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Disneyland Article
Local Veteran Recalls Meeting Walt Disney

Source:Victorville Daily Press
Author:Rene Ray De La Cruz
Dateline:September 26, 2015
Posted:October 09, 2015
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Longtime Victor Valley resident Bob Campbell Jr. said meeting Walt Disney, watching the birth of Disneyland and riding horses in the High Desert over 50 years ago is only a small part of his "long and wonderful life."

Campbell, a 74-year old Air Force veteran, said he still remembers the early 1950s when he and his Sunday school teacher, Willis John, met Disney at his office at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank.

"After a tour of the studio, we were escorted into Walt's office," said Campbell, who was born in Upland. "Walt was a very pleasant and friendly man who took his time to show us his office and a small scale-model of his big dream - Disneyland."

During the tour, Campbell said he saw the Mark Twain Steamboat, a large pirate ship and train cars for the Disneyland Railroad being constructed.

Campbell said his opportunity to meet Disney came when John made an appointment to meet the animator as part of a business deal. John spoke to Disney on behalf of his father in-law, a Dutch toy maker who lived in Europe and wanted to sell his toys at Disneyland.

A few years after meeting Disney, Campbell said he found himself as a teenager selling copies of the Los Angeles Daily Mirror newspaper inside the entrance to the "family park" that was constructed in the middle of orange groves in Anaheim.

Campbell said his father was a major newspaper distributor and the opening of the Disneyland was good for the newspaper business.

"I was there the day before the park opened and on opening day in 1955," Campbell said. "The park invited 2,500 for the preview day, but 7,000 people showed up and basically just walked in. We didn't have security back then like we do today. I think some people even jumped the fence to get in."

Campbell said his father worked for the Upland Police Department, then joined the Naval Reserves before returning from the South Pacific and working as the Western Regional Manager for the Independent News/DC Comics.

"My father took over the Sal Savitt News Agency and then worked for Santa Ana Distributing," Campbell said. "That's why the newspaper business is in my blood."

Just before the opening of Disneyland, Disney hired extra construction crews who raced to complete construction of the park. Walt Disney was in such a hurry to open the park that he didn't wait for the black top to settle and dry, which caused high heeled shoes to get stuck in the tar, Campbell said.

"The park was cut like a pizza, with five triangle-shaped themed lands and 18 attractions," Campbell said. "I think there were over 28,000 visitors on opening day and lots of celebrities and politicians."

Campbell said he still recalls the early days of Disneyland when the park included a large picnic area, which was located where New Orleans Square sits today. He added that the majority of people visiting the park brought in picnic food and avoided the park's hot dogs and soda fare.

As Disneyland continues to celebrate its 60th anniversary, Campbell said today's almost $100 per-adult admission price far exceeds the $1 per-adult opening day price of 1955.

Campbell said visitors to Disneyland used to purchase tickets for each individual ride and a family of four could enjoy the day at park for under $20.

"Disneyland has changed quite a bit since the early days," said Kate Campbell, who's been married to Bob for 30 years. "We still love going to Disneyland and my favorite rides are It's a Small World and the Enchanted Tiki Room."

Campbell said he does not mind the expansion of Disneyland and loves the addition of California Adventure, which was built 14 years ago. He added that he did miss the Monsanto House of the Future attraction that was open for 10 years beginning in 1957.

"That house had a dishwasher that used ultrasonic waves and a microwave range that everybody wanted," Campbell said. "I think that whole house, floor to ceiling, was made of plastic."

After moving to the High Desert in the late "50s, Campbell and his family were charter members of the Hesperia Wranglers and began riding horses with the Family Riding Group. Campbell's family also rode their horses during the Hesperia Days Parade.

"Our group would ride from the fairgrounds in Victorville, down to the Orange Show in San Bernardino where the Sheriff's Rodeo was held," Campbell said. "We'd ride down through Oak Hills and Summit Valley, and set up camp along the way. It would take us about three days."

Campbell said once he moved to the High Desert, with very little radio or TV connectivity, news about Disneyland began to fade. The young man who had embraced a cowboy lifestyle received odd looks from his new High Desert neighbors when he tried to explain Disneyland to them.

"The High Desert was a different world back then, and so was Disneyland," Campbell said. "I'm just glad I was part of the early days of the Magic Kingdom."

Attractions Referenced

Disneyland Railroad

Enchanted Tiki Room

House Of The Future

It's A Small World

Mark Twain Riverboat

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