The Magic Kingdom then had what Walt called "that thing—the imagination, and the feeling of happy excitement—I knew when I was a kid." Whatever that thing was, Walt found it in Marceline, Missouri. He said that more things of importance had happened to him in Marceline than he imagined ever could. What kinds of things could have happened in that small town to make such an impression on him? Even today, the population is only around 2,500.
Walt put that feeling into words at Disneyland's dedication. Age and youth. Fond memories. Challenge and promise. Those simple, timeless things became the hub around which Disneyland grew.
Now that it's grown into what it is today, of course, simple, timeless things are a lot harder to find anywhere, not just in Anaheim. That's why birthdays are so important. They're times to reflect and refocus on those timeless things, and Disneyland's birthdays are no exception. I think that's why Disneyland gave buttons or ribbons like this one to the Cast working those days: to celebrate what it was, and to rededicate itself to being the Happiest Place on Earth, the place where whatever that feeling of happy excitement is could always be found.
Finding simplicity and timelessness is easier when you know what you're looking for. Disneyland: The First Quarter Century provided some examples back in 1980:
A child examines the hitching posts that line an 1890 street and asks, "Mommy, what kind of parking meters are these?"Some people today might scoff at those kinds of things as naive longings for a past that never was. But Walt found them in Marceline, and they were at Disneyland when I wore this ribbon. I saw them. If you were that child, that elderly gentleman, or that young couple watching the pin lights twinkling from stem to stern as the Mark Twain pulled away from her landing, I'll bet that you saw them too.
An elderly gentleman on the same street smiles happily and tells a bystander what he likes best about Disneyland—"I can jaywalk here!"
A young man aboard a "Mississippi" sternwheeler on a moonlit night seeks an introduction to a girl by asking, "Is this your first trip aboard?"
On July 17, we're all entitled to celebrate that feeling of happy excitement we knew as kids who grew up in the Disneyland that used to be. So happy birthday.
And many happy returns.