Monday, July 18, 2011

Disneyland Turns 56

Disneyland Turns 56

July 17, 1955

When Walt Disney announced Disneyland people said he was crazy and said it would fail. On the day the park opened it was over 100 and a good many things went wrong. 25,000 people were invited and an estimated 50,000 attended. People printed fake invitations and some even climbed over the fence to get in. Half of the drinking fountains did not work and the street surfaces had not had time to set as they were finished late the night before. Ladies high heels got stuck in the hot tar. Newspaper Headlines the next day read, “Walt’s Folly” and told of how it would never last. Disneyland saw its one millionth guest walk through the gate just six months later.

I have many fond memories of Disneyland over the years. I remember my first trip back in 1960. Disneyland was five years old and I was two. I remember riding Peter Pan, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Skyway, Disneyland Railroad and several of the Main Street Vehicles with my grandma. I also have vivid memories of riding Matterhorn with my mother and jumping off to run to grandma to tell her all about it.

During my childhood years Disneyland was a once or twice a year special treat for my family. I remember when I got my first “steady” job babysitting I took my nephew and mother to the park to celebrate. Whenever I wanted to spend special time and make memories Disneyland was where I went.

In 1978 a friend set me up with a nice guy. We knew that we would be best friends forever from the moment we first met but we felt we would be romantic never. After being best of friends for a year and my friend graduating college in 1979 I took my best friend to Disneyland to celebrate his graduation. Disney Magic happened by way of the Jazz Band at the French Market Café in New Orleans Square. My friend and I were eating dinner and talking when the band started playing love songs for us! They said they knew we were in love even if we denied it. We were informed they had the Disney Magic! A week later we were dating and six months later in January of 1980 we were married!

My step-father said Disney and especially Disneyland was for kids and he was not interested. He told me in no uncertain terms he did not take his son to Disneyland as a kid and he refused to consider going. He was also ill and disabled.  He felt there was nothing there for him to do. After being ill and my family helping my folks dad decided to take us to Disneyland to say thank you. He fell in love with the park and the Disney Magic swept him up. He and my mother would go to the park several times a week just to have lunch and watch a show or ride the Mark Twain around the Rivers of America. This kept him full of joy and gave him a reason to continue living when he got even sicker. When he was too sick to travel it gave him a safe place to go and a reason to get up out of bed. I feel this kept him alive at least five or six years longer than if he had not found Disney Magic.

All of my life Disneyland has been a place to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, life’s accomplishments and the simple fact the sun rose that morning.  It also became a place of healing and joy. During times of stress or emotional turmoil Disneyland became a place to find refuge. The words on the archways leading into the park have became real to us. “Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy.” We walk under the sign and the pressure of life seems to lift. It is as if for the time I’m in the park the world and all the problems are held outside the gate.
So Happy Birthday Disneyland!! May you have many more years of spreading Disney Magic and Pixie Dust to the guests that walk through your gates.

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