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9.20.2007 - 29 comments 

Now really what trip to Southern California would be complete without a trip to the "Happiest Place On Earth" The Magic Kingdom and the home of that mouse named Mickey and the "REAL" Donald, Donald Duck! But what the heck is this picture of? Read on to find out.

I was actually in Disneyland when it opened back in 1955. I know... I know... I am older than dirt, but never the less, it's true I was there at Christmastime in 1955. But did you know that the first day that on the opening day at Disneyland was actually a disaster. So bad in fact that it is called "Black Sunday." As you think about the park and its success over the five decades plus since then, it doesn't seem possible that the "First Day" was such a mess.

But the truth about that day goes like this... On Sunday, July 17, 1955, invited guests arrived, and 90 million watched via a live television broadcast. The day is still known in Disney lore as "Black Sunday," and for good reason, as a guest list of 15,000 swelled to almost 30,000 attendees. Among the many mishaps; Local police dubbed the seven-mile freeway backup the worst mess they had ever seen. Rides and attractions broke down under the onslaught of guests, opening and closing periodically to make way for television crews. Fantasyland closed temporarily due to a gas leak.

Main Street's freshly-poured asphalt softened in the heat. Women wearing high heels sometimes left a shoe behind, stuck in black goo. Because of a plumber's strike, both restrooms and drinking fountains could not be ready by opening day. Walt opted for restrooms, leaving visitors hot and thirsty. Most reviewers declared the park overpriced and poorly managed, expecting Disneyland history to be over almost as soon as it began.

Walt Disney not only had a mess on his hands that first day, but he also had a tough time just getting the place built. When asked how he got the idea for Disneyland, Walt Disney once said he thought there should be a place for parents and children to have fun together, but the real story is much more complex.

In the early 1940s, kids started asking to see where Mickey Mouse and Snow White lived. Disney rejected a studio tour because he thought watching people making cartoons was boring. Instead, he thought of building a character display beside the studio. Artist-architect John Hench is quoted in the Disneyland News Media Source Book: "I remember several Sundays seeing Walt across the street in a weed-filled lot, standing, visualizing, all by himself."

Walt Disney and brother Roy mortgaged everything they owned to raise $17 million to build Disneyland, but fell short. ABC-TV stepped in, guaranteeing a $6 million loan in exchange for part ownership and Disney's commitment to produce a weekly television show.

When the City of Burbank denied a request to build near the studio, a crucial chapter in Disneyland history began. Disney engaged Stanford Research Institute, who identified Anaheim as the center of Southern California's future growth. Disney bought 160 acres of Anaheim orange groves, and on May 1, 1954, construction began toward an impossible deadline of July, 1955, when money would run out.

Do you happen to know what the cost to get into the park was in 1955? It was one dollar (which would be around $7.00) in 2007 dollars. But as many of you may know, you had to pay to go on the rides back then. On the day after Black Sunday, 10,000 members of the general public got their first peek at Disneyland. On the first day of its long history, Disneyland charged visitors $1.00 admission to get through the gate and see three "free" attractions in four themed lands. Individual tickets for the 18 rides cost 10 to 35 cents each. Walt and his staff addressed the problems, limiting daily attendance to 20,000 to avoid overcrowding. Within seven weeks, the one-millionth guest passed through the gates.

Our youngest son worked at Disneyland while in college and several of his high school buddies still work there to this day. Many people have made a life long career out of this summer job. This place is still magical to my wife and we couldn't wait for our grand-kids to enjoy the MAGIC of this Magic Kingdom.

So what does all of this have to do with the picture I have posted here? Well, I guess you would have to know, that this picture is actually from the Park that was spawned for the other Park. You see that in 2001, Downtown Disney, Disney's California Adventure and the Grand California Hotel all were opened for business. This photo seemed so much like a Post Card from a trip to California, that I just had to share it.

This picture is actually a sign on a building in the California Adventure Park right next door. It was our first trip to this Park, but we had a pass that entitled to enjoy both Disneyland and California Adventure on the same day. So here we are, 52 years after its opening day, doing exactly what Walt invisioned, because now you see... there IS a place where parents and children (and even grandchildren) can have fun together.

"I could never convince the financiers that Disneyland was feasible, because dreams offer too little collateral."
~ Walt Disney