Today begins a three-part series on my life reflected in Disney park experiences. It is a little experiment in navel-gazing that I hope you will enjoy!
I was born in New York City on September 30, 1959, to Ernest and Dorothy Goodness. Although my arrival just barely missed cusping the new decade, my family found a way to kick start a Disney obsession that was to span at least part of eight decades.
My mother called me Tinker Bell from the time I was born. Disney released the movie Peter Pan in1953. Disney movies were about the only films that good, responsible parents allowed their children to view in those days. Disneyland Park opened in 1955. I guess the whole world was a little Disney-obsessed at that time.
When I was very little, I just thought it was a cute, girly nickname. On some level, I liked the idea of being a flittery, glittery little pixie. When I grew older and delved into the J. M. Barrie source material, I realized that Tinker Bell was not all sweetness and light. In fact, the original Tinker Bell had a dark, jealous, almost murderous side. I often wonder what my parents were thinking. On the other hand, I never asked. Maybe I did not really want to know.
In 1965, the Department of Defense closed the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where my father worked. The federal government offered him the choice of transferring anywhere there was an open shipyard, with full moving expenses provided. After much consideration, my parents decided to move to Southern California and my father took a position at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard. My father moved to California while my mother stayed in New York to sell the house and organize everything necessary for the Goodness invasion of the West Coast.
We lived in an apartment in Long Beach when we first moved to California. My parents, having sold their house in New York at a loss, were having trouble finding a suitable house to buy within their budget. As they searched, we began exploring the new activities and sights of California. We went to the beach several days a week. We visited museums. We went to playgrounds and parks. On Saturdays, we all piled into the car and visited the popular tourist attractions.
The family folklore is that we went to Disneyland that particular Saturday because the Watts Riots were raging throughout Los Angeles County. My mother said that she could hear gunfire, so they decided to head south for the day. I do not know if that is a true story. I certainly do not remember hearing any gunfire, but I was not quite six years old. There were uprisings all over Los Angeles County in August of 1965, including Long Beach, so perhaps it is true. At any rate, the point is that my first “in person” taste of Disney was sort of a fluke.
I have a picture of our first trip to Disneyland. My father is standing, one hand on my shoulder and one hand on my little brother’s shoulder, in front of a gigantic cement whale. The picture shows my father’s smile, his lifted chest, and an air of pride. This detail hits me hard because I have only a few memories of my father looking proud. My memories are mostly of him being frustrated and fractious. At Disneyland, though, flanked by his children, he was proud. In the picture, a white shift dress is encasing my squat little body. There is a huge zipper printed down the front of the dress. The picture is black-and-white, but I remember that the zipper was bright gold and green. It was definitely the 60s.
I have many memories of Disneyland in the 1960s. My parents ended up buying a house about three miles from the Happiest Place on Earth. We could see the fireworks on weekend nights during the summer months. I remember my family cooking hot dogs over an open fire in the backyard and watching the colorful explosions in the sky.
Going to Disneyland was an extremely special thing to do during my growing-up years. We did not go often because it was expensive. We usually managed a visit every two years or so. A Disney visit was an event. Most outings meant shorts and a shirt. Going to Disneyland meant a dress or a skirt. I think my mother curled my hair. For some reason, when I think of Disneyland as a child, I think of white gloves and patent leather. I am sure I never wore white gloves or patent leather shoes to Disneyland, but I cannot get over the idea that it always felt like an elegant, white glove and patent leather shoe kind of occasion.
One time, we were at Disneyland near Christmas. Santa Claus came down Main Street in is sleigh. High atop the huge float, he bellowed “Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas!” He tossed candy and small toys. A small rendition of either Chip or Dale, stuffed with fairly heavy sawdust, bonked me on the head. I kept that toy for many, many, many years until the seams split and sawdust oozed out of it.
Another time, when I was about eight, my father and I rode the whirling Mad Hatter ride together. When the ride stopped, we exited the teacup. I reeled my way to an exit. My sense of direction was clearly still on the ride. In my dizziness and disorientation, I apparently headed in the opposite direction from my father. When I found my way out the exit and noticed my father was nowhere to be seen, I began to panic. I sobbed until a nice lady took my hand and brought me to a cast member, telling the cast member that “this little girl’s daddy is missing.” My father came barreling towards the cast member, yelling that I needed to stay with him and not go wandering around on my own. I am sure he was simply scared and frustrated, but to my little girl mind, he was very angry at me.
Do you have Disney experiences from the 1950s through the 1970s? Tell us about them! Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a Delightful Disney Day!