FIRST CHILDREN TO VISIT PARK HAD PRIVATE TOUR WITH WALT HIMSELF
Greensboro News & Record (NC)-July 17, 2005
Author/Byline: JANET BRINDLE REDDICK Staff Writer
Nine-year-old Sybil Stanton and her cousin William
"Billy" Krauch had an adventure of a lifetime more than 50 years ago.
A man named Walt Disney was their personal tour
guide on a private, exclusive tour of a soon-to-be-opened little theme park
Stanton shared her memories of the special day
during the kickoff of Disneyland's 18-month Happiest Homecoming on Earth
celebration in May, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the park.
Stanton's uncle was the managing editor of the Los
Angeles Herald Express, which merged with the now defunct Herald Examiner in
1962. A Disney publicist called the paper at the end of June 1955, asking if he
knew of any kids who would be available to come visit the park so the paper
could cover it and write a story about it. A few days later, Stanton and Krauch
entered Disneyland, under the train bridge and onto Main Street, where the kids
rode the horse-drawn trolley, walked on Main Street, crossed the drawbridge of
Sleeping Beauty Castle and sailed on the Jungle Cruise. Along the way, Stanton
noticed that as Disney oversaw the completion of the park, he greeted every
employee by name.
"What struck me was how normal he was,"
Stanton said. "He was just a very nice man in a paternal way."
As she and Krauch toured the park with a
photographer chronicling their day in photos, Stanton said she did feel very
privileged, but it wasn't until later that she realized how special her
experience really was.
One highlight for her was a walk around the floor
of the Peter Pan's Flight ride, seeing London from the ground, instead of
"flying" up above in the pirate ships that would carry passengers
when the park opened a few weeks later.
Stanton never met Disney again, but she has
continued to visit the park from her Newport Beach, Calif., home. She has
watched all of the changes to the area, including the addition of Disney's
California Adventure, a shopping and restaurant district, lots of new hotels
and many more rides in Disneyland. She said everything is just bigger and
Her early experience gave her a unique connection
to Disney's vision.
"I have a feeling of ownership in the
park," she said. "Sometimes I even feel like Walt Disney is sort of
with me looking over my shoulder, like Jiminy Cricket."
Copyright (c) 2005 Greensboro
News & Record