Harper Goff is probably a name unfamiliar to many on the Westside. He is, however, not unfamiliar to me because in the late 1940’s one of the neighborhood boys who went to school with us was a guy named John Heffernan. John at that time was interested in customizing car engines and learning to play the banjo. If you lived anywhere in the Cheivot Hills neighborhood and John wasn’t working on cars, he was practicing his banjo. John told me at the time that the banjo hero he kept trying to approximate in skill was Harper Goff. He would write Harper Goff’s name in wet cement in the neighborhood. Harper, credited with developing camouflage during WWII, was the banjo player for a Dixieland music group called the Firehouse Five Plus Two. The group disbanded although John never let us forget that Harper was the outstanding banjo player for the seven-person act. While many years went by, John, who’s father was an entomologist, moved to Hanford, California.
However, it turns out that Harper had left his banjo playing career, joined the Walt Disney Company and rose to a significant and important leadership position in the Imagineers that developed much of the rides and atmosphere of the Disney theme parks. Harper died in 1993, but as far as I’m concerned, he should not be forgotten because he left a big impression on the Westside, first as a banjo player and later as a creative member of the Disney organization.
By Michael Harris, author of Westside Stories