40 Days to 40 Years – Looking Back
Over the years, I have had the great honor to contribute with some absolutely amazing Disney bloggers. Today, we’re taking a ride in the Wayback Machine to 2011, the year that Walt Disney World turned 40 years old. This series of posts was the brainchild of my dear friend Didi Marie, and I was fortunate to be given a slot to write about Walt Disney World for 1978. Here is that post, captured for posterity and the good old trip down memory lane. I hope you enjoy looking back, and have a great day!
By the year 1978, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom was one of the popular destination spots in all of Florida, if not the most popular. For the year, over 14 million Guests would grace their way through the turnstiles, looking to experience, like the rest of us that love traveling to Disney World, that special magic that exists only at the epicenter of the “Florida Project”.
While I wasn’t at the Magic Kingdom this year (it was the following year when I made my first visit to the park), I can picture what it would have been like for other 10 year old boys as they were taking their first trip to the Magic Kingdom. Picture this in your mind as you read.
Your Grandpa is driving you, your Grandma, your Mom, and your Sister to the Magic Kingdom. It’s your first trip to Florida, and as you ride up World Drive, you feel yourself leaving Florida behind, and entering a totally different World. This World is not the home of Orange Groves, beaches, and sunshine. It has been replaced by the World of Magic, of characters that you have been watching on TV for years, of Princesses old and new, of Mickey and Minnie, and of a special Castle.
After you park your car, you board a special tram to take you to the Transportation and Ticketing Center, where you get the tickets, and then you board that special train, the Monorail, for your trip to the Magic Kingdom! It is the strangest thing you’ve ever seen, something of the future, you think, with it’s sleek design, doors that open almost magically, and with that whole Buck Rogers look and feel to it, you are certain that it will take you to the park in no time! While you are riding, you stare intently at everything you can see, barely pausing to blink as you look for your first views of the Magic Kingdom.
As you arrive at the park, and get off of the Monorail, you walk down the ramp towards the gates, and it hits you — you have arrived. Instantly you are struck by the sounds you hear, of music, people laughing, popcorn popping, everyone having a great time.
As you pass under the railroad tracks, somehow, Walt Disney has magically taken you out of the here and now, and transported you back to a different time, a different place, where small town Americana is alive and well; where Main Street isn’t just the name of a street, but it is a place to hang out with your friends, where you can eat, shop, and even catch a movie. As you gaze at all of the incredible buildings, you are taken aback at how long Main Street, U.S.A. is. It seems like it goes on forever! But you peer at the end of the street, and what do you see? This magical castle waiting for you, beckoning you to take a look at it, daring you to even go inside of it! You have heard about that castle, how it is Cinderella Castle, and belongs to her. You have read about how you can walk all the way through the castle, and come out in Fantasyland. You have even heard that you can even have a meal at Cinderella’s Royal Table — but that memory is for another trip.
1978 was also the 50th birthday of that one that started it all — Mickey Mouse. Starting on November 18th, Mickey began his yearlong celebration of his 50th birthday, which included a birthday parade.
When my family would take it’s journey to the Magic Kingdom the following year, my sister was all about the attractions. For me, though, I wasn’t a roller coaster junkie, so that wasn’t important to me; I hardly even remember the attractions I did ride, although I’m pretty sure I rode all of the usual ones. For me, the thing I remember most of all was what I described above — that feeling of being transported back in time, walking down Main Street, U.S.A., drinking in everything I saw and smelled and felt, riding that wonderful classic Walt Disney World Railroad, and just feeling like I have arrived — I am home.