Disneyland January 14, 2008
Coming Back Home to Disneyland
By Glen Creason
For those of us who are natives of Southern California, owning up to the dreaded handle of “Baby Boomers” Disneyland has a special cachet in the stages and phases of our lives. My siblings and I were there, gripping the chain across Main Street and champing at the bit on July 17, 1955. That Summer Sunday President Eisenhower was preparing for a parlay with the big four, there was a transit strike in LA, Cardinal Mindszenty was released by the commies, there was a brush fire in La Canada and Duke Snider hit two home runs to lead the Brooklyn Dodgers to a 5-4 win over the Redlegs. However, in my world that was all unimportant. After our beloved Walt Disney had beat the drum on our favorite TV show (called ironically “Disneyland”) about this fabulous place in close by Anaheim we just could hardly wait. It’s really hard to admit it but fifty-two years ago I began my love affair with the Magic Kingdom. Adventureland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland and Main Street are like landmarks in my boyhood neighborhood.
The phases and stages have been notched at the park in Anaheim from that day as an eight-year-old to teenage wise-acreing to my hippie days when we were looked upon askance at the park to high school dates with beauties now faded, to my daughter’s early rides on Dumbo or the Matterhorn or Small World (no, no don’t sing it, don’t sing it). The excitement of the parking lot, the pressing through the main gate, the obligatory photograph in front of the Mickey Mouse floral display and that first rush of amazement upon entering Main Street have hardly abated for me over the years. Even though I now am a bit wizened and no longer see the reflection of the boy in the Keds tennis shoes in the glimmer of windows of the joke shop under Sleeping Beauty’s castle, I still thrill to a day at the Magic Kingdom.
Yet, this Monday, with ten family in tow was my first since the park remodeled and the place has truly received a makeover that left my head spinning. Exiting the Santa Ana freeway you now sort of are enveloped into a huge thruway to a vast parking structure that seems larger than some cities. After a lengthy drive and well-orchestrated direction you arrive in a sparkling (everything is scrubbed and sparkling at Disneyland) tram stop where you board within minutes and head for another huge plaza with the “old” Disneyland on the left and other attractions like Downtown Disney and California adventure on the right. True to the spirit of the post 9/11 times the security is tight at the park and you must pass through an airport-like security check that only served to heighten the hysteria of the kids waiting to take on D-land.
On this “harsh” Southern California Winter’s day with the mercury hovering around 78 degrees the place looked just washed and bathed in brilliant sunshine. The crowds were deliciously small and waits to get on any ride were never more than fifteen minutes. True to the age-tested philosophy Disneyland will never show its age or neglect. No, overflowing trash cans, grimy guardrails or galootish behavior from guests in this Magic Kingdom. We rode dozens of rides, some with glee, some with slightly whitened knuckles and even checked out the classics like “Jungle Cruise,” “Dumbo,” “Storybook land,” and the nicely revamped “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Other more challenging attractions like old pal Matterhorn, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Railway sped up the pulse-rates and satisfied the younger generation. Old reliables Mister Toad, Alice in Wonderland and Autopia demonstrated that “if it aint broke, why fix it.” We also got to enjoy one of the most impressive parades you will ever see outside of Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena. Of course, the friends and family who joined in this nostalgic voyage make or break the true quality of any visit. In my case I was blessed with a brother, a sister, a bro. in law, a couple of nephews, a daughter and great-nieces of very high jocularity. We laughed long and hard, remembering the past, forgetting the troubled world outside the gates and celebrating the present with equal enthusiasm.