt Disney’s time, he would have seen Santa Fe railroader workers making their monthly visit to have Mr. Zurcher certify their time pieces so that they could get paid. He would have been aware of Mr. Zurcher’s role in maintaining the official Santa Fe clock that synchronized regional railroad operations to those across the country. Mr. Zurcher would have been an imposing and important person to Walt.

Herbert and Raymond Disney

During one of Walt’s visits to Marceline, he began to reminisce about his brothers Herbert and Raymond. Among the stories he shared was what he believed to be a contributing factor to his brothers running away from home. “The older Disney boys really didn’t want to move to Marceline, they were bribed by being promised a share of the profits when the harvest came in. They each had big plans for that money, Raymond had picked out a fine suit at Murray’s Department Store. Herbert had decided on a gold pocket watch he had seen at Zurcher’s Jewelry Store. The harvest came, but the boys share of the profit did not. Mr. Disney told them he was keeping their share for their room and board. Herbert and Raymond were not happy.”

Coke Corner

The Zurcher building Coca-Cola advertisement dates to 1906, the very year the Disney moved to Marceline. Watching the mammoth sign being painted had to be quite a thrill for Marceline residents.​

In 1955 Walt drew from his memories of Marceline when designing Disneyland. He asked that Disneyland’s Coke Corner be modeled after the Zurcher building, the Coke Corner of his childhood.​

In December 2015, The Coca-Cola Company ‘gifted’ the newly painted sign to The Walt Disney Company in recognition of their 60-year partnership.

Hutchenson’s Furniture and Undertaking

September 29, 1905 Hutchenson’s moved into the building adjoining Zurcher’s.  The Coke Wall advertisement was sponsored by Hutchenson’s Furniture and Undertaking as noted by the advertisement above it.

Walt Disney said “My older brother Roy always made sure I had a little spending money.  One day he got us a job cleaning a horse drawn hearse.  Roy worked hard cleaning the hearse and I laid inside pretending to be dead.”​

Perhaps this is why the Haunted Mansion always has a horse drawn hearse in front?

Zurcher’s Windows

On Saturday’s farm families would come into town to do their trading and shopping.  In all probability, a young Walt Disney saw his first Kodak camera displayed in the window of Zurcher’s.​

Walt indicated that he saw his first movie while living in Marceline.  It is possible that movie combined with a Zurcher Kodak display helped spark his interest in filmmaking.

The Union!​

The Disney farm included an apple orchard.  They grew Wolf apples, a large apple known for its delicious flavor.  The region around Marceline included numerous orchards growing a variety of apples.  In 1909, Elias Disney determined, for reasons lost to time, that the regional apple workers needed to form a union to protect their interests.  Elias procured the use of the Knights of Pythias meeting hall, located above the Zurcher store.  As a special enticement, Elias provided a free oyster dinner for attendees of the meeting.  No records indicate that he was successful in his organizing efforts despite the impressive surroundings and meal provided.​

Flora Disney and the Rural Home Circle​

In 1911, the Disney family had made the decision to move to Kansas City.  Flora was an active member of the Rural Home Circle (RHC), a women’s fraternal organization.​

From the minutes of R.H.C. on May 15, 1911:

Motion made and carried to present Mrs. Disney a souvenir teaspoon.  The spoon was purchased from Zurcher’s Jewelry Store.​​

Return to Marceline​

Undercover, Disney – in 1946, Walt and Lillian Disney are in KC for a Hallmark company event.  They hired a car and driver and make an unannounced trip to Marceline.  Walt spends the day visiting and filming Marceline locations that hold special memories. Included in that footage is the Zurcher building.  Later, Walt is known to have sent photographers to Marceline for additional photographs of the downtown area.​

It is known that Main Street at Disneyland is thematically inspired by the Main Street in Marceline, including Zurcher’s Coke Corner.​

In 1956 Walt, Lillian, Roy and Edna return to Marceline for the dedication of the Walt Disney swimming pool and park.  Walt and Roy made a special effort to visit Mr. Zurcher at his store.

After 1956, Walt would make numerous unannounced visits to Marceline.  He had a vision of creating another theme park in Marceline and would stop to discuss the projects progress with local businessman Rush Johnson.  Undoubtedly during those visits Walt would visit downtown Marceline, including the Zurcher building.  Sadly, with his death in 1966, his visits and his dream of a Marceline park came to an end.