Tag Archive | Disneyland


The Happiest Place On Earth

July 20, 2021

Where oh where to begin with this week’s topic? For those of us born from the mid-1950’s on, there was never a time when this, the ‘happiest place on earth’ did not exist.

We learned about Disneyland via Sunday night’s Wonderful World of Color which featured Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty’s castle against a back drop of colorful fireworks. It was an aspirational sort of thing, I suppose, instilling in our Baby Boomer hearts the desire to go to Disneyland and find our own happiness there.

The crowd running towards Sleeping Beauty’s castle July 17, 1955

It was the third week of July 1955, when the park officially opened, one year and one day from when construction began. Walt Disney’s concept came while sitting on a bench at a park one day and watching his two daughters play. Instead of parents just observing from the sidelines, he mused, wouldn’t it be great to have a place where kids and parents could have fun together?

It would be nearly 20 years before Disneyland would finally become a reality.

The Disneyland most people know today would be nearly unrecognizable to Disney himself. The first rides were, for lack of a better term, rather bland. There was not a roller coaster to be found anywhere within the park. It’s most popular early attractions were “Jungle Cruise,” “Autopia,” and “Rocket to the Moon” (later to Mars). Guests strolled along Main Street, hopped aboard the Disneyland Railroad, or sailed the raft over to Tom Sawyer Island for fun. There were a few carnival type rides but by today’s standards those would be considered ‘kiddie’ rides.

Opening day was a disaster. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

Walt Disney and his grandson taking a break from the 101 degree temperatures on opening day

“Traffic was delayed on the two-lane Harbor Boulevard. Famous figures who were scheduled to show up every two hours showed up all at once. The temperature was an unusually high 101 °F (38 °C), and because of a local plumbers’ strike, Disney was given a choice of having working drinking fountains or running toilets. He chose the latter, leaving many drinking fountains dry. This generated negative publicity since Pepsi sponsored the park’s opening; disappointed guests believed the inoperable fountains were a cynical way to sell soda, while other vendors ran out of food. The asphalt that had been poured that morning was soft enough to let women’s high-heeled shoes sink into it. Some parents threw their children over the crowd’s shoulders to get them onto rides, such as the King Arthur Carrousel.

In later years, Disney and his 1955 executives referred to July 17, 1955, as ‘Black Sunday’. After the extremely negative press from the preview opening, Walt Disney invited attendees back for a private ‘second day’ to experience Disneyland properly.”

Despite the inauspicious start, Disney persevered, never resting and always looking for innovative ideas and opportunities to improve the park and thus the experience for paying guests.

The first roller coaster, the now iconic Matterhorn, opened in 1959. It was eventually joined by a second coaster, Space Mountain, in 1977.

The Matterhorn under construction 1959

Although many of the original attractions are still a part of Disneyland, the Disney company has never been afraid to update and upgrade to keep pace with the changing technology or the desires of the public. Many of the attractions kids of the 1960’s and 70’s remember fondly are long since gone.

As a child – and knowing about Disneyland – it was a place I wanted to go. For my family, however, it was not within reach. It was only after the passing of my grandmother in January 1970 that the wheels were set in motion for a trip which took my Dad, Mom, Sister, and me south to Anaheim. I chronicled my first Disneyland visit in a previous blog post https://barbaradevore.com/2020/05/26/the-great-american-road-trip/.

Having gotten a taste of the Disney experience, I was excited when – along with the Rainbow Girls – I had another day at the park in late July 1976. And much like the first visit, it was a one day visit. The rides were few and mostly I recall riding the Matterhorn and meeting the Big Bad Wolf.

My sister encounters the Big Bad Wolf

It was after the hubby and I had been married for nearly eight years when we hatched our ultimate Disneyland plan. We flew to California in January 1988 to spend three entire days at the theme park. While there, we agreed, we would ride EVERY ride they had to offer; see every show; eat all the food. We would immerse ourselves in all Disney, all the time.

A few things stand out from that trip. One, when we arrived at John Wayne airport it was probably 8 or 9 p.m. and 60 degrees. To us, coming from 40 and rain Seattle in January, it seemed like summer. We laughed at a woman standing near the open air luggage carousel who was, literally, wearing a parka, fur hat, and big mittens.

Second, we videotaped pretty much every ride. Alas, without the magic of the machine which can convert VHS those tapes are consigned to a dusty box in the Harry Potter closet. (see article here: https://barbaradevore.com/2020/06/30/winchester-mystery-house/) One of these days I do plan to get those old tapes digitized!

Third, it was truly one of the best vacations the hubby and I took. We were 30 and 31 years old, did not yet have children, could afford to pay for whatever we wanted, and for three days we got to act like teenagers but better. Not only did we go on ALL the rides (yes, even the ‘kiddie’ rides), but we did several of the best ones multiple times. Space Mountain? check/check. Matterhorn? check/check/check. Haunted Mansion? check/check/check. Big Thunder Railroad? check/check/check/check/check.

In the years since, we’ve taken our children to Disneyland a couple of times and to DisneyWorld once. The hubby and I even had a solo day at Epcot a few years ago. But I’m not so keen on roller coasters any more. Those are, sadly, more the province of the young and less fragile among us. Even so, I think it would be fun to return to Disneyland with our adult children (neither of whom have any children at this point) during a time of year when the crowds are reduced and we can once again ride any ride we like as many times as we want. That, to me, would be magical.

Hubby and me with the two littlest ones on the Disneyland railroad 1995
Hubby and kids waiting for Big Thunder Railroad roller coaster circa 1998
Disneyland circa 1998

As Walt Disney said on opening day in 1955:

“To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future.”

Disneyland Map 1970


A Puzzle for the Ages

The Rubiks Cube

July 13, 2021

Choices, choices. That’s what today, July 13, gives us. A number of Tuesday Newsday worthy people are celebrating birthday’s today. I thought I had it all figured out until my brother, who is a disc jockey and sends me his show prep once a week, included the birthday of a person whose invention changed the toy landscape of the world.

The yummy Indiana Jones aka Harrison Ford

So what to do? First of all, I say Happy Birthday to actor Harrison Ford who is 79. Ford, for those might have been living in a monastery in Tibet, is known for multiple memorable roles: Bob Falfa in American Graffiti, Han Solo in the Star Wars films, Jack Ryan in The Patriot Games, and the swashbuckling Indiana Jones. There is much more to Ford’s career which has now spanned 51 years. There is currently another Indiana Jones movie being filmed.

To learn more about Ford and his career, the Infallible Wikipedia can be accessed here:


On a personal note, the closest I ever got to Ford was during a trip to Disneyland the third week of February 1995. The Temple of the Forbidden Eye ride – based on the Indiana Jones movies – was slated to open in early March. That’s when we learned about ‘soft openings.’ On our last day at the park they opened the ride… two weeks before its official opening date. I was jazzed and the hubby and I figured out how to take turns on the attraction since our daughter was only two and not tall enough to participate.

My sister and nieces outside the brand new Temple of the Forbidden Eye attraction, February 1995

Once the ride was over, it was time to head back to the hotel for some down time and we worked our way to Main Street and the exit. Our plans were thwarted – in a good way – when a parade halted our progress. The crowd was excited and we asked someone what was going on. “Harrison Ford is in the parade,” one enthusiastic woman said. Yes, it was a parade to celebrate the opening of the newest Disneyland attraction.

Sure enough a few minutes later both Ford and Carrie Fischer (who had no role in the Indiana Jones movie but was still there) rode by in a pair of convertibles.

Now on to the second birthday of note. Until I looked at his Wikipedia page I could not have picked this person out of a police lineup. Yet one of his inventions lives at our house and has done so since nineteen eighty something. Happy 77th Birthday to Erno Rubik, inventor of the popular cube puzzle.

For most people I imagine their cubes look like this most of the time.

Rubik is a Hungarian inventor, architect, and professor of architecture. The invention of the Rubik’s cube came about, according to the Infallible Wikipedia, when Rubik, using blocks of wood and rubber bands:

“…set out to create a structure which would allow the individual pieces to move without the whole structure falling apart. Rubik originally used wood for the block because of the convenience of a workshop at the university and because he viewed wood as a simple material to work with that did not require sophisticated machinery. Rubik made the original prototypes of his cube by hand, cutting the wood, boring the holes and using elastic bands to hold the contraption together.

Erno Rubik

Rubik showed his prototype to his class and his students liked it very much. Rubik realized that, because of the cube’s simple structure, it could be manufactured relatively easily and might have appeal to a larger audience. Rubik’s father possessed several patents, so Rubik was familiar with the process and applied for a patent for his invention. Rubik then set out to find a manufacturer in Hungary, but had great difficulty due to the rigid planned economy of communist Hungary at the time. Eventually, Rubik was able to find a small company that worked with plastic and made chess pieces. The cube was originally known in Hungary as the Magic Cube.

Rubik licensed the Magic Cube to Ideal Toys, a US company in 1979. Ideal rebranded The Magic Cube to the Rubik’s Cube before its introduction to an international audience in 1980. The process from early prototype to significant mass production of the Cube had taken over six years. The Rubik’s Cube would go on to become an instant success worldwide, winning several Toy of the Year awards, and becoming a staple of 1980s popular culture. To date, over 350 million Rubik’s Cubes have been sold, making it one of the best selling toys of all time.”

Since that article was posted, an additional 100 million cubes have been sold which places it as THE bestselling toy of all time.

The Rubik’s cube has been a true conundrum for the average person. It’s unsolvable unless one understands and applies at least two algorithms as they move the pieces around. In fact, according to an article on Ruwix.com, there are 43 quintillion possible combinations. Another interesting note is that it took Rubik himself over a month to solve it once he invented it!

Over the years there have been books written as to ‘how’ to solve the puzzle. There are now links on the internet providing the algorithms for free.

One Felix Zemdegs of Australia holds the world record for the fastest solving time. His record: 4.75 seconds. It’s pretty amazing to watch:

As I said, we have had a cube floating around our house over the years. After our son arrived, he became fascinated with all the games we owned. It was a daily affair for the game cupboard to be unloaded. Of course the cube was of interest. When he was probably 5 or 6, he became frustrated in his cube solving attempts. No amount of telling him that adults (including his mother) were incapable of solving the puzzle appeased him.

Who knew Ford was a Rubik’s master?

Then one day he walks into the kitchen and proudly shows me the ‘solved’ cube. I was impressed until I detected that some of the colored paper stickers on each cube were a bit crooked. On closer inspection it was obvious someone found the ‘easy’ way to solve it.

But his engineering brain was not to be deterred. We got him a new cube a couple of years later for his birthday and then he set about learning the final algorithms needed to solve the puzzle.

I’ve been able to get one face and then two rows of color correct, but that’s as far as I’ve ever gone. I’m okay with that. As someone who does not have an ‘engineering’ brain I’m content to watch in awe as those that do solve the Rubik’s cube, the world’s most famous puzzle.

A couple more links:



The Great American Road Trip

May 26, 2020

Are We There Yet?

Memorial Day is, in the United States, the unofficial beginning of summer; it’s a time for picnics, camping, and outdoor activities. In many ways, however, it is the quintessential automobile road trip which has come to define the American spirit and quest for adventure and the start of summer.

Leaving Pasadena

The Murdock family about to leave Pasadena

With the advent of cars in the early 1900’s, a few intrepid souls can be credited with establishing that it WAS possible to drive from coast to coast in an automobile. Although not the first to do so, Jacob Murdock, his wife Anna, children Lillian, Alice, and Jacob, Jr., were the first family to embark on such a trip. They, along with their mechanic, Phillip LeMay, departed Los Angeles on April 24, 1908 and arrived in New York City, 32 days, 5 hours, and 25 minutes later on May 26th.

876904lMr. Murdock – much to the joy of this writer who has a love of such history – recorded their travails on the trail in a short book which I found preserved by the University of Michigan. (see the link below). Alas, the Infallible Wikipedia has not heard of Mr. Murdock. Instead, I enjoyed a delightful read while sitting in a comfortable chair trying hard to imagine all the family and the mechanic – along with an occasional sixth passenger found along the way – experienced.

In 1908, paved roads were few, especially through the great American west. Their vehicle was a 1908 “Thirty” Packard with a canvas roof, folding windshield and speedometer. They started in Los Angeles, then followed the path of modern I-15 to Daggett. Those 141 miles were the first day of their journey.

mdp.39015071565041-seq_8As they continued northeast through the Mojave desert and along the southern boundary of Death Valley, they became mired in quicksand, and eventually hit upon the use of heavy rope to create makeshift chains for the tires. This experience helped prepare them for the next day when, as Murdock says in the book, “We soon found that our drift and sand experience at Coyote Lake had been merely a kindergarten for us in the art of tractionless travel.” It took 13 hours to drive 67 miles, many of those “where we again shoveled, groveled, plowed and floundered.”

From there it was northward into Nevada and Utah. They drove around the north end of the Great Salt Lake to Ogden, completing the first leg of their journey, nearly 1000 miles.

I found it interesting to ‘map’ their route. Once they arrived in Wyoming their path was generally along modern day I-80 clear to Iowa before tracking north a bit for a straight line in to Chicago; from there they dropped down into Pennsylvania for a brief stop at their home in Johnstown before completing the trek. On May 26th, they ended their 3,693.8 mile family trip when they arrived on the corner of Broadway and Sixty-first street in New York City.

murdock family new york

The Murdock family on May 26, 1908 upon their arrival in New York City

Along the way they had encountered oppressive heat, a blizzard, and much rain. The tracts they drove on went from sandy, to muddy, to rocky, to impassible in places. They experienced flat tires, mechanical breakdowns, and the car becoming mired in sand and mud. They got lost. While Murdock highlighted these challenges, rarely does he address what riding in that car for eight to fifteen  hours a day was like for the passengers.

Which got me thinking about my first multi-day road trip. It was the summer of 1970 and my parents, my slightly older sister, and I drove from Yakima to California in a 1964 Cadillac Coupe DeVille. My dad had a strong need to connect with his family, having just lost his mother in January. So off we drove to Elk Grove, California, staying in motels along the way and eating most of our meals at Denny’s.

In retrospect, I doubt my parents WANTED to eat every meal at Denny’s. But they had a picky eater along who ordered a French dip sandwich for pretty much every meal. It’s actually surprising that I still like French Dips. I don’t recall much of the scenery along the way. What I do recall is we stayed at my Aunt Arlene and Uncle Dick’s place outside Sacramento and my sister and I got to hang out with my very cool, two years older cousin, Sally. For a couple of days we got to swim in the pool at the apartment complex they managed and do awesome teenage girl stuff like sunbathe and talk about boys.


San Francisco’s famous intersection

Our trip next took us to San Francisco where, unfortunately for me, we could not locate a Denny’s. Lunch that day took us to a drive in burger joint in the heart of San Fran (after a ride on the cable cars and navigating Lombard street). As we sat in the car eating our food, either my sister or I noticed the street signs at the intersection: Haight and Ashbury. In 1970 this WAS ground zero for the counter culture movement of the day. It was there I saw my first real hippie.

Further south we continued, arriving in Anaheim where we stayed at the Jolly Roger Inn. The next day we spent at Disneyland. Yes, just one day… enough time in my parents’ book. I know we stood in line a really long time to ride both “Pirates of the Caribbean” (it was the newest attraction then, having opened 3 years earlier) and “The Haunted Mansion.” We also rode on the “Mine Train through Nature’s Wonderland” which was a rather pedestrian trip on a tiny railroad engine through scenes from the American West. It was replaced less than a decade later with one of my favorite roller coasters, “Big Thunder Railroad.”

The perfect pairing

A place for fun and a place to eat!

Along the way, my sister and I were introduced to a bunch of second cousins and our great aunt and after a couple of days, we headed back north, winding our way up the Pacific coast all the way through California and Oregon.

As a young teen, I had zero appreciation for how special that first road trip was. I wish I had been able to drink in all the sights, sounds, and experiences of that time. Alas, as my mother – who was fond of homilies used to opine – ‘youth is wasted on the young.’

There have been many more ‘road trips’ over the years as the hubby and I have made it a mission to travel the vast lands of the United States by car. In other blog posts I have shared some of those adventures (here, here, here, and here) . But it is Jacob Murdock who captures the spirit of the American road trip in this one paragraph:

“If there ever is a national highway from ocean to ocean, the tourist will find many wide perspectives and long, beautifully-colored vistas which are well worth his while. Some of the scenes which we enjoyed were so beautiful that we thought them worth the trouble and hardship to which we had been subject in getting there over districts without any roads at all.”

Indeed, Mr. Murdock. Indeed.


… Riding a Roller Coaster

Astroland Cyclone

June 26, 2018

When one thinks of amusement park rides, it’s none other than the roller coaster which has been firmly etched on the psyche of the American. It was in 1884 when the first Coney Island coaster – known as The Switchback Railway – opened.

Coney Island CycloneOver the years Coney Island was truly ground zero for amusement rides, especially the roller coaster.
It was on June 26, 1927 when the Cyclone coaster opened, providing thrills for generations:
From the Infallible Wikipedia:
“The Cyclone sits at the corner of Surf Avenue and West 10th Street. The track is 2,640 feet (800 m) long (including six fan turns and twelve drops) and the lift hill is 85-foot (26 m) tall at its highest point; the first drop is at a 58.1 degree angle. It has three trains of three eight-person cars; one train can run at a time. The ride’s top speed is 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) and it takes about one minute and fifty seconds. “
When one looks at a photo of the Cyclone it truly is the iconic image of the wooden coaster.

The coaster underwent a complete renovation in 1974-75 with its deteriorating wooden structure being replaced with steel.

In 1991 it was declared a National Historic landmark and still operates to this day.
I have no amusing story of riding the Cyclone but I will say that I’m no longer as big a fan of roller coasters as I once was. The last high speed coaster I rode was California Screamin’ at the California Adventure (adjacent to Disneyland) and swore I’d never ride one that wild again. I would, however, ride either of my two favorite roller coasters, both at Disneyland: Big Thunder Railroad and The Matterhorn Bobsleds.
What’s fun about those is that the ride goes fast enough to provide a bit of a thrill but they also incorporate a story into the ride.
matterhornWhen you ride the Matterhorn, according to the promotional Disney website, you will:
“Break out of the side of the mountain and race down the base of the peak. Swoop in and out of shadowy caves and along jagged rocky ledges. Throttle through icy chutes and around frozen precipices. Whisk across wooden and stone bridges, pass under waterfalls and weave around mysteriously glowing ice crystals before splashing down in a shallow alpine lake.

But the real peril is not the snow or sleet. Folklore has it that a growling monster known as the Abominable Snowman lives inside the mountain—and that he will do anything and everything to protect his home.”

And it is fun to nearly run in to the Yette around many a corner, his glowing eyes and menacing roar adding to the charm of the speedy bobsled descent.

The same is true of Big Thunder Railroad (BTRR). The ride utilizes entertaining elements: an abandoned, bat filled mine, goats on the tracks, and the threat of a tunnel collapse, to add to the adventure. The interesting thing about this ride is that the ride has evolved over the years.

mine train Rainbow geyser.jpgWhen I first visited Disneyland in the summer of 1970, the ride, called “Mine Train through Nature’s Wonderland,” was a sedate meander through an array of western landscapes including mountains, deserts, and geyser basins. My parents, my sister and I enjoyed the ride at the time, not realizing that it was destined to be re-purposed. The ride was closed in early 1977 and reopened as a roller coaster in September 1979.

My first experience on BTRR was as an adult with my hubby in the early 1980’s. We both loved the ride and every trip to Disneyland in subsequent years ALWAYS required at least one spin on Big Thunder Railroad: fast enough to be exciting but not so fast as to give you whiplash. Exactly my sort of roller coaster.

For more information on The Cyclone:


And about the former Mine Train Attraction:


And the Matterhorn Bobsleds: