It was the summer of 1956. Disneyland had only been open for a year. I was six years old. We were an average American family of five, but a trip to Disneyland was very special indeed.
My dad loved to document our family events so he purchased an 8mm movie camera on which to capture our family adventures. Of course this was before cameras had sound capability, therefore our father directed me and my older sister and brother to be very animated while he shot the footage. Now in those days, attending special events called for dressing in our Sunday best. My sister and I often were dressed alike and this was no exception. We were in matching frilly dresses, white patent leather shoes, and matching white purses. My brother was equally outfitted in his smart dress jacket and slacks. As my father was filming us waving to the camera in all our fancy regalia and happiest of faces, there he was–WALT DISNEY! Just as he often did in those early years, he was strolling the streets, greeting fans and observing Park visitors enjoying his Disneyland. My father was so excited and surprised by this Walt Disney sighting that he stopped filming, but not before Walt Disney was caught ever so briefly on our family film, our first visit to Disneyland!
We take great joy in viewing our family life preserved for us by our father and, in a small way, we feel as though Walt Disney became an honorary member of our family not only because he is among us on our family movies, but also because Disneyland has remained a favorite family destination. Though I have moved from Southern California to San Jose, my husband and I made certain we took our daughters to Disneyland and even once to Disney World. When my husband and I became grandparents, we began a new tradition: Each time a grandchild has his/her third birthday we take the family to Disneyland to celebrate.