I was one of the original Disneyland park-goers back in the day. The summer of 1956 I was nearly four and Disneyland was beginning to close on its freshman year. We lived in Chicago at the time, and my Aunt Janice and Grandma Warden lived in Los Angeles. My parents were so excited because there was a popular two-lane super highway that went from Chicago to Los Angeles called Route 66. Let’s take a trip to Grandma’s. Ahhh, those were the days. My Mom, Dad, older sister Judi, and I were packed and stuffed into our two-tone red and white Oldsmobile. It was a fine, new, sporty automobile fit for a family to make such a fabulous roadtrip.
“Roadtrip!” Kinda rolls off your tongue, doesn’t it? The grandest of grand family traditions. I was small, but I do remember parts of this trip being quite memorable. We stopped at my Aunt Marion and Uncle Ken’s in Dallas, and I was allowed to hold my brand new baby cousin, Scott. My sister and I danced with Native Americans in full headdress. We were fortunate enough to see that mighty hole in the ground called the Grand Canyon. I thought it took forever to cross the desert especially in a time where cars were not air conditioned. Hot, hot, hot!! My Mom claimed she had a permanent sore spot on her left shoulder from my tapping it from the backseat asking, “Are we there yet?” Her reply, “No, sit back, girls.” Sit back girls?? Yes there were no child restraining seats or shoulder harnesses or seat-belts for that matter. It was dangerous time because not only did any of us not have restraints, we also had a car that went about 10 miles to the gallon and on the desert there were hundreds of miles between gas stations. We’ve all seen the animated movie, Cars. It was totally like that. So a breakdown out there meant you were not going to have a good day for sure. There were little if no pull-off side lanes. And get this — no cell phones, GPS, OnStar, and none of us certainly had a truckers’ CB. It was every man for himself. Each car on the road shared the same two lanes — semis, campers, motorcycles, old men wearing caps down to their nose, families, good drivers, bad drivers, passing in the worst place drivers. It was truly amazing on old Route 66 in the 50’s that’s for sure.
After FINALLY arriving at Grandma’s house, we day-tripped to Corriganville an old western town set up for Hollywood movie scenes complete with a cowboy shootout in the streets and a ride on the stagecoach with none other than Billy the Kid, whoever he was. Dad thought it was neat. I remember that well. I’m sure while we were there we hit many other sights, but as a 3 3/4-year old, they didn’t all stick. Heck, I can hardly remember what I had for breakfast today let alone what I did 60 years ago. Come to think about it, I don’t think I had any breakfast today. Sorry, I got sidetracked. Anyway, the thing I do remember quite vividly is Disneyland!
After paying our $1 admission fee, we passed through the gates of the park, and I was immediately awestruck with the site of Main Street. It was something like I’d never seen. There were beautiful flowers everywhere and quaint little buildings, friendly smiles wherever you looked, and a giant M.I.C…K.E.Y (see you real soon) M.O.U.S.E hugging people. We knew about the Mickey Mouse Club show that was going to start being on TV soon, but they were actually showing us some of it on screens at the park that day. Catchy song, if I say so myself. Over there was Cinderella’s Castle? Cinderella’s Castle?!? Cinderella’s Castle!!??!! I stepped into a surreal world completely unknown for a little girl from the concrete jungle of the Windy City. Every time I go to Disney or see a picture of Main Street, it evokes the same swell of overwhelming feelings I had when I was a shy little girl with chubby legs and unmanageable curly hair. Well, well, those things are still the same. I was stuck to my Mom like glue the entire day. She’s the one who rode with me on the Dumbo ride. I hated that fast flying elephant in the sky. It wasn’t Dumbo’s fault, but I never really took to rides after that. I’ll go on the boat through Jungle River in Adventureland or something like that, but carnival-type rides are out for the Sandy girl.
Disneyland had it’s 60th Anniversary special on television last week — 60th! Where did all the time go? Such great memories. My son and his family are at Disney World as I write this enjoying the sunny respite from a cold wintry Illinois. There is so much more to Disney than what was there in 1956, but the images and wonderment are still the same in my memory. Disneyland was perfection to me just as it was those decades ago. Magic Kingdom indeed… Sandy