Sunday, February 03, 2013
Opening Day: The Michael Black Collection
Disneyland's Opening Day for the general public was July 18, 1955. Michael Black was kind enough to share his family photos (and the accompanying story) from that historic day:
While looking through a set of photos from the 1950s that once belonged to my grandmother, Dorothy (McMurry) Black, I found a fun surprise—three photos of my father and his family visiting Disneyland just one day after its grand opening day. Disneyland had its grand opening on July 17, 1955, but only press and invited guests were allowed in the park on that day. The next day—July 18, 1955, was the first day that the public was allowed into Disneyland, and these three photos were taken on that day. My grandparents, Vernon and Dorothy (McMurry) Black took four very lucky children to Disneyland that day: their two children (Keith and Gary), their foster son (Richard Bearden), and their nephew (Jude Laspa). Richard, the oldest, was 14 years old. Keith was 12, Jude was 11, and Gary was 6. Vernon and Dorothy were both 38, but children for the day, I’m sure!
The first image shows (left to right) Keith, Jude, Richard, and Gary standing in front of the Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship restaurant (which was once docked in Fantasyland, approximately where the Dumbo ride is now—see map below). Note the scaffolding still in place against the ship; the park staff was not able to get the ship completely painted by opening day, so they would have been putting the finishing touches on the hull when this photo was taken. The (rear) staircase from the dock also hadn’t yet been built.
Note that they are standing in sand, not the ubiquitous concrete of today. They would have been standing on the north side of the ship, looking towards the Casey Jr. train ride behind the photographer. The second image below is of the four boys and Vernon standing on the bridge leading to the entrance to Frontierland.
NOTE FROM DAVELAND: This photo from my collection taken from the same angle, same day, provides a colorful counterpart to Michael's shot:
The third photo shows Vernon, Richard, Gary, Keith, and Jude standing on the top deck of the stern of the Mark Twain river boat. The flagpole is clearly visible, as is a bit of red, white, and blue bunting at the base of the flagpole. Vernon is holding a large roll of papers (Disney posters, or shooting targets from the Main Street Shooting Gallery?), a Disneyland map, and perhaps a pamphlet. Keith has a Disneyland map and a boxlike item of some sort. Jude also has a boxlike item, perhaps the same as Keith’s.
The brochure map below (which came from http://andeverythingelsetoo.blogspot.com/2010/07/disneyland-55.html) dates to the opening day of the park, so it shows the layout of the park as my dad and his family would have seen it on that day.
To see more from Michael's collection, be sure to visit his blog.
Follow my Daveland updates on Twitter and view my most recent photos on Flickr. See more Disneyland Opening Day photos on my Opening Day photo web page.