Disneyland Opening Day

Memories Last Forever


Disneyland The Witman Publishing Company had some relationship with Walt Disney and through this relationship, we were able to go visit Disneyland BEFORE it was opened.  Dad and I went on two occasions and walked around up and down Main Street and over to Adventureland when the Rivers Of America was first being built.

I remember the castle only a few months before the grand opening and it looked just like this.  On opening day the inside of the castle was pretty hollow.


Wow, what an amazing place and here I am now after almost 50 years still amazed at those beginning.

I can remember clearly the carpenters building the bank building and in fact they were hand carving many of the ornamental woods.

I clearly remember the little bitty trees and thought at the time, dang... they look funny!  Now they are 50 years old and beautiful! 

Intercom From "HE Double Toothpicks"

Old tube radio It's Junior High School, it's electric shop, it's pick a project.  I pick making an intercom out of a standard AC/DC radio... a five tuber!


I worked on that silly thing all semester and never could get it to work.  I shocked most everybody that touched it. 

It smoked several resistors and even blew up an electrolytic capacitor (that I put in backwards). It was a man-eater!

Even the teacher gave up and have me a "B" for effort.

That summer I was across the street at George Bowers shop where he fixed TV's and he finally was able to fix he darned thing... We had a cold solder joint.

The intercom was used for years after that and enabled Mom in the kitchen to talk to Dad in the shop behind the garage!

Opening Day At Disneyland

It was 1955. And there was a lot going on. I remember a lot about 1955 because in school we were doing "current events" every week:

Disneyland We were there opening day.  Thanks again to Riley of Western Publishing.  July 17th, the day before the public opening. We showed up on schedule after riding for an hour the Ralphs new Cadillac.

Mom fussed about convertibles for years after than experience.  Now remember, we were coming across Los Angeles almost 40 miles on a two-land freeway.  Just look at the traffic jam.

Disneyland I-5 was just barely opened and you can see Disneyland below... Notice the orange trees all around Disneyland in 1955?  No hotels, eateries, etc!  We were almost like in covered wagons!

July 17, 1955,  was Disneyland's first day of operation. I can still see the day clearly as if it were yesterday.  It was clear. Not a cloud in the sky. A slight breeze. Hot. Very hot! One of the hottest days of the summer.

E Ticket ride The day was mainly set as a "preview." Press personal, special celebrities, and dignitaries were invited to attend.  I do not know which category were in but doesn't seems like any of these.  I guess Riley did some magic to get passes. Those people would be greeted by Walt Disney. That small little group ended up being a very large mob. "Our official records indicate that there were 28,154 guests in the Park that day, and I'm not one to tamper with somebody's estimates" noted Van Arsdale France. Van was at the park on opening day.

Not that many people were invited. 

It was sheer pandemonium. Who was going to speak and where changed every few minutes.  We were like sardines. With 28,000 people in a place that hadn't been made for that many, people were clumped together. People were hot, and frustrated at the large crowds. I remember a few people being angry but mostly people took on the challenge and rolled with the punches. Someone forgot to lock the doors on Sleeping Beauty's Castle, so people were rummaging through it's innards. It was empty inside, just a shell.

Rides broke down after their first few runs. Disneyland restaurants and snack carts ran out of food and drink. To add to all this, a gas leak in Fantasyland made the entire area closed to the public. I remember being ushered away but no one knew why. The Mark Twain steamboat's deck was nearly level with the water of the Rivers of America; there were so many people on board. The trees were pretty small; nothing like the forest that exists there today.

Walt Disney didn't see all this at opening day. He was being rushed around Disneyland in order to host Disneyland's live Television broadcast. The TV cables were draped everywhere and see saw a lot of groups moving in masses from site to site. The whole opening day was completely televised. Walt read about the opening day fiasco on the next day.

Even though opening day was a mess, the park learned from it incredibly. They saw how people moved through the park. Could now account for proper ride capacity, and could plan to accommodate many guests.

Penney`s Cash Carriers

Kids, what do they know?  What is a "Cash Carrier"?  They are devices to move things from one part of a store to another.  There were wire systems and pneumatic tubes .

Shop Conveniences - Extracts of article from "The Century" Vol. 24 (Oct. 1882) pp. 956-958
In large retail stores where a great variety of goods are sold in one building, it has been found necessary to employ children to carry the money to the cashier and to take the goods to the packing and delivery departments. To get rid of the expense and inconvenience of having so many "cash" boys and girls in such stores, a number of inventions have been brought out, designed to act as substitutes. The most simple of these is a light iron rail suspended from the ceiling of the store over the counters. On this rail run small two-wheeled cars, each intended to carry a receptacle for money or parcels, or both. The salesman, on receiving the money for the goods, puts it in a car on the rail overhead, and it rolls by gravity down the rail to the cashier's desk...

The familiar pneumatic dispatch tube system has already been used in one store in this country [United States] for conveying the money from the various departments to the cashier's desk. Two brass tubes are arranged overhead from each counter to the cashier... The system examined did not appear to differ from the ordinary pneumatic tubes and, while it is much more rapid than the system just described, it did not offer any special advantages...

Perhaps the most complete and convenient system of carrying cash from one part of a store to another is a new one based on the simple form of tram-way used in bowling alleys to return the balls to the players. The carrier consists of a hollow wooden ball cut in halves and provided with a simple device for locking the two parts together.

On the outward track there may be, say, eight carriers going to eight different stations. To send each carrier to its own place the balls are of different sizes, the largest ball intended for the first station, the smallest for the last... When the largest ball intended for the first station meets the guard it strikes it, and this blow releases the lock on the switch. The ball enters the switch and forces it open by its weight and drops down into the basket below. All the balls for stations beyond pass under this guard and, as the switch remains closed, they pass over it to their destination... This system has already been introduced into a large number of retail stores.

Moving money at Penny's

The cash was carried in a wooden cup attached to the trolley. The Rapid Wire system used a single cable, the trolley being propelled by means of a catapult device (technically called a 'propulsion') at each end. This photograph of Anscombes in Harpenden shows the cashier's office, where the lines converged. As well as the six Rapid Wire propulsions there is one of the Gipe design, used for the station upstairs. It has a separate support and the handle is almost horizontal.

Random Thoughts

Clotheslines and clothesline poles.. I remember when every home had clotheslines and clothesline poles. The biggest effect they had on my growing up was they affected how you threw the balls in the yard .. don't knock down the clean clothes!  And when you went for those foul balls with your eyes in the sky, you had to "sense" where the clothesline was, or get "clotheslined". The first home we had with a "machine" to dry clothes was about 1956 or so.

Home-made ice cream.. Oh boy, homemade ice cream. Even today, with Baskin Robbins and all the rest, I'll still take home-made ice cream. You had to have dry-ice and salt (no, not table salt, salt like they put on roads when it's icy). You put this around a canister with the ingredients in it and then we kids would take turns turning and turning and turning the spindle inside to keep mixing the ice cream. Boy, was it good. Later, of course, there were electric mixers.

In, we had curfews!!.. This has to be one of the biggest differences between life in the 60's and the 90's. All of us in the fraternities had curfews. The men's was about two hours later than the women's because a lot of us worked odd jobs. Girls had to be in by 10 on weeknights and 1:00am on Fri-Sat.

Our first TV set.. I can still remember the day of delivery of our first TV set. It was sunny and I was in the third grade. It would have been about 1952. It took a couple of hours because the delivery men had to install the antenna on the roof. The first program I saw on our set was Superman with George Reeves. We had a test pattern until five o'clock, then programming until about 10 or 11:00 pm, then a test pattern again. The nearest station was in Hutchinson, KS, about 150 miles away. The antenna had to be "aimed" just right to get the signal. That network was CBS. It was another couple of years before we got ABC, out of Wichita, and another couple of years after that before we got NBC.

Low-rider jeans.. In high school in the 1950's, there always seemed to be a contest among the boys to see how low they could wear their jeans without them falling off! And, to be very cool, yes, we had itty, bitty, little skinny belts about 1/4 inch wide to hold them up with!

Stick shifts..Ah yes, the good ole stick shift. Am I glad they are about gone now! But, they were fun to learn to drive. And to learn how to "gear down" for a stop sign... now you were cool, man, cool..

Roller skating in an indoor roller rink.. there may be some parts of the country that still have indoor roller rinks, but here in California, they're just about gone. (In-line skating outdoors has taken over here.) A couple of old ones around town, but nothing like they were when I was growing up. All Skate! Backwards Only! Trios! The Grand March! Couples Skate! (with the lights turned low). Ah, what fun. I could get in for free Friday nights if I helped put on skates. Yes, they were rental strap-ons that took a key to "fit" to the shoe of the patron! (But, I was a big deal.. I had skates on regular skate boots, man.., none of those strap-on skates for me!)

Garbage Disposals.. I can still remember getting our first garbage installed in the '50's. We were told by the installer not to forget to put a glass down it every once in awhile, "to sharpen the blades". My goodness, won't wonders ever stop? Before garbage disposals, garbage was collected in a container by the sink and simply burned with the trash.

Dress for Success.. I interviewed in college in 1966. I remember one Big Eight accounting firm telling me that white shirts with a suit were required. When I inquired at my next interview, I asked about that firm's dress code. The interviewer sat back and smiled and announced that their firm had "given in" to the times as far as a dress code was concerned and light yellow and light blue shirts were now allowed! But, he said, as he examined my sideburns with his eyes... no sideburns below the middle of the ears.

Milkmen Delivered Milk.. in Real Glass Bottles..You had a certain schedule with the milkman, and you left your "empties" on the porch for him to pick up. I think our milkman came three days a week. They needed to know if you wanted homogenized milk or pasteurized milk (with the cream on top). And they came in a white milk truck with white uniforms.

Modern Day Convenience Stores: 7-11's..We didn't have modern day convenience stores when I was growing up. We did have small, neighborhood markets, but they would close early. I recall my first 7-11 in 1968, when I came back from overseas and was stationed in Augusta, GA. How impressive: a store to get something in the middle of the night!

The Car Hop.. From: "John Strong One for your remember when: "Car Hops--We had several of them here, north of Boston. Pull in in your "hot rod" next to the speaker. Give your order through the microphone, verysimilar to the speaker at the drive in. Soon out came the waitress with a tray of burgers, hot dogs, fries and some Cokes. Great place to hang out, meet girls, listen to rock and roll over the drive in speakers. Those were the days!!" ... And I recall how the guys would drive through the drive-in showing off the latest addition to their hot rod and their latest girl friend. Girls wanted a drive in the "hottest" cars. Engines grumbling, front ends lowered, fluorescent colors (remember cherry apple red?).