I was shocked to read in The Tribune last week that Disneyland raised its gate fee to $96. How can the average family afford to go there?
It was equally disturbing to read that those in the industry said Disney had but two options – expand the park or keep raising prices until attendance “becomes manageable.” The sad fact is there are plenty of people who are willing to pay that price to enter a park that is now overcrowded and overpriced.
On the other hand, friends of mine who hold Disney stock are delighted with the increase, so for them the park is still “The Happiest Place on Earth.”
I watched Disneyland being built as my family made frequent trips to Santa Ana where all our relatives lived. In fact, we turned off the freeway at Harbor Boulevard to get to my grandparents’ house. We could see the castle taking shape as it grew taller than the construction fences. My grandfather often drove to the building site to watch the construction progress.
So in the summer of 1955, when I turned 16, my brother and I were among those first visitors to the park. In fact, my dad drove right up to the front entrance and we hopped out and he said he’d be back at the end of the day to pick us up, right there within 50 feet of the ticket booth.
It was certainly magical. Because of my love of anything naval, it was even more thrilling for me two years later when the submarine ride opened. The US Navy participated in the grand opening.
Also in 1959 I saw the gang from the Musketeers in person –Annette, Jimmy Dodd, Sharon, Bobby, Doreen, Tommy and others. I remember filming them with my 8mm movie camera. Who knows what happened to that film. It’s probably somewhere in that big bag of “old movies” lying at the bottom of our closet. Anyone remember when Annette Funicello, with Frankie Avalon, performed at the California Mid-State Fair about 24 years ago?
I remember that you could enter the park for a nominal fee without buying tickets for rides. The last time my wife and I were there we sat and watched people walk buy. We did spend money for food and drink.
When Disneyland first opened there were ticket booths throughout the park where you could purchase coupon books for rides – A, B, C, D and E. Those E tickets were the best and you really savored them. Those coupon books were eliminated in the summer of 1982.
At $96 ($150 a person if you want to “hop” between Disneyland and the nearby California-themed park) Disneyland has become the playground for the one percent. I think Walt Disney would be ashamed.
Lon Allan's column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Atascadero for nearly five decades and his column appears here every week. Reach Allan at 466-8529 or firstname.lastname@example.org.