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Beloved Disneyland worker hits milestone of 55 years at theme park

December 30, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Oscar Martinez, 76, has worked for Disneyland for 55 years, becoming the first Disney employee to hold that distinction.

Martinez is never without a warm smile as he greets customers at Disneyland's Carnation Café,

"I always smile, no matter what. I got bad days, you know? But I always smile through them," said Martinez.

Visitors to the park love interacting with Oscar, a fixture at Disneyland.

"This is one of the reasons I come to Disneyland right here, because he is a cool guy. I come to breakfast every time I come here," said Colorado resident Christina Anderson. "I love coming to see Oscar."

Martinez said being recognized for his work means a lot to him because he's met many people from all over the world.

Surprisingly, Martinez had never set foot in a restaurant before he started working at the Carnation Café as a bus boy in the days when he would often see Walt Disney in the park. He admits he was too shy to talk with him.

He says his first year was challenging. Martinez, who grew up on farms in Texas and Arkansas, wasn't used to crowds.

"Oh my god, so many people. On Main Street, you can hardly walk, and I say to myself, 'What am I doing here?" Martinez said.

Working most of his years as a chef, he has two dishes named after him. He has also trained countless employees, including his present-day boss Matt Gray, who started in 1989.

"Charming, honest, full of humor," described Gray, the General Manager of Food and Beverage at Disneyland.

Martinez now serves as the official Carnation Café Ambassador. He says his retirement will depend on the health of his wife, who is battling cancer.

Martinez said he takes it day by day, always with a smile on his face.

A few years ago, Martinez overcame a battle with cancer himself. He and his wife, Shirley Ann, have been married for over 50 years.

Disney is the parent company of ABC7.

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