Disney lovers, we spent seven days visiting Walt Disney World back in March. Immersed in another world, enjoying the company of our family, experiencing all the magic offered by Walt himself, we revisit those memories again and again. Some small event in the now catapults us back to a then moment and we relive the joy, the excitement, the wonder of that moment. There is also a longing to do it all again, soon, costs be damned. Those moments are those moments though. We cannot recreate them. While they will live forever in our memories, triggered by sights, sounds and smells today, they remain then moments. This moment, right now, is brand new and ready to be made into another precious, or not so precious, memory. I’m learning to live in anticipation of the next new moment and all it has to offer. And continue to enjoy the memories.
Disney Memories: Haunted Mansion – March 1970
Here’s how I remember it: For my fifth birthday, my parents took me and my three year old brother to Disneyland. (This was my first trip to the Magic Kingdom). My memories of that day are bookmarked in my head by two glossy black and white photographs with crinkly edges adhered to a black construction paper page in a long lost photo album that had a deep red cover. In one photo, taken on the Dumbo the Flying Elephant Ride, is my mother and my little brother in the elephant directly behind me and my dad. In the other photo, taken by my mother, is me and my dad in our elephant.
Another memory returned to me the other night while I was remembering being on Tom Sawyer Island: my first trip through the Haunted Mansion.
This is what the front of the Haunted Mansion looked like, circa 1970. A huge thank you to Dave (“Major Pepperidge”), author of Gorillas Don’t Blog, who graciously allowed me to use his personal Haunted Mansion photo.
Imagine if you will, a five year old girl entering a large, dark foyer, holding her father’s hand. A wall in the foyer opens and a very solemn host ushers a large group of people from the dark foyer into a even darker octagonal-shaped room with four portraits hanging way up high. Keep in mind that the little girl stands about buttocks high to many of the other guests in the tightly packed room. (I think my dad might have picked me up – I had my hands over my eyes for most of this ride.) Then the wall closes again and that deep, resonating voice tells it’s tale while the walls stretch to reveal some unusual portraits: “And consider this dismaying observation: this chamber has no windows and no doors. Which offers you this chilling challenge: to find a way out! [laughter] Of course, there’s always my way.” And with that, lighting cracks, thunder rumbles, and the ceiling reveals a body hanging from a noose.
That was IT for me – I was completely terrified. And we hadn’t even gotten out of the elevator yet. Then we walked down that long, dark hall leading us to our fate, me taking in the paintings that changed with the lightening. The busts at the end of that hall following us with their eyes as we walked by. We climbed into the aptly named Doom Buggy and rode the ride, me and my dad, and I held my hands over my eyes, with my head against my dad’s chest, for most of it. (I do remembering peeking a FEW times. Once down the hall of doors, but a glimpse of the breathing door stopped that nonsense. But curiosity got the best of me a few more times: Another peek while passing through Madame Leota’s seance. I’m also pretty sure I peeked during the dining room scene – Hamilton and Burr in a duel, I remember that. And once during the graveyard scene: a ghoul popped up from behind a headstone and that was the end of peeking for me!)
I’ve ridden that ride at least a hundred or so times since that first time, and I love it every time. It’s never the same – I see things I missed during the last ride, and I really enjoy the holiday overlays for Halloween and Christmas. But that first time, whew! Still surprised we got out alive.
That’s all for now. Until later, remember to look for the magic!
Disneyland Memories: Tom Sawyer’s Island
Last night, as I was falling asleep a memory returned. My mind was going over things I’d been thinking about for a couple of days now as my mind does right before I drop off. Thoughts like trying to remember my first trip to Disneyland, and any subsequent visits during my childhood. Earlier this month I even asked each of my offspring about their memories of their first times at Disneyland (more on that in another post). And as I started to drift into sleep a very distinct memory popped into my head.
Tom Sawyer Island (until now I thought it was Tom Sawyer’s Island, but the photo of the brochure below cleared that up), when I was maybe 11 or 12. In 1975 my dad married a woman who had a couple of sons. I have a brother of my own. That gave my dad and his new wife four children. Have you ever taken four children to Disneyland for the day? I have. It’s pricey.
Anyway, the memory is of me and my three brothers on Tom Sawyer Island. I remember going through Injun Joe’s Cave, bouncing across the barrel bridge, climbing up and down the inside and outside of Castle Rick, walking and running around the entire island pretending we were on our very own island. And my favorite part of that adventure, besides cruising over to the island on the raft, was Fort Wilderness (see a link below for visual reference and history).
Fort Wilderness was practically a working fort with turrets and pretend guns and telescopes for spotting the enemy. There were diorama rooms of life back in the 1800s in a Fort. It was the coolest place I’d ever been, playing on Tom Sawyer Island. At home, my brother’s and I played a lot of pretend – they were all younger than me by a little – but we never had this much ‘playground’ to fuel the imagination.
That’s what I love the most about Disneyland – the inspiration and the stirring of the imagination. Imagining life in a small town while walking down Main Street, racing cars in Autopia like an adult, shrinking to the size of an atom, and taking a rocket to Mars or a shuttle out into space with a droid. Imagining. Walt did such a great job of bringing out the kid in a kid, and reminding adults of what it was like to have an imagination. I am grateful to him for creating a park where an adult can be a kid.
I also recall (I was around 11 tears old, so keep that in mind) that my dad was not too happy that he’d brought us to Disneyland (at some expense) and all we wanted to do was play on that island until the Park closed. I think we played on that island for two hours and left reluctantly to visit the other exciting attractions Walt and the Imagineers had come up with for our enjoyment and further inspiration.
I also wish I had photos from this trip and others like it from my youth. Alas, I do not. I will make sure I always take photos of my visits, of the surrounding landscape that exists until it does not, for history – mine and yours.
That’s all for now. Until later, remember to look for the magic!
My Happy Place
I re-discovered Disneyland in August 2013, when I took a friend (now my husband) who hadn’t been there in almost 40 years – to use up the last of an annual pass I had purchased but never really used.
That day – August 25, 2013 – began a rekindled interest and newfound love for everything Disney.
I hope you’ll indulge me as I begin to share my Disney experiences with you.
Right now, though, I’m off to class.
Until later, look for the magic in every moment.