Thursday, October 1, 2009

What A World!

This Day In Boomer History
October 1, 1971

When most of us think of Walt Disney World today, we think of the four-park, multi-resort complex near Orlando, Florida. It's the most popular tourist attraction in the country, and for good reason - you can't beat Disney for the complete package. In fact, my family is headed back there in just thirty days, and we're already counting down to the character meet and greets, the fantastic thrill rides, the wonders of Main Street and the delicious food. We visit WDW annually, sometimes even more than once, and we've never had a bad time. Who knew a mouse could show so much hospitality?

When I was growing up, there was no Disney World. My kids find this hard to believe. In fact, my little girl asked me,"Were your class pictures in black and white?" (which I can assure you they were not). What there was, way back in that age of innocence, was a Disneyland. It was a place where dreams came true, where wishes were granted and where our favorite princesses, heroes and flying nannies paraded every day down Main Street.

It was also a place in California, which meant it was a place we'd never be able to visit. Our family never seemed to leave the east coast except for a visit to relatives in Indiana. California could have been on Mars, for what it was worth to us. We knew that the Matterhorn, the Jungle Cruise and that wonderful Main Street were stuff of dreams for us east coast kiddies.

But then, the impossible happened. Walt Disney, the smart businessman that he was, realized that 75 percent of the country's population lived east of the Mississippi. So he decided we needed a theme park all our own.

Plans were made, property purchased - and then Walt died on December 15, 1966, before his vision was realized. Luckily for us, the dream didn't die with him. Walt's brother Roy postponed retirement to oversee the venture, and announced the name Walt Disney World in honor of his brother. The first park, known as The Magic Kingdom, opened 38 years ago today.

I didn't make it to Disney World until my high school senior trip, still some six years away at the time WDW opened. Still, I remember watching the ceremonies on TV and knowing I'd make it there someday, unlike the impossible Disneyland. (Of course, little did I know I'd be there as much as I am...but who knew the world would get so big?)

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