I was the Mickey Mouse of a Museum.

Aaron J. Alford
6 min readAug 4, 2019

This is part 2 of my series about my former jobs. In this series I share anecdotes from some of my many odd jobs I have held throughout my young career.

Courtesy of Daytonhistory.com

I was the Mickey Mouse of a historical museum, and it was a really weird gig. Let me tell you about it!

In the summer of 2018 I was looking for work in the Dayton area. One of my friends said that he had worked at a historical park in Dayton, and that they might be hiring. I asked him what kind of work he had done there. “historical theater” he responded. When I was a kid I always admired historical actors, so I talked to his former boss and long story short, got a job working as a historical actor at Carillon park.

I arrived at the park and asked for [name redacted] lets call him Joe. His name is not Joe, but lets go with it. Joe met me and seemed cool enough. He asked if I was willing to shave to a mustache, and I said yes (reluctantly). He was the director of all the acting and live performance aspects of the museum/park. He showed me the park. The park is made up of several rebuilt structures from various time periods in Dayton. They also have a bunch of early flight artifacts. They had an entire room filled with historical costumes to dress their “mickey mouses”. Basically, when the park is open people like me play various important historical figures from Dayton’s history.

Its me playing John Patterson

If you know anything about Dayton, you know that the thing we love most is that they invented flight. This also implies the love we have toward the history of our city. We don’t necessarily care for planes, but we like knowing that without the Wright brothers, from Dayton OH, there would be no planes. Its on our license plates, birthplace of aviation. Ohio.

So North Carolina, stop lying on your license plates. You are not, nor will you ever be, first in flight.

Anyway, we really love the Wright brothers. This museum has a lot of elements tied to them, and other early industrialists and inventors from around the area.

I played John Patterson. I had to shave to a mustache and I used stage makeup to make white. I wore a very dope hat from the turn of the 20th century, and clothes that only sort of fit. In my pocket was a time piece which was used during my performance, along with a century accurate wallet with money to match. I was straight killing it.

For those of you who don’t know who John Patterson was, he was a shady but semi-benevolent industrialist who built a large portion of Dayton and a bunch of stuff there from streets to buildings are named after him. He started National Cash Register (NCR), the company that makes those scanners at your grocery store, and also cash registers and point of order software. They are very unpopular in Dayton recently because they left our fair city, and laid off a ton of Dayton residents. Patterson himself is still fairly popular though.

My performance did not focus on his industrial days, instead my performance was a carefully devised piece of pro-market propaganda that focused on the value of the dollar, and tried to demonstrate to kids that money and time are the same thing. This performance was patently political, and failed in anyway to communicate to listeners who John Patterson was or what he did. People like John Patterson demonstrate why the message of the performance was wrong, because time is not money. John Patterson got paid waaay more for the same amount of time devoted to his work as his employees.

To Joe, history might be interesting, but the way he used it was as more of a lesson in the present. It is there to be used, to communicate certain messages. Its propaganda. There was very little historical information in the presentation, and the little there was focused on the personal life of young John Patterson, rather than focus on his larger accomplishments and controversies.

The performance entirely eliminated the problematic parts of John Patterson’s career, such as his habit of firing people for petty things like not knowing why the flag was at half mast, or being bad at riding horses, or infamously “to just stay in practice.” He also was sentenced to prison time for anti-competitive behavior, though he was pardoned by infamously racist president Woodrow Wilson, because John Patterson totes saved a bunch of people during a flood.

I would stand there waiting for groups to come by, and then I would give my performance and answer questions about it and John Patterson himself. I was, as they put it, a Mickey Mouse of the park. There were also people playing John Watson, the Orwell Brothers, and other figures from Dayton’s History. My performance was by far the most scripted, and the most overtly political. The performance lionized the industrialists and overlooked the people they hurt.

The performance was written by Joe. Joe was a very interesting person. Joe seemingly advocated for the flu to kill a large portion of the human population in a conversation I had with him. He said we don’t need to worry about sustainability since “the flu will take care of it.” That was weird thing to say…

He also forwarded a theory that the United States was wholly responsible for the Bolshevik revolution? This is also an odd stance.

He argued that there is no poverty in America. At the time I was a recently unemployed graduate student, and I begged to differ. As a graduate student at the University of Dayton I could barely afford to pay rent, insurance, food, car expenses, and all the other random life expenses. Coming from a well paid privileged random dude, I was pretty offended at him saying there is no poverty. He said that he “refused to believe food is too expensive when eggs are 2.50 at the grocery store.”

In this conversation I learned two things.

  1. Joe apparently thinks people only need eggs to survive
  2. Joe was an unfeeling jerk who lives in a fantasy world where no one is suffering

It was clear he had never lived in an innercity area where cost of living is much higher than in his adorable white flight suburb. He also seemed unaware of the food desert problem in Dayton, the place he worked. I often wished I could find fresh eggs and produce in west Dayton, but there are very few places to get those, and they are definitely more than 2.50. My parents blamed food deserts on the poor people “stealing from the stores” so I am not certain that Joe is all that different from them..

Joe clearly saw the museum as a mouth piece for his very odd brand of politics. He considers himself both a realist, but also lives in a fantasy world where capitalism works naturally, all the time, with no regulation. This dissonance is completely lost on Joe, who thinks of himself as a forward thinker. The point is, Joe was an idiot.

Also they didn’t pay me for about half of the work I did for them, so… bad job. It was bad job, because they didn’t pay me. Peace.

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Aaron J. Alford

Media critique and memes. Writing about rhetoric and society. MA in Communication