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Disneyland Article
When Walt Disney Visited The Boardwalk

Tomorrowland Autopia
Ted Whiting Iii
November 10, 2019
November 20, 2019
When Disneyland opened in 1955, Tomorrowland boasted the Autopia ride, a self-driven turnpike for kids of all ages. The cars were outfitted with bumpers, but they were plagued by collisions and occasionally jumped the curb that centered them on the roadway. When the Boardwalk’s Autorama ride opened in 1961, in addition to front and rear bumpers, our cars also had a center guide rail to control the cars steering range. Our ride was built by Arrow Development Co. of Mountain View. Arrow innovated amazing new ride concepts that helped make Disneyland such a novel amusement park back in the day.

On the morning of March 9, 1963, Walt Disney and several of his staff, along with reps from Arrow Development, came to inspect our auto ride. Ed Morgan of Arrow Development educated Walt on our safety design and Disney subsequently took a ride. He must have been impressed, because two years later Disneyland’s Autopia had a center guide rail.

Disney was recognized by Boardwalk guests that day, and it was reported that he graciously signed some autographs. Now is where the story gets personal for me. I knew Disney was coming that day and I was working alone in a food concession, very near the Autorama ride. When I saw an entourage of people coming down the Boardwalk to the ride, I could make out an individual who appeared to be Disney and I was satisfied I had seen him, if only at a distance.

When the ride inspection was complete, Seaside Co. management planned to take Disney and his staff to lunch at a nice restaurant. However, Disney suggested that they just grab a hamburger nearby, and they would be on their way. The nearby place they chose was where I was working… by myself. While I was still preparing for the day, a half-dozen important looking men suddenly appeared at my counter, and one was Walt Disney himself.

I nervously took orders from each person, calling for help at some point. I prepared the hamburgers, fries, shakes, coffee and whatever else had been requested, and one by one each was served. As I passed Disney his order, he thanked me and shook my hand. Wow. I met Walt Disney face to face that day.

Disney’s visit to the Boardwalk is a little-known event in our history, but it rests vividly in my memory. I described my encounter in more detail in an interview for a documentary that was recently made about Arrow Development.

There have been many other well-known personalities who have visited the Boardwalk over the years. It would be fun to hear about your surprise encounter with a famous character during one of your visits to the ‘walk.
Attractions Referenced

Tomorrowland Autopia

Lands Referenced


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