My (Disney) World is Rocked by a Family Secret!

My first trip to the Magic Kingdom in 1977

I had planned to write an article about my earliest memories of going to Walt Disney World.  My first trip pictured above was in 1977.  I’m the cute one in the middle.  The one thing I was waiting on was the opportunity to raid my mom’s photo albums for pictures from the trip.

Today, that opportunity arose.  I was flipping through pages of various photo albums when suddenly my mouth dropped.  I had passed 1977 in this particular album.  To the best of my knowledge, this was the only time I had been to the Magic Kingdom as a child.  And yet, this picture was clearly in the early 1980’s…

Being a die-hard Disney geek, I immediately recognized the Haunted Mansion.  Was the picture out of place?  It did look like we were a little taller in this picture than we were in the 77 pictures.  And we were wearing different clothes!

I took the picture from the album and looked at the back.  My mom labels all her pictures.  It read,

“Disney World

April – 1981

Haunted House”

Once I was done bristling over the fact my mom referred to the Haunted Mansion as “Haunted House”, the realization hit me.  I had been living a lie!  All my adult life, I believed I had been to Walt Disney World only twice as a kid.  Once to the Magic Kingdom in 1977 and once to Epcot in 1988.  And yet, here was pictorial evidence to the contrary staring me in the face!

I flipped another couple of pages.  What was this!

Another set of clothes.  (I am rocking the Pac-Man T-shirt!)  Another sibling!  (They weren’t done.  I am the oldest of six kids.)  This was neither 1977 nor 1981.  I flipped the picture.  1982!!

It was like discovering a deep, dark family secret.  Like a missing sibling.  (Although I sure didn’t need another one of those.)  There were gaps in my memory.  I had been to Disney World 4 times but my memories had blended the first three trips into one!

Suddenly, a lot of things started to make sense.  A lot of my memories of the Magic Kingdom consisted of my dad complaining about long lines.  But every time he talked about our first trip in 1977, he talked about how empty the place was.  Why did I remember him complaining so much?

If you look at that castle picture from 1977, you’ll see that Main Street is more or less a ghost town.  I have been to the park before opening for breakfast and seen more people than that.  And check this out:

My brother and me on Dumbo in 1977.

Notice anything weird about that picture?  The elephant behind us is empty!  That never happens.  Never!

So clearly, my memories of dad complaining about lines came from those trips I had forgotten about in the early 80s.  But I did remember at least one specific event from 1977:

Sons of Liberty

My brother and I were selected to receive the “Sons of Liberty” medal in a ceremony in Liberty Square.  I think we were the only two kids in the park at the time.  I cherished that thing like I had won the purple heart.

Here’s a couple of pictures from the days when characters roamed the parks:

In 1977 Pluto had eyebrows for some reason.

Pluto’s one of those characters we see every trip at character meals.  I couldn’t get over how different he looked in 1977.

Tigger and Pooh could never just stroll around like that today.

Check out the expression on my little sister’s face!

Perhaps most striking of all, in all the pictures of all three trips – no Mickey.  I guess that’s one advantage of the current meet and greet system.  We were 0 for 3 when it came to meeting the mouse.

This next one is from 1982:

This picture illustrates another weird thing that happened when characters just walked around.  The little girl to the left is my sister.  The other kids?  I have no idea.  People just ran up to the characters and started clicking!  It was chaos!

It’s been a day of revelations, let me tell you!


Posted on March 26, 2011, in theme parks, Walt Disney World and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Love your pants in 1977.


  2. A. I’m not little.
    B. I could have told you we went more than twice. I was desperate for those ears.


    • A. How funny! I was just remembering “the soup” story the other day. Poor Jeff.
      B. It makes sense now that I can put the pieces together. But mom totally forgot anout the 81 and 82 trips and dad was just a blur. Somehow they never came up until I found the pictures and asked about them.

      By the way, you’re wearing the same mouse ears in 81 and 82. I’m not sure if they bought them on-site in 81 and brought them back in 82 or if they used to sell those things in toy stores. I’m guessing mom still has them in storage somewhere!

      Mindy commented that Jeff and I didn’t have any mouse ears. But I’m guessing you couldn’t have forced them on us if you tried.


  3. I have heard that people would shove kids with other families just to get a photo


    • I’m sure it happened although I don’t recall it happening to us. My memories of those trips are pretty hazy. The one I remember the most clearly is the first trip when we basically had the place to ourselves.


  4. daffystardust

    I have a photo like that which I’ll post sometime. It’s 1972, so I’m very little and completely not facing the camera and there’s another kid we have no idea who is posed perfectly.


    • So were you shoved into someone else’s vacation picture or vice versa?

      My recollection is that the entire interaction was less structured back in the day. The characters interacted with everyone simultaneously. Kind of like they do from the parade floats. Wave to everyone. Smile. Brief interaction with individual kid or picture. Back to working the crowd. It has obviously gotten more structured and more individualized over the years.


      • daffystardust

        I remember it similarly. I think I just wandered into somebody else’s photo and my folks went ahead and snapped their picture and we moved on. I’d post it here in comments if I knew how without giving the whole internet access to my photo bucket account.


        • If the picture isn’t viewable to the public, I don’t think there is a way to do so sadly. 😦

          My pics are out there for all to see. Which makes for some weird searches. Sometimes when looking for Disney World pictures for an article, I will see my own vacation pictures.


        • daffystardust

          Maybe I’ll just post it as a quick visual oddity someday.


        • I look forward to that should it come to pass.


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