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Disneyland Article
Only Holdup In Disneyland History Was A Mess From Start To Finish
Katie Dowd
According to Richard Lowry, the first and only holdup in Disneyland history went like this:

On Aug. 21, 1960, the 25-year-old restaurant cashier was tasked with taking the day’s cash haul to the Disneyland bank (more on this in a minute). Holding linen bags filled with $10,000 — almost $95,000 today, adjusted for inflation — he headed out into the packed Sunday crowds on Main Street. As he navigated the busy stretch, he suddenly felt a jab in his back.

“Do as you’re told, and you won’t get hurt,” a man growled in Lowry’s ear. To his horror, Lowry realized he was being held at gunpoint.

The gunman forced the terrified Lowry into a nearby bathroom. There, the man unburdened Lowry of his money bags and told him to wait in a stall for five minutes while the gunman made his escape.

When Lowry emerged from the bathroom, he rushed to tell his co-workers of the ordeal — and in the process kicked off an investigation that would quickly turn on the young man himself.

Disneyland was only five years old when the daring robbery took place, and its primary locations still exist today, although in greatly modified forms.

Lowry was an employee at the Red Wagon Inn, a sit-down restaurant on Main Street. At the time, the Red Wagon Inn was operated by Chicago meat giant Swift & Company, serving only Swift pork chops, steaks and chicken in an elegant Victorian environment. The building itself was salvaged from a Los Angeles mansion once owned by a German baroness; the mansion’s stained glass, intricate decorative woodwork and the marble entryway were all picked out by Lillian Disney herself for the restaurant.

Each day, Disneyland’s restaurants and shops emptied their cash registers and took the funds to the Disneyland bank. Although hard to imagine now, for decades Disneyland had a fully functioning Bank of America right at the front of Main Street (That building is now the Disneyana store). The bank had a vault, tellers and conducted ordinary banking business for both guests and employees; Disneyland workers often cashed their paychecks there before heading home.

It was standard protocol in 1960 for employees to take huge bags of cash through the busy park on their way to the bank. And it wasn’t out of the question that some ruffian could have observed that pattern and taken advantage of an unsuspecting employee. But quickly, Anaheim police detectives began doubting Lowry’s version of events.

For one, his story kept changing. At first it was a lone gunman. Then, Lowry said there were two men, actually, armed with a knife. In some versions, Lowry claimed the robber threatened him; in other versions, he said the man swore he'd find Lowry’s grandparents and hurt them if he didn’t give up the goods. "Police officers said Lowry's story of the hold-up 'just didn't jibe,'" United Press International wrote a few days after the heist.

Police administered Lowry a lie-detector test. He failed it. Caught in a situation now spiraling out of his control, Lowry admitted to police that he knew where the cash was. He took them back to Disneyland, where he led investigators to a linen closet in the Red Wagon Inn. There, in several small boxes, was the missing cash. Disneyland’s first holdup was no holdup at all.

For what it’s worth, the legal trail goes cold here. On Aug. 25, 1960, the Los Angeles Times reported Lowry had been charged with grand theft and was due back in court in mid-September for a preliminary hearing. That’s the last mention of Lowry in the press, and online Orange County court records only date back to the 1980s. Lowry’s fate in the justice system is unknown.

Better documented is the fate of the Red Wagon Inn. A few years after the holdup hubbub, Walt Disney announced the restaurant was undergoing a massive renovation. Although Disney relied on contracts with outside concessionaires to initially fund the park, he hated working with third parties he couldn’t fully control. With the Swift contract coming to an end, Disney decided to redo the eatery. In 1965, he spent an astonishing $1.7 million to turn it into the Plaza Inn, today one of the park’s most iconic and beloved restaurants.

Swift’s meaty products were pulled from the menu, replaced with elegant beef tenderloins, lobster en brochette and spinning lazy Susans filled with a variety of salads.

"This is California," Walt told the LA Times, "so we're stressing salads."

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