It was 53 years ago next month that I first went to Disneyland in Anaheim California. I was seven years old and we went to visit family out in Burbank California. Our main reason for the trip though was to see and enjoy Disneyland. I was excited as any seven year old would be and to be honest I can still remember the first day pulling up into the main parking lot and seeing the big Disneyland sign at the entrance. I couldn’t contain myself.
We spent three days at the park and back then in 1961 that was enough to see everything. We traveled to every land there including tomorrow land where the monorail was the thing to ride. Wow, couldn’t believe this would be the future one day. Space Mountain was a ride back then and it was fantastic. The fireworks show was the best I had ever seen and Tinkerbell flying through the sky was unbelievable to a seven year old. Who knew she had wires holding here. Three days later wiped out and parents wiped out of money we left and I never returned till now.
This past weekend we traveled to Disneyland with our entire family, which totaled up to eleven of us. I’ll give you the breakdown. Patti and I. Our oldest Daughter and her husband and our two grandchildren. Our middle daughter with our other granddaughter and her future husband and our son the youngest of our kids at 16. Although at 16 he is 6’6″ and a size 18 shoe. Lookout Shaq my kids calling you.
Remember now for the past 7 years that I have been with Patti and the kids all I hear is Disney this and Disneyland that. Never mind that I heard that for the past 53 years while growing old. It’s the happiest place on earth. I recall hearing that 53 years ago and back then I agreed. Now the happiest place on earth took on a new meaning for me.
When we arrived I guess I expected the same parking lot to be there where you park out front of the entrance. Wrong. Now they have parking areas, and parking garages. They have California Adventure and Downtown Disney. I was totally impressed. We stayed close by at a local hotel thanks to some deals and packages from a great hotel corporation which will remain a secret for now (if you want to know which one, contact me and I will tell you). We were just a couple of miles from the park and that was fine. I guess if you were into walking it would have been a great walk but not in the heat we were in.
Anyway we took the tram to the park and without getting into all the details what made the happiest place on earth happy that day were two things. The looks on the grandkids faces when they entered the park and the reception I received at the ticket window when I told them I hadn’t been here in 53 years. Questions about the park from back then ensued with the ticket women and she listened with rapt attention and then gave me a first time visitors pass since everything was almost all new. I really felt special.
Well needless to say we went in and that’s when everything happened at once. I went from reality to fantasy and back again when I saw the prices of things. Holy crap they charge this much for a shirt with a little embroidered Mickey on it? No wonder my parents went broke. I know it was cheaper back then but let’s take into account inflation and think about 53 years ago. The prices were high then I bet.
Well after reality set in and I thought how can we afford this I drifted off to fantasyland again figuring I could handle that better. We walked and walked and walked. Ten miles to be precise on the first day and that almost was the last day. With the replaced hip it proved to be too much and me not listening to the lady at the entrance gate telling me it would be best to get a wheelchair. I figured hey I am no winkling I can handle this. I did and paid the price for not listening. Needless to say, the next day I rented the electric wheelchair and the day was better. Although I did find out that driving a wheelchair in Disneyland is akin to being in rush hour traffic in New York.
I didn’t hit anyone but trust me I had road rage all day. Which made for an interesting take on the happiest place on earth. With the chair it was better for getting around and in the stores it was great. I took up so much room people moved. In the park well it was like I said. No one cared you had a wheelchair. I think they figured if I hit them they could sue. Fancy that.
I could go on and on about rides and the kids but let me tell you this, what this trip did for my mental and emotional health was amazing. To see the look on my grandkids faces while they toured the park. When they met characters walking around. When they watched the fireworks show and saw Tinkerbell fly across the park and now they even have Dumbo in the air. I believe I smiled at that one and was so impressed Patti even laughed at my joy of seeing Dumbo get some cred in Disney.
All in all, 53 years later it was still the happiest place on earth for a 60 year old man to go and revisit as well as watch his grandkids enjoy the spectacle of Disney and only what Walt Disney could do. I am looking forward to the day when the grandkids get a little older so we can talk about this first visit for me and them.