Happiest place on Earth!

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.

Look at the comparative images at the bottom of this post to see what the ship would have looked like in full color on this day. The second of the comparative images was taken in 1956, after the staircase was in place.

The image below is of the four boys and Vernon standing on the bridge leading to the entrance to Frontierland. Look at the comparative images at the bottom of this post to see what this scene would have looked like in full color on this day.

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. Unfortunately, the print is grainy and low contrast, so I can’t do much more without the negative or a better print. (Keith and Jude, do either of you happen to recall what you bought at Disneyland on opening day over 57 years ago?)

The brochure map below 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.

Comparative images

As always, please leave comments to correct or add anything to the story!

UPDATE: I’ve found twelve negatives that include these three shots as well as nine new shots. See the “More Disneyland opening day photos found” post for more details.

6 thoughts on “Happiest place on Earth!

  1. A beautiful treasure, indeed! Thank you so much for documenting our family’s history! I can’t wait to see more! All my love, D/Lea. : )

    • Hi Dorothy! Great to hear from you! I’ll do my best to write a post or two about our shared side of the family every month. In addition to the stories I’ve already posted on Lewis and Ruth Black (our adoptive great-great-grandparents), I’ve got some good stuff in the works about Vernon, Dorothy, and the McMurrys, as well as a scandalous story about our biological great-great-grandfather, Gilbert Scherer. In fact, I think I’ll go write the Gilbert Scherer story up now!

  2. Pingback: More early Disneyland photos | BlackenedRoots.com

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