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Disneyland anniversary brings back memories of 1955 opening
Sleeping Beauty's Castle is an iconic landmark that's been part of Disneyland for 60 years. - photo by Chris Hicks
My wife wants to go to Disneyland.

I am less enthused.

This is partly because Im an old goat and dont relish the idea of walking around and standing in line for hours on end anymore, and partly because weve been there, done that. Many times.

Although, as my wife is quick to point out, its been many years since our last trip to Anaheim, California a decade or two, in fact.

Weve actually been to Disney World in Orlando, Florida, more recently, but even that was quite a few years ago.

And I must confess that the thought of the iconic theme park celebrating its 60th anniversary (actually last month) tugs at my increasing old-age tendency to think fondly of all things nostalgic.

I grew up in Los Angeles County and clearly recall all the hoopla that surrounded the Disneyland opening event on July 17, 1955.

On that Sunday afternoon, I joined my parents and little brother in the living room for the ABC network broadcast of the parks grand opening, which was for invited press and celebrity guests only, though a lot of people got in with forged tickets.

It was a live show hosted in sweltering heat by Art Linkletter, with co-hosts Ronald Reagan and Robert Cummings, and Walt Disney himself at center stage.

The 90-minute TV special began at 4:30 p.m., and we watched it on our 13-inch black-and-white console but it couldnt have had a bigger impact on us if it had been on a 70-inch screen in color and high definition.

One day, three or four weeks later allowing some time for the Disney folks to work out the bugs that plagued that grand opening (drinking fountains that didnt work; soft, squishy asphalt that had been poured earlier in the day; a gas leak that shut down Fantasyland; food and drink vendors quickly running out of supplies, etc.) my parents woke us up early and we all headed down to Orange County to check it out for ourselves.

I was just 7, but I quite vividly remember that day and our heightened excitement as we made the drive, parked our car in what seemed at the time like a huge parking lot (minuscule compared to todays) and stared in awe at the colorful floral image of Mickey Mouse at the entrance to the happiest place on earth.

We were also awestruck at the hordes of people lined up in front of the turnstiles, waiting for the park to open. (Dad had thought the crowds might thin out by then; they didnt.)

We wandered down the turn-of-the-century Main Street, visited Fantasyland, Adventureland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, and rode all the rides we could squeeze in, from the spinning teacups (formally the Mad Tea Party) to the Jungle Cruise.

And, as you might expect, we went back many times over the ensuing years, until I knew the layout perfectly. When I was old enough to run around on my own, I knew right where everything was.

I also remember how it used to drive my dad nuts that I always went into the Main Street Cinema, which had (and I think still has) six screens simultaneously showing different old black-and-white Disney cartoons, five silent with music and Steamboat Willie, the first sound cartoon and Mickey Mouses debut. (And after it opened several months later, I would also step into the Mickey Mouse Club Theater in Fantasyland, which would be showing more recent color cartoons.)

Yes, my movie-buff obsessions kicked in early, and my dad couldnt understand why I would want to go watch something in a theater after wed paid to get into a theme park with outdoor rides and attractions. I tried to explain that these were cartoons that werent shown in theaters anymore. When would I ever have another chance to see them?

Hey, it made sense to me at the time.

We rode the Mark Twain Riverboat and the Autopia cars and Mr. Toads Wild Ride, and read the placards that advertised upcoming rides that werent open yet, such as Dumbo the Flying Elephant.

OK, you get the idea.

So lately there have been a few things cropping up to remind us of Disneyland, besides the stories published last month about the anniversary, which is what instigated this latest we-need-to-go discussion.

A few months ago while strolling through YouTube, we stumbled onto Julie Browns hilarious (and politically incorrect) 1984 music video for her satirical song The Homecoming Queens Got a Gun, which references an E-Ticket.

Those old enough to remember know that during Disneylands first three decades, tickets were labeled A-E in Value Books, and E-Tickets were for the most popular rides, such as the Submarine Voyage, the Matterhorn Bobsleds and the Monorail after they opened. So the phrase E-Ticket entered the lexicon as slang for any top-of-the-line item.

This prompted me to dig out a book one of my sons gave me a couple of years ago Disneyland Through the Decades: A Photographic Celebration, by Jeff Kurtti which really got the nostalgia gears in my brain to whir. (The book is loaded with vintage photos from the parks initial development to the grand opening and beyond.)

And that led me to pull the Walt Disney Treasures DVDs that relate the parks history off the shelf: Disneyland, USA, and Disneyland: Secrets, Stories & Magic.

The former includes that TV special my family watched so many years ago, and watching it again was a real hoot. The DVD box also contains a souvenir reproduction of the earliest ticket book (Admission and 15 Adventures in Walt Disneys Magic Kingdom, Disneyland, for $4.50).

Well, its far from $4.50 now. And its more than just the Disneyland Park (as its now formally known). But I suppose Anaheim isnt really all that far from Salt Lake City.

Oh, man, am I actually talking myself into going?

Dont tell my wife.