Walt Disney World opened on October 1, 1971. I was there, sort of. I lived in Orlando and tracked the bulldozing of fields and the gradual development of what would become the Magic Kingdom.
Like so many other kids in the Orlando area, I soon got a job there. Disney paid above what was then minimum wage and the costumes were way cooler than what I was wearing for my job at McDonald's. Yes, the drive was further, but, well, it was the Magic Kingdom.
The magic wore off soon enough for me. I worked on the monorail when the drivers still gave the spiel ("I'll be your pilot from the main gate to the Magic Kingdom. Please remain seated at all times. No smoking, eating, or drinkin while on board.") and occasionally entertained guests in the driver's cone. After several months of the monorail, I moved to Main Street and retail, working in the stuffed animals department of the Emporium. Better costume though the work wasn't any less challenging. It's hard to work at a theme park where the expectations are that the employees love their jobs and serve the public with a cheerful, helpful smile. Even when they're being idiots. But there was an interesting camaraderie among those who worked at Disney and I like to think it was more than the fact that we knew where the tunnels were and some of the stories behind the magic, though I can't tell you how depressed I was to see the guy playing Donald Duck smoking a stogie on his break, Donald's head propped on a table. Sometimes it was hard to know that there was reality behind the magic.
I grew up with Disney. I remember watching The Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights. I remember being enthralled by Disney extravangazas and still love Fantasia and Cinderella because I love the hopefulness and determinaton in "Bibbity Bobbity Boo." I know it's a silly song of nonsense words, but I cannot think of the song without seeing the small critters working so hard and with such love to create Cinderella's dress. That's a very powerful message that still moves me.
My favorite time at Walt Disney World was after the park closed. All the guests were gone and the streets were quiet. I remember walking down Main Street at 2A, the lights twinkling and my footsteps echoing against the storefronts. That's when I believed again in pixie dust and the magic of Disney.
So Happy Birthday Walt Disney World. May you continue to share those magical moments for years to come.