Document details

That Special Day in July
[Disneyland 30th anniversary]
David R. Smith
Remembering a special time some 30 years ago as the Magic Kingdom opens it doors, beckoning all to enter its wonderful world of make-believe. July 17, 1955 dawned bright and clear in Los Angeles. Opening their morning Times, many local residents first checked out the weather forecast: "Mostly clear today and tomorrow; continued warm; high today near 85." (Actually, the temperature would peak at a warm 87 degrees at noon.) Tucked away on the back of the paper's front page was a small article headlined: "Disneyland, Multimillion Dollar Magic Kingdom, to Open Tomorrow; Dream Comes True in Orange Grove." This piece was dwarfed by a neighboring article, with a full page of pictures, announcing the opening of the Arts Festival at Laguna Beach. The Disneyland article proclaimed that the park was "undoubtedly destined to become one of Southern California's greatest attractions." It spoke of the handpicking of employees, ranging from bus boys to riverboat captains, and that Disneyland officials were "so determined to maintain a distinct atmosphere within the park that all employees have been required to attend orientation classes as part of a training course in Disneyland policies, to become acquainted with what they call 'the Disneyland way of life.' " In the TV section of the Times was a large ad calling attention to "an unforgettable 90 minutes of 'live' television" at 4:30 that afternoon, when ABC was presenting the "biggest live telecast in history" to spotlight the opening of Disneyland — "24 TV cameras and a staff of hundreds bring you this once-in-a-lifetime adventure." A note was appended warning people not to drive out to Disneyland that day because it was an invitational opening only. Interest in the TV special had been building. Columnist Walter Ames reported: "From all the excitement around town during the last few weeks, the only show on TV today is the grand opening of Disneyland." He predicted that the audience could be one of the largest ever to watch a single TV show. Guests began arriving at Disneyland as early as noon. Before long, cars were backed up seven miles on the Santa Ana Freeway, with a trip from Los Angeles to Anaheim taking two hours. Local police reported that it was the worst traffic mess they had ever seen, even though their numbers were strengthened by 25 extra officers from the California Highway Patrol and 20 from the Los Angeles County Sheriffs office. The official opening was at 2:30, but by then long lines had formed at the gates. The crowds of people, including prominent entertainers, government officials, the press, local businessmen and Disney employees, only added to the confusion created by the TV show, as they were herded from one area to another. Many of the rides and attractions were closed to visitors as technicians moved cameras, cables and lights. One visitor complained that there were so many people that it was impossible to get on any of the rides, see any of the programs, get anything to eat, or do much else than look at the turrets on the castle and the smoke stacks on the Mark Twain. Those watching the TV special probably saw more of the park than those present. There were other complaints on the hot day due to a lack of shade and a dearth of drinking fountains. Ladies with high heels even noticed themselves sinking into the freshly poured asphalt on Main Street which was softened by the heat, and occasionally someone would lean against a just-painted building which hadn't had enough time to dry. Still, despite the crowds, the general feeling was that Disneyland was an unqualified success. Walt Disney admitted that it might take 30 days to have everything running smoothly, but most critics expressed awe, satisfaction and enjoyment despite the breakdowns, the seething masses and the hot sun. The TV special luckily did not portray all of the confusion and opening day jitters, so thousands of people braved the traffic the next day for the public opening. Monday, people began lining up at the gates at 2:00 a.m., even though the gates were not due to open until 10. Officials were forced to open the parking lot three hours early to relieve the traffic jam. By 10:00, the line was four abreast and a mile long. The honor of being the first admitted went to two children, Christine Vess, 5, and Michael Schwartner, 7, who received lifetime passes to the park. Walt Disney was everywhere— greeting visitors at the front gate, meeting arrivals at the heliport, officiating in a dessert contest at the drug store on Main Street. Crowds on July 18th were almost as large as they had been the previous day, and there were even a couple of added problems. A gas leak was discovered in Fantasyland which necessitated the evacuation of guests from the area for over an hour while firemen and workmen dug up the castle flooring to cap it. Also, one restaurant closed its doors at the height of the noon rush when its dishwashing machines failed. Granted, there were difficulties those first two days, but most people seemed to overlook them. The Disneyland staff worked around the clock to alleviate the problems. The causes of mechanical breakdowns were found and repaired. More food facilities were opened and drinking fountains installed. To counter complaints of high costs ($1 to get in, 10 c -50 c for most attractions), popular ticket books were introduced. As the staff became more experienced, they were able to increase the hourly capacity of the attractions and thus shorten the lines. Additional attractions were opened as fast as they could be completed, and within a few months, Disneyland was running smoothly. Now three decades have passed, and Disneyland has proved itself. July 17, 1985 is the 30th anniversary of what has become an American institution, unique among all those which have followed its lead during the past 30 years. [img]Uncle Walt welcomes Disneyland's first guests, Michael Schwartner and his cousin Christine Vess . The two received lifetime passes and participated in the park's 20th and 25th anniversaries.[/img] [img]TV personalities Ronald Reagan, Bob Cummings (center) and Art Linkletter (right) hosted the live 90-minute, coast-to-coast broadcast of the opening day.[/img] [img]Above: The Man and the Mouse who gave the Magic Kingdom its magic. Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse. Below: Disneyland today, celebrating 30 years of wonderment.[/img]




Source type Magazine
Volume 97
Language en
Document type Interview
Media type text
Page count 2
Pages pp. 36-37


Id 3059
Availability Free
Inserted 2017-01-24