A TV show named “Gunsmoke” made its debut, and another named “Make Room for Daddy” won two Emmys. Elvis Presley and Pat Boone had young hearts all shook up, and for the first time, they could listen to those crooners and others on a new gadget called a pocket transistor radio. A new car cost $1,900, gasoline was 23 cents a gallon and rents averaged $87 a month.
It was 1955. On July 17 of that year ? a year in which the last occupying troops left Austria and the Brooklyn Dodgers won the World Series ? Disneyland opened its doors. If the first day was any indicator of its future, we might have expected Walt Disney’s amusement park to fade into oblivion, much like Georgia Gibbs’ No. 1 Billboard hit “Dance With Me Henry” did. (Quick, hum a few bars.)
The chaos of Disneyland’s debut played out in front of a national television audience, and predictions of epic failure abounded.
Sixty years later, we know how wrong those naysayers were.
DISNEYLAND AT 60: How ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’ is celebrating
With nearly 17 million annual visitors, Disneyland is the biggest draw in California and among the top tourist destinations in the world. The park’s drawing power persuaded Disney to build theme parks in Florida, France, Japan and China.
Other amusement parks, such as Denmark’s Tivoli Gardens, existed, but Disneyland established a modern theme-park template that has been often duplicated but rarely matched.
We think we know Disneyland; after all, we’ve had 60 years to get acquainted. But do we really? Reporters Christopher Reynolds and Brady MacDonald have compiled a list of 60 things you might not know on the diamond anniversary of the theme park that became the gold standard.
1.?Much of Disneyland is built to scale to create the illusion of a full-scale experience. The trains circling the park and the Mark Twain Riverboat are built to 5/8 scale. Sleeping Beauty Castle and the storefronts on Main Street, U.S.A., use forced perspective to make the buildings appear taller.
2.?More than a million corn dogs are sold annually at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park. L.A. Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold calls the Disneyland corn dog the best he’s ever had.
3.?The Rivers of America in Frontierland is 4 to 8 feet deep. The first time the man-made river was filled in 1955, the water seeped through the sandy soil. The riverbed was eventually lined with clay to prevent leaking.
4.?The Rivers of America held 6.16 million gallons of water the first time it was filled and lost 30,000 gallons a day to evaporation.
Time for a tasty treat
Chris Mata, 18, of Stockton, enjoys a hand-dipped corn dog at Disneyland. More than a million corn dogs are sold annually at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park. L.A. Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold calls the Disneyland corn dog the best he’s ever had. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
5.?Maintenance crews dump 12 pounds of green or brown dye into the water a couple of times a week to color the river.
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