“When I started on Disneyland, my wife used to say, ‘But why do you want to build an amusement park? They’re so dirty.’ I told her that was just the point – mine wouldn’t be.” – Walt Disney
Walt Disney was committed to making Disneyland stand apart from other amusements enterprises, and as a result, Disney Parks are known not only for providing safe, quality family entertainment, but they are also the cleanest parks in the world. In 1955, Walt personally chose Charles “Chuck” Boyajian to lead the janitorial team, and charged him with the somewhat daunting task of keeping his Magic Kingdom “as clean as you can keep it.”
Chuck was originally a foreman for American Building Maintenance (ABM), the company Walt contracted to clean the park. Walt soon realized that he needed his own staff in order to achieve his vision of hospitality that included superior cleanliness. After hiring Chuck, Walt spent a great deal of time mentoring him so that Chuck understood exactly what he wanted. Walt explained that it was not just about cleaning, it was about providing a great guest experience. He taught Chuck about the quality of service provided on a luxury ocean liner or at a top notch hotel – and that was the experience he wanted for his guests at Disneyland. Walt wanted sparkling restrooms, no visible trash and clean facilities – all to be delivered by helpful and friendly custodians.
As the very first manager of what is now called Custodial Guest Services, Chuck spent 25 years establishing a reputation of cleanliness and efficiency that had never been seen before in an outdoor entertainment venue. From the beginning, Chuck was innovative in his approach to cleaning the grounds and structures of Disneyland park. Specifically, he had the challenge of keeping the park clean while guests were present. This meant never closing restrooms or allowing the function of cleaning to detract from the guest experience. The concept of cleaning throughout the day was a departure from industry standards of the 1950’s, as it was customary for facilities to be cleaned only after closing.
Chuck trained a “Disney Dynasty” of Custodial hosts and hostesses, who are proud to say decades later that they are members of “The Team that Chuck Built.” Like Walt, Chuck believed that “cleanliness breeds cleanliness,” and working with longtime friends and creative colleagues such as Tom Roppa, Roy Young, Ray Sidejas, Wayne Culver, and Mike Sweeney, Chuck and his team were able to achieve Walt’s vision of maintaining the cleanest parks in the world. Chuck once commented on his team stating, “The men and women of our Custodial operations have set the industry standards for cleanliness. The pride of our cast members is unsurpassed.”
Chuck also brought his expertise to the establishment of the custodial functions for the opening of Walt Disney World Resort in 1971, and for Tokyo Disneyland in 1983. When a nervous new sweeper once asked for guidance, Chuck replied, “How spic do I want the area? Well, I’ll tell you, son. No less than span!”
Chuck retired in 1981; however, he remains a legend among his professional successors, who continue the traditions established by Chuck at Disneyland more than 50 years ago. To this day, almost 58 years after the opening of Disneyland park, only four individuals, including Chuck, have had the great responsibility and honor of leading the custodial operation. Chuck received a window on Main Street, U.S.A., in 1981. The window, which is located above the Market House, is aptly inscribed: Royal Care Co., “We Keep Your Castle Shining,” Chuck Boyajian, Prop.
Chuck passed away on August 1, 2004. He was named a Disney Legend in 2005.
Hi, I would like to thank Jon Storbeck for this fabulous article. I am PROUD to say this is my DAD! I can remember walking the Park after hours with my Dad, making sure the Park was ready for the next day. Thank you to all of that have worked for him, you made him very proud! Please keep our Castle Shinning!
This is so true. We were at the Park yesterday and while walking down Main St, one of the horses did its business. I know it probably sounds weird, but we timed it to see how long it would take to clean it up. 2.5 minutes later a cast member was taking care of it. We only did this because we knew Disney prides itself on cleanliness and we wanted to see how long it would take.
To me, one of the three pillars that defines Disney is attention to detail (the other two are the ability to tell a great story, and the ability to entertain everyone in a family, from infants to elders). And Disney’s exquisite attention to detail is no more apparent than in the cleanliness of its parks. Thank you for telling this story about Chuck, the cornerstone of cleanliness at the parks. And thank you Chuck for helping to take care of the parks for so many years!
I love this article. The cleanliness is one of the things that I always enjoy about Disney Parks. Last time I was there a custodial cast member was very helpful and caring during an emergency also. Just showing again how magical things can be with Disney.