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Bill Hart had seen the type before. In 1964, land speculation in central Florida was bringing guys like this one out of the woodwork. Judging by his stylish clothes, he was a developer. Or maybe a lawyer working for a developer. Either way, he was almost certainly involved in yet another get-rich-quick land scheme ­ one that would go bad and leave Bill Hart’s survey crew unpaid.

The man was reluctant to give details, but said that he needed thousands of acres surveyed right away. Still wary, Hart prepared a work proposal. But he asked for a $10,000 retainer before starting the job, and made it crystal clear that he would pull his team out if they didn’t get paid within five days.

Figuring that would be the last he’d see of the stranger, Hart headed back to an ongoing job on the Florida/Georgia border. But before he left, he mentioned to his wife and office manager, Judy, that if by some chance the job came through, he’d need a Geodimeter to do it.

Much to Judy’s surprise, the next day the man returned with a cashier’s check for $10,000. That was on a Friday, and he expected the Harts to have a survey crew on-site on Monday. This was long before cell phones, so Judy had no way to reach Bill in his remote work location to tell him what had happened. When Bill returned to Orlando a couple of days later, he swung by the office before going home and saw a Geodimeter sitting on the floor. On the blackboard was a note from Judy: "Geodimeter training Monday 8:00 a.m."

It wasn’t until much later that Bill Hart ­ and the rest of the world ­ found out the truth about this secretive project: The buyer of 47 square miles of central Florida was Walt Disney, and his plans to build a super-sized version of Disneyland would change this area forever.