In celebration of Walt Disney World’s 45th Anniversary, the WDW Radio Blog Team members are sharing their Walt Disney World “love stories” about the moment they became lifelong fans.
When did I first fall in love with Disney? While the details are somewhat sketchy, the answer is held very close to my heart.
I spent the early 80’s as an elementary school kid on the West Side of Jersey City, NJ. Stick ball, running bases, tag football…I learned them on concrete and wore my maroon Members Only jacket with pride on weekends – 1. because we all did, and 2. because it meant I could take a break from the formality and stiffness of my Catholic school uniform … the blue and green plaid of Our Lady of Victories School on Ege Avenue, to be exact.
I was too young to have experienced the harsh Catholic school realities my parents and grandparents chagrinned, but I nonetheless harrumphed my way through third and fourth grade under the glare of stern teachers and in the shadow of multiplication tables and diagrammed sentences on the dusty chalkboard.
My education was a good one, though, and not reflective of my sophomoric ignorance and the threadbare condition of the school. Being that my family moved to the suburbs by the time I was in fifth grade, my experiences in the city and at Our Lady of Victories School reached their conclusion before I could make those rock-solid friendships many people have as a result of growing up in the same town their whole lives. But I do remember one particularly friendly teacher, the pretty girl who sat in front of me in Grade 4, and the boy who got sick during afternoon prayers – come to think of it, after that day we never actually saw him again. But I digress…
The thing I remember most is this: on days where a little free time was expected – the half day before Christmas break, the final day of placement tests, the day before the Pope arrived in the States – an old nun (one who definitely fit the description of the woman who boxed my grandpa Billy’s ears years before) would wheel in a squeaky old cart adorned with 36-inch color television and a VCR player with pop-up tape receptacle. In her possession was a modest selection of Disney tapes – no feature-length films mind you, but an assortment of classic Disney shorts and compilation specials recorded off of TV.
I cannot tell you how much my heart soared when that old lady labored into the classroom on her hobble-y knees, resting most of her enormous weight on that media cart and breathing louder and more intensely than the wheels could squeak.
Her appearance meant that for the next thirty minutes, there would be no drilling…no work…no doodling – the staff of dear old OLVS now had my full and undivided attention; and the glorious joy I felt in my heart was akin to the feeling I had on Christmas Eve.
I’m not kidding.
What would be shown today? A few Donald Duck shorts? Oh! how I loved Chip n’ Dale! Mickey Mouse? A Silly Symphony or two? (I loved “The Old Mill.”)
The decade in which I grew up was some forty years after these classics first debuted, but they are simply timeless. When the nun pressed play and the Pied Pipers began to sing:
Who’s got the sweetest disposition?
One guess — guess who!
Who never, never starts an argument?
Who never shows a bit of temperament?
Who’s never wrong but always right?
Who’d never dream of starting a fight?
Who gets stuck with all the bad luck?
No one… but Donald Duck!
The gray reality of the city was replaced with a colorful world of Vaudevillian brilliance and fun. And I loved the characters – truly – but, man, I really loved the settings.
Clips of Bambi in the Maine woods, Mickey Mouse riding the train from Burbank to Pomona, and Donald Duck camping in a cabin in the woods…I know it’s cliché, but these were different worlds for me.
And I think…no, I know this was the root of my obsession with going to Walt Disney World. In my mind, going to Disney World meant meeting all of these characters for real and to go on adventures far removed from Hudson County, New Jersey. It took a few years of begging and pleading, but my parents finally saved enough money to drive my sister and me down to Orlando when I was nine, and my passion was solidified as the park failed to disappoint.
And as I introduce my three-year-old to the old classics today, my heart leaps knowing that I am not only entertaining him, but taking the citified little bruiser which still lies within me back to a simpler time when times tables were my archest nemesis and all of my troubles could be pacified with a Technicolor mouse.
(Images copyright Disney.)