Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Happy Birthday, Disneyland!

To all who come to this happy place:

Disneyland is your land.
Here age relives fond memories of the past - and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future.  Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America - with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.
Walt Disney, July 17, 1955

Sixty-four years ago today, Disneyland opened its doors for its first visitors.  A special “International Press Preview” event was held, only open to invited guests.  Six thousand invitations were mailed, but by mid-afternoon, over 28,000 ticket holders were headed for Disneyland.  

Even as the gates opened, workmen were still planting trees.  Paint applied earlier that morning was still wet to the touch and asphalt poured that morning on Main Street was so soft that women’s heels were sinking in.  

Southern California was suffering from a record heat wave with temperatures over 100 degrees.  Drinking fountains were dry, rides broke down shortly after opening, and many places ran out of food and drink.   The park would even suffer a gas leak in Fantasyland, causing Adventureland, Frontierland, and Fantasyland to close for the afternoon. This would leave only a very anemic Tomorrowland and Main Street USA open.

To top it off, everything was being filmed.  All of the opening day festivities, including the dedication and a parade, were being covered by ABC with a 90 minute live special, ‘Dateline Disneyland’, hosted by Art Linklater, Ronald Reagan, and Bob Cummings.  With ninety million viewers watching, the program had its own errors, miscues, and magic in trying to capture the event on live television.  Missed camera cues, bad reception.  You name it.  As Linklater would try to describe it, “This is not so much a show, as it is a special event.  The rehearsal went about the way you’d expect a rehearsal to go if you were covering three volcanoes erupting at the same time, and you didn’t expect any of them.  So, from time to time, if I say, ‘We take you now by camera to the snapping crocodiles in Adventureland,’ and instead, somebody pushes the wrong button, and we catch Irene Dunne adjusting her bustle on the Mark Twain, don’t be too surprised; it’s all in fun and that’s what we’re here for.

Needless to say, it was a less than auspicious start.  

And yet, Walt's little park has bloomed into an international vacation destination and become the crown jewel of an international collection of parks, rated among some of the most attended tourist destinations in the world.  

So, if you ever need a reminder that your beginning does not dictate your ending, think of Disneyland's birthday.  

To quote Mary Poppins, "There's no where to go but up"

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