Our parents have always done a phenomenal job of taking photos and putting them into scrapbooks. Growing up we were always drawn to pictures of ourselves and less interested in the black and white/torn and tattered books. However, now we are thirsty to dig deeper into our parents history and get the story behind some of their pictures. We asked our dad to share some pictures and his thoughts are more priceless than we ever imagined.
These memories are amazing because he has woven in awesome pieces of Americana into every post. Anyone who likes history will also find his perspective fascinating.
On the back of this photo taken in 1955 my mom wrote:
“See that little face peeking out around the disgusted looking passengers…I had a notion to send this to Walt and tell him at least Richie appreciated this much of a ride.”
I suspect one reason my mother referred to Walt Disney so personally was because we had just gotten Walt Disney’s autograph earlier that morning while waiting to get inside the park. This photo was taken on DISNEYLAND’S OPENING DAY in 1955. Yes, I was there. Our family also felt a tiny personal connection with the park because my uncle Virgil Thomas was part of the construction crew that literally built Disneyland. His family had moved to Garden Grove, California just a year or so earlier. Our families were close because his wife Gertrude was my mother’s identical twin sister. We lived in the Bay Area in northern California, and we visited often.
In 1955 large orange groves lay right next to their own back yard. A drive-in theater was located just a few blocks away whose name, not surprisingly, was “The Orange.” I remember the gigantic depiction of a few bright oranges on a stem painted as the logo on the back of the screen. On Sundays that same drive-in theater was rented by someone we thought of as a somewhat crazy preacher who conducted his church services via the drive-in audio boxes that would be placed in your car’s window (they were, of course, how you would hear the audio of the films played at the drive-in theaters). In this case it’s how you would hear the church service in the privacy of your own car. I can still picture that drive-in picture screen with the oranges on it, but the drive-in theater no longer exists. It was torn down by that same preacher who bought the property to build a permanent church there. The preacher’s name – unfamiliar then – is Robert Schuller, and the church he built on that site is the famous Crystal Cathedral.
But back to Disneyland. It was exciting to be there, but the park had none of the lush foliage it now enjoys. Most of the just-planted trees were small and scrawny, and the park looked somewhat like a new house that has not yet been adequately landscaped. Another difference was that in those days you had to purchase tickets for each ride. The tickets varied in price depending on the ride’s popularity and excitement value. The most popular rides required “E-tickets”, the cheapest merely “A-tickets.” As I recall, E-tickets cost 50 cents apiece, A-tickets just 10-cents. You needed an E-ticket to ride, for example, the popular Autopia (the little cars in Tomorrowland) but only an A-ticket to ride the Main Street cable car like the one in the picture.
Thanks so much, daddio! You will always be the best storyteller ever and we are so excited for future installments!