Entertainment

Disney World opened 50 years in the past: Meet the employees who by no means left


ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Making use of to be one of many first staff at Walt Disney World, highschool graduate George Kalogridis made a split-second resolution that set the course for his life: he picked a room the place potential resort staff have been being employed.

Chuck Milam obtained a tip a couple of job opening from a transplanted Disney govt whose new home he was landscaping. Earliene Anderson jumped on the probability to take a job on the new Disney theme park in Florida, having fallen in love with the great thing about Disneyland in California throughout a visit two years earlier.

On the time, the three have been among the many 6,000 staff who opened the Magic Kingdom at Disney World to the general public for the primary time on Oct. 1, 1971. Now, they’re amongst two dozen from that first day nonetheless employed on the theme park resort because it celebrates its fiftieth anniversary on Friday.

Over these a long time, Disney World added three extra theme parks, two dozen further motels and grew to have a workforce of 77,000 staff because it helped Orlando change into essentially the most visited place within the U.S. earlier than the pandemic.

George Kalogridis, president of segment development and enrichment for Disney Parks, stands in front of the Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Kalogridis was one of 6,000 employees that was working at the theme park on opening day in 1971.
George Kalogridis, president of section growth and enrichment for Disney Parks, stands in entrance of the Cinderella Fortress on the Magic Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Kalogridis was one in all 6,000 staff that was working on the theme park on opening day in 1971.
AP

What by no means modified was the unique staff’ devotion to the pixie mud, the dream machine created by Walt Disney and his Imagineers.

“Disney has been my love, and it still is,” Anderson mentioned not too long ago earlier than beginning her shift in merchandising at a Magic Kingdom resort. “I love Disney.”

The staff who make up the 50-year membership say the theme park resort has allowed them to develop their careers and take a look at on new hats. Kalogridis labored his method as much as be president of Walt Disney World and Disneyland in California. Milam went from a warehouse employee to a purchaser of spare elements for rides and exhibits.

Fifty-year employee Earliene Anderson stands on Main Street at the Magic Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. "Disney has been my love, and it still is," Anderson said recently before starting her shift in merchandising.
Fifty-year worker Earliene Anderson stands on Foremost Road on the Magic Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. “Disney has been my love, and it still is,” Anderson mentioned not too long ago earlier than beginning her shift in merchandising.
AP

Forrest Bahruth joined the workforce at Disney World in January 1971 as a present director, chargeable for staging and choreographing parades and exhibits. He was additionally given the chance to assist open different Disney theme parks world wide over the previous 5 a long time.

“There are people all over the world who get up to go work. They’re unhappy about it. They don’t really like their jobs,” Bahruth mentioned. “As you can tell from us, there’s an enthusiasm. We are privileged to be at a place where we love what we do.”

There was no assure that Disney World was going to be a hit 50 years in the past. Walt Disney, the pioneering animator and entrepreneur whose identify graces the Florida resort, had died in 1966, only a yr after saying plans for “the East Coast Disneyland.” The corporate had quietly acquired 27,000 acres (11,000 hectares) of scrub land outdoors Orlando for round $5 million by way of secret land purchases utilizing faux names and shell firms.

Forrest Bahruth stands on Main Street in front of the Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Bahruth has been working at Disney since the opening day in 1971.
Forrest Bahruth stands on Foremost Road in entrance of the Cinderella Fortress on the Magic Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Bahruth has been working at Disney for the reason that opening day in 1971.
AP

The job of shepherding the venture to Opening Day fell to his brother, Roy Disney, who with different firm officers satisfied the Florida Legislature to create a quasi-governmental company that might enable Disney to self-govern when it got here to issues of infrastructure and planning. Roy died virtually three months after Disney World opened.

Simply weeks earlier than opening, building on the Magic Kingdom was managed chaos, and it appeared inconceivable that it might all come collectively in time.

Walt Disney World Ambassador Ali Manion, second from right, presents special 50th Anniversary name tags to employees, from left, Earliene Anderson, Chuck Milam and Forrest Bahruth at the theme park at Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Walt Disney World Ambassador Ali Manion, second from proper, presents particular fiftieth Anniversary identify tags to staff, from left, Earliene Anderson, Chuck Milam and Forrest Bahruth on the theme park at Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
AP

“It was like an army of ants. Everything was under construction. Interiors were still being put in. Roofing was still being put on top,” Bahruth mentioned. “There was painting, landscaping. Things were arriving by the moment. It was like trucks going everywhere.”

Bahruth rehearsed performers by way of parade choreography down Foremost Road, which reduce by way of the middle of the Magic Kingdom and resembled a turn-of-the-century small city from Walt Disney’s childhood. Regardless that he was a busser, Kalogridis was drafted into laying down sod outdoors the resort he was working in, hours earlier than Disney World’s grand opening.

Chuck Milam will celebrate his 50 years at Disney on Oct 1, stands on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Chuck Milam will have fun his 50 years at Disney on Oct 1, stands on Foremost Road within the Magic Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
AP

Two issues have caught within the reminiscences of the longtime staff from that opening day. The primary was the picture. It was a picture of hundreds of Disney World staff standing in entrance of the long-lasting Cinderella Fortress with Mickey Mouse and different costumed characters holding fingers in entrance. Two weeks later, it was featured on the quilt of Life journal.

“They brought all the characters up, staged them first, and then they tried to keep all the different workers together based on the color of their costumes,” Milam mentioned. “If you were from Fantasyland and in yellow, you would go over there.”

The second was the parade. It featured a 1,076-member marching band carried out by Meredith Willson, the composer of the Broadway present, “The Music Man.” There have been 4,000 Disney entertainers marching by way of the theme park, a mass choir and trumpeters from the US Military Band. A whole bunch of white doves have been launched into the air, and fewer environmentally pleasant, so have been hundreds of multi-colored balloons.

“It was the biggest thing I had ever seen,” Bahruth mentioned.

A mighty treehouse patterned after that used by the Swiss Family Robinson will eventually be built atop this gaunt skeleton at Walt Disney World, Florida, January 04, 1971. Though it now looks more like a primitive air conditioning unit; this framework will tower over the Swiss Family Isle in Adventureland disguised as a tree. And every young visitor will probably wish he had something like it in his backyard.
A mighty treehouse patterned after that utilized by the Swiss Household Robinson will ultimately be constructed atop this gaunt skeleton at Walt Disney World, Florida, January 04, 1971. Although it now seems extra like a primitive air con unit; this framework will tower over the Swiss Household Isle in Adventureland disguised as a tree. And each younger customer will in all probability want he had one thing prefer it in his yard.

Crowds at Main Street of Disney World
Crowds at Foremost Road of Disney World.

Solely round 10,000 guests confirmed up on that first day — which at right this moment’s a lot bigger Walt Disney World would signify about 90 minutes’ price of holiday makers getting into. It wouldn’t be till Thanksgiving 1971, virtually three months later, when Disney executives had a solution about whether or not their new resort could be a hit; that’s when automobiles attempting to get into the Magic Kingdom stretched for miles down the interstate.

“It was very clear after that first Thanksgiving, that the public definitely liked what we were doing,” Kalogridis mentioned. “That first Thanksgiving, that was the moment.”



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