This brings back memories from the "happiest place on earth" as Walt Disney liked to call his Magic Kingdom. Disneyland opened in Anaheim, CA on this day 58 years ago. There had never before been anything quite like it. Walt kept it simple: Main Street USA, Fantasyland, Adventureland, Tomorrowland.
What kid couldn't remember that?
I first visited the park within a year of its opening. My father worked in the broadcast industry; the original ABC studios were across the street from his office on Hollywood & Vine. ABC helped finance the park. One of their early hits was "Disneyland", later to become "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color" in 1959. At that time, ABC was a fledgling network taking on the mighty CBS & NBC, competing for advertisers, viewers and loyal media buyers. As a national broadcast rep, Dad helped sell advertising onto the network working with buyers in LA, NY, Chicago, etc. He was regularly spiffed with tickets to Disneyland and we went every year from the time it opened. He'd take us out of school. He hated crowds and waiting in line.
My brother and I would wait with baited breath for Dad to announce our trip. He usually took us in the Fall. Enroute, after we connected from the 101 to the 5 Fwy aka the Santa Ana, my brother and I would start the game, "Who can spot the Matterhorn first?" The Matterhorn opened in 1959 with a bobsled ride. They were thrilling!
As a kid, one of my favorite rides was the Autopia.
We'd pretend we were real drivers in real cars. We could steer,
we could brake, we could bump the car ahead of us. The track was enclosed and safe but we always felt we had control. It was amazing!
My childhood and teen years are wrapped up with Disneyland. After I was old enough to go without the folks, a gang of us would go to ride the attractions during the day and dance at night. They had dancing pavilions and it was fun. They also had strict dress codes. Boys had to tuck their shirts in. No mini skirts on girls. We could wear shorts during the day but if we wore a skirt or dress it had to come to the middle of the knee. Of course, we thought that was stupid.
Many Southern California high schools held their Grad Nights at Disneyland, including ours. The park would close to the public at dusk and reopen around 8pm as busloads of graduating high school teens arrived, unloaded and took over til dawn. It was unbelievable. I went to three grad nights with three graduating boyfriends. Lucky me!
|Head shots from Grad Night 1969 Disneyland|
When our boys were young and we'd just moved back to San Diego from Virginia, we took them to Disneyland. It's a rite of passage. By that time, the evil emperor, Michael Eisner, was CEO. Roy Disney was off the board. Walt was long dead. Eisner turned Disneyland into a commercial money machine with product lines galore from every conceivable movie made. He retired the great artists long considered filmdom's finest animators, cheapening the resulting product. Our boys loved it, of course. My husband and I found the park a bit more sterile, not as tidy and disappointing. Was it the magic of our youth we no longer saw? Or was it simply the new corporate "look" too often duplicated? I vote the latter.
People talk about Disney World in Florida. I've never been. My children are grown now and the likelihood of going to DW is slim. For me, it's Disneyland in Anaheim that will always hold a special place in my heart.