Friday, September 18, 2015

192 RARE Photos of Walt Disney World's Opening Day





Every so often something extremely magical occurs in the world of Disney history and today is one of those days. A very special friend of Disney Avenue has decided to share his large collection of photos that were taken on the opening day of Walt Disney World. It was a Friday, October 1, 1971, and George Miranda and his wife Becky were on their honeymoon. The trees were newly planted, the attractions brand new, and some areas were yet to be completed. This was a very special time in their lives and also for the Walt Disney World resort. Thankfully, George had his camera and documented opening day better than anything I've ever seen. Join us today as George shares his personal memories and spectacular photos of Walt Disney World's opening day 44 years ago. This isn't just your average picture article... this, my friends, is an experience...



(As we look over these spectacular photos of early Walt Disney World, may I suggest choosing the "Main Street, USA Music Loop from 1976 - 1991" which is number 151 and 152 in the Disney Avenue Music Player above.)


As we begin our look at Walt Disney World's opening day, it's important for you to know where they came from and about the experience that has been created for you. George and Becky Miranda took these incredible shots while on their honeymoon in 1971. They have kindly allowed Disney Avenue to share them with you here today. Below you will follow along with George as he recalls his special honeymoon vacation almost 45 years ago. With the help of his son Nick, the photos have been completely restored. As you will soon see, they are absolutely stunning. George and I didn't only want to share the photos with all of you, we really wanted for you to travel back to that day and relive this moment in the couples life. I can't thank George, his wife Becky, and his son Nick enough for their time and dedication to this project. Their efforts have opened a doorway for us to not only see, but also experience the beginning of Walt Disney's final dream. My heartfelt thanks goes out to the Miranda family. And with that, let the experience begin!

- Keith Mahne



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Preamble: The adventure of a lifetime approaches as Becky and George begin a new lifetime adventure together...

The adventure begins on a stormy, late September Saturday night in Dayton, Ohio. It was a wonderful wedding ceremony. Becky was beautiful and I admit I cried. The receiving line was long and the reception short. Becky and I had to break in to the minister’s office to retrieve our marriage license.

Document in hand we headed south for our first night’s stay in Lexington, Kentucky. I had booked the bridal suite and some champagne and cheeses. Our room was large and comfortable but I should have known that in this part of Kentucky our bridal suite was more along the lines of a "bridle" suite. The entire room was decked out in full-blown equestrian motif. I was surprised our refreshments were not a bucket of oats and a trough of freshly drawn water.

Day #1: We headed south again in the morning with our destination the Sunshine State. We made it as far as mid Georgia where we stopped for the night. Becky had not traveled much before and was amazed at the red dirt in Georgia. Somehow she was occupied with the thought of doing laundry and trying to wash out the Georgia red soil.

Day #2: We arrived at our honeymoon hotel destination in Daytona Beach, Fla. The Hawaiian Inn was a AAA four-star hotel. I have been told it is still there. We had a nice efficiency ocean front room.




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Becky had never seen the ocean and I had told her that Daytona Beach had very gentle surf. I was not aware that Hurricane Ginger was several hundred miles off the East coast of Florida. Becky’s first exposure to the ocean was monumental. A big breaker rolled in and knocked her from her feet and whooshed her bikini top to the beach. This was more ocean exposure than either of us had anticipated. 



 
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Becky photo in room @ Hawaiian Inn




Day #3-5: We did typical tourist things. We went to Silver Springs, The Space Center and purchased some really ugly, but tasty, oranges. We also hung out on the beach and relaxed. We watched Orlando television news about the upcoming opening of WDW. Prior to our honeymoon trip the Ohio news media had minimal coverage about the new “Amusement Park” in Florida. I had been to Disneyland in the late 1950s and knew Disney was no ordinary amusement park. Such entertainment enterprises in Ohio were usually packed with thrill rides and character reproductions made from plywood and paint. Sometimes they would be hooked up to an old Erector set motor to simulate some sort of motion. You could find better props at an elementary school stage play. 

The Orlando media was calculating massive traffic control problems and estimates of opening day crowds kept increasing with every news broadcast. Hurricane Ginger had dissipated and it was reported that it was due to experimental cloud seeding. There was additional speculation that the seeding was prompted by Disney to avoid weather issues for their opening. Did Disney yield that much influence over control of Mother Nature?

Day #6: FRIDAY 10/01/1971- There was no amount of hype that was going to keep us from going to WDW. We were two young Buckeyes who looked at each other and said, “We’re going to Disney World*”. Way ahead of our time on that one.

We left a 5:30 AM wake up call for that Friday morning but still overslept. We were up at 7:00 AM had a quick breakfast in our room were on our way west to WDW by 8:00 AM.

The traffic was very light. We had anticipated the predicted rolling gridlock on the highway but it was running free and clear. As we got closer to Orlando we observed troops stationed near the overpasses, small aircraft and helicopters in the highway median. There were signs along the roadway that indicated distressed motorists should flash their bright lights to receive assistance. No distraught motorists, no disabled vehicles and virtually no traffic. Did Disney postpone the opening without telling us?

We came upon a sign that read “Walt Disney World Next Exit”. We took that exit and traveled quite a while and never saw another sign about Disney or anything. I saw a building that was rather isolated and stopped to ask directions, (Yes I am a male who will ask for directions—especially for somewhere I really want to be). The people in the building were Disney Employees based on their name tags and they assured us the park was open and provided us with some good directions. They also apologized for the lack of signage.




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Tram Ticket Booths and Monorail




We entered the parking lot at the Magic Kingdom a little after 10:00 AM. It was $.50 to park. We got on a bright shiny new tram and were on our first official Disney ride headed to the entrance and ticket booths. There were just a few people walking to the ticket booths and CMs in the booths were waving their arms to let us know they were open for business. We got our park admission and “A thru E” ticket books with eleven adventures for $3.75.




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We boarded the sleek monorail for a second Disney ride of the day.




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Monorail




This is our view from the monorail just after passing the Polynesian Resort. We were told that the monorail would not be going through the Contemporary Resort due to construction. I was told by Ted Meberg, a Monorail operator on opening day, that, “For part of the day...as I recall, the express monorail was going through the Contemporary, but later in the day, the "shuttle" configuration was run, between the Main Entrance and the Magic Kingdom.” Thank you Ted for your great information.




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Notice the lack of vegetation at the monorail station at the MK.




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Guest departing the monorail

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Monorail is departing the station




We entered the park at about 10:30 AM. It was wonderful to be greeted by characters as we could not move our vision quickly enough to take in all the amazing sights. No doubt, this was going to be a terrific day but where were all the guests?

*It has been recently pointed out to me by a very astute former cast member at the Magic Kingdom that Becky and I may have been the first honeymoon guests ever at Walt Disney World. To be the first at a location that has become a honeymoon and even wedding destination is rather mind-boggling. I don’t believe that Disney tracks this sort of thing, but if they did, it might be nice to know—“officially”—if we hold that distinction. 




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Eeyore

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Tigger and Eeyore

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Pluto and Goofy

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Pooh and Eeyore




We entered through the left portal and smelled the popcorn vendor before we saw him.




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Popcorn vendor




Looking down Main Street at the castle for the first time gives one goose bumps. As a matter of fact goose bumps are kind of an infectious symptom every time I see the castle.




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Cinderella Castle




Another wondrous view just before the hub looking toward the Crystal Palace.




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Crystal Palace




Snow White and the Dwarfs are being mobbed by a toddler and his mother. Where is security when they are needed?




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Snow White and Dwarfs in front of castle

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One of the Three Little Pigs




What a view from the castle overlooking the hub. I would love to see the film that photographer with the tripod is shooting.




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View from castle looking at the hub area




A very empty double decker bus. It just took an “A” ticket. Get on board!




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Double decker bus




Streetcar and vehicles near the train station. The lack of guests is amazing but enjoyable—and I hope not selfish. It was almost like the MK was just for us that day.




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Main Street hub




Here is Becky contemplating NOT riding in the paddy wagon. We apparently both selected a colorful wardrobe that day so if separated we could not be lost from each other in the throngs of guests.




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Becky and the paddy wagon




Here we have a street car full of cast members. At least the horse had an easy load most of the day.




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Street Car on Main St.




What a lovely carousel. Round and round it goes wondering where all the people are. No wait here all day.




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Carousel

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Mice by the carousel




Only married six days and Becky is hooking up with a real cutie. I can’t compete with that much lovability.




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Becky and Dumbo




Small world indeed. What a relaxing ride but it will give you a musical memory that can last longer than Twinkies shelf life.




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Small World




Becky is enjoying the sky buckets attraction. This ride was a round trip due to Tomorrowland not being open. A CM would tell you to remain seated and then grab your bucket and swing it around for the trip back the way you came. It was a relaxing ride with a magnificent view.




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Becky in the Skyway bucket

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Skyway view




The castle and the Contemporary Resort from the buckets. Note the construction gear around the CR.




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Castle and Contemporary resort from bucket

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Castle, CR and carousal from bucket

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20K Leagues from bucket




Nothing like a band concert to make your day.




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Band concert

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Out at the main entrance for more photo opportunities. A nice Cast Member offered to take our picture in front of the iconic Mickey in flowers. There were no guests to get in the way of the photo so it was like we were all alone with Mickey.




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Entrance area
 
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Main St circle looking at train station. There is a small group of the youngest park visitors that day.




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City Hall at 1:40 PM on 10/01/1971.




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Looking from the train station to the Main St. circle.




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The Cast Member is blurry because the train is pulling out.




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All aboard!




Becky ready to join me for a train ride around the park.




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View from the train of the unfinished Pecos Bills.




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The Native American Village minus Native Americans. The receptacles are waiting for their connection. We could hear drums and chanting. Must have been a teepee party going on that day.




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This is a view from the train of the far reaches of the Magic Kingdom beyond Fantasyland. Construction is still is underway.




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I got this response from WDW Guest Experience Services. The picture clearly shows the construction cranes at the CR. Is that the same as Bay Lake?

“Please know that on opening day for the Magic Kingdom, October 1, 1971, Disney's Contemporary Resort was open as well. On opening day for the Contemporary the main building was open along with the pools, restaurants and shops though there may have been construction still taking place around Bay Lake." 
 - Janet Fanning
   Guest Experience Services
   Walt Disney World Resort 

I got this response from a CM that was actually working on 10/01/1971. It seems that when all the info is gathered that the CR was open but not for just anyone. I also received information from another CM that the Poly was not fully open and any special guests there were sent to the CR.

“I was working at the CRH as of August of 1971. I was a Lodging Host, and had been hired in June of 1971. The A-frame bldg and South wing were opened, but not to the public. Disney VIP's and sponsors were the only people allowed to use the hotel at that time. The Magic Kingdom actually opened for the first time in mid-September 1971, for special guests only, of which I was able to be a part of that day. I had worked construction in the park for Joe Fowler and Buena Vista Construction, and received my invitation directly from his office.”
- Gary Grimme



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This is the GAF Camera Center where I purchased my slide film with pre-paid mailers that I mailed from the MK. The slides were waiting for us when we got back home.




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I was only married for six days and somehow figured it was time to dress like a geek. What was I thinking?




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The map to the Magic Kingdom I am holding in my hand is pictured below. I think they gave them out when we entered. We still have ours.




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Looking at the Hormel restaurant which is now Tony’s.




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The Emporium was full of all kinds of goodies.




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The paper bag pictured below contained postcards we purchased at the Emporium. Four decades have turned the edges brown but I can’t believe we still possess this.




Emporium Papaer Bag From Opening Day

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On Main St.

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Inside Adventureland Veranda restaurant.





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The center of Main St looking at the castle. What a beautiful view. Goose bumps time.





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Randy Morris is playing the bicycle piano on opening day. I had a communication from Randy letting me know he was the CM in the picture I took almost 44 years ago. Randy is still playing at WDW today.




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The crystal palace is a beautiful structure.




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The castle.




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On the way to Adventureland.




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Becky in Adventureland



Swiss Family Robinson Tree House.




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View of Tropical Serenade.




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Becky entering the Tropical Serenade.




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The sound of the steel drums is enchanting.




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The Jungle Cruise was amazing and I was infatuated by the animatronic animals in the attraction. I got a little carried away and left no elephant un-photographed. Notice the frogs that have since croaked.




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Becky in Frontierland.




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How about a relaxing ride on the Mike Fink Keelboats? There is the Gullywhumper ready to go.




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The Admiral Joe Fowler riverboat tied to the dock. The paint was still wet so it was not available to ride until the next day.




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The haunted mansion actually looks pretty intimidating from this view.




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The burning log cabin. I love the Disney attention to detail with the tree stumps surrounding the cabin.




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Cast Members with coonskin caps in a canoe on the river.




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Native American village view from river.




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It is almost 5:00 PM and we have been on almost every attraction at least once. It has been a great day.




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The Haunted Mansion. Pretty and new and manicured on the outside; dark and creepy on the inside.




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Becky getting a drink before riding the buckets a second time.




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The Mickey Mouse Review was kind of interesting. You could hear mechanical clicking and clacking from the characters as they moved. It was still pretty cool.




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Twenty thousand leagues was not open. There was a CM to explain the attraction.




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Empty tea cups. Take your choice which one to ride in.




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Grand Prix Raceway where you could also have a choice of your vehicle to race.




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Becky took the checkered flag at a photo finish.




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Tomorrowland was not open but the entry way artful spires and water made for a beautiful attraction compelling a return visit to explore Tomorrowland.




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There was an announcement that the park would be closing at 6:00 PM but shops would remain open for last minute purchases. We originally believed that the MK closed early due to lack of guests but recent research has indicated that was the plan from the outset. We bought some souvenirs at the Emporium and slowly made our way out of the MK trying to take advantage of every last moment as we headed for the monorail. Looking toward the monorail station as dusk settles.




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We were in our car and out of the parking area by 7:30 PM. We drove back to Daytona Beach tired but invigorated by the events of the day. Sleep came easily that night and the dreams contained remnants of reality but the magic of the day made it seem like we were dreaming most of the day anyway.

We woke up late the next morning and loafed around the pool and our room. We just relaxed for a few days reminiscing about WDW.

On October 4, we checked out of the hotel and our fee for one week in a four-star hotel was $129. We headed north stopping for purchases of peanuts and pecans at Magnolia Plantations in Georgia. We stayed the night at a Davis Brothers Motel. Our room was $16 and we spent $5 for dinner. The next morning we had a free breakfast at Davis Brothers of one entrée and anything else you cared to eat.

We headed for the Great Smokey Mountains.




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We found a lovely place off the beaten path in Gatlinburg. We spent the last few days of our honeymoon at the Fabulous Chalet.





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We went to the top of the space needle in Gatlinburg. It was chilly but the view was beautiful. Becky and I admitted we were tired and the travel had been great but we were on our way home and home is a nice place to be. I am pointing the direction of home from the observation tower.




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It was nice be home. We had an apartment full of unopened wedding gifts. Friends and family were there to welcome us and all we could talk about was “OPENING DAY AT WALT DISNEY WORLD”. It appears we haven’t stopped talking about it to this day and probably never will. It was an adventure we will never forget.




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I want to extend my extreme thanks to my son, Nick Miranda. Without his skill and dedication, this project would not have been completed with the excellence and meticulousness he demonstrates in his work.




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Wasn't that absolutely incredible!! This has been a tremendous experience for me personally. Getting to speak with George and hear him relive this special moment in his life was an absolute pleasure. 

I can't thank George, his wife Becky, and his son Nick enough. Their hard work has really paid off and these rare photos of Walt Disney World's opening day are gorgeous. I also must inform you that George is extremely loyal and a man of his word. George promised he would allow Disney Avenue to showcase these remarkable memories with you and he kept his word. There are hundreds of Disney blogs out there that George could have deferred to and the fact that he chose Disney Avenue makes me feel honored and privileged to do so. 

I know George will be looking forward to hearing what you think of these incredible photos so please feel free to leave your thoughts, opinions and reactions in the comments below.

I hope you've enjoyed this extremely special look back at one of the most important days for the Walt Disney Company. If it wasn't for George's and Becky's amazing foresight to capture the Magic Kingdom so wonderfully all those years ago we certainly wouldn't be reliving this magical experience today. It's a rare treat to see such candid views of early Walt Disney World, especially from opening day. Walt Disney World was certainly the place to be on October 1, 1971. Although we can't travel back in time, stunning photos like these offer us an amazing look at the beginning of one of Walt's finest, lasting and most cherished legacies.

(The photos you have just seen belong to George and Becky Miranda and are not to be used in any way without their consent. Thank you for respecting their wishes and we hope you enjoyed.)  






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Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four. Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true everyday.

You can find all of Keith's articles here.

14 comments:

  1. Wow-that was awesome! Thanks for putting this together for all to enjoy! Thanks too, to the Mirandas for their well preserved photos and sharing their honeymoon with us!

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  2. This was AMAZING!! I can't imagine what it must have been like and the fact that they have these photos (and a few souvenirs) all these years later!

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  3. Amazing pictures of an amazing day! Thanks for sharing George and Becky!

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  4. You've seen George and Becky's photos, now hear their story of October 1, 1971 on the Retro Disney World Podcast: http://www.retrodisneyworld.com/podcast/podcast-episode-11-first-things-first

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  5. They held up beautifully. Thanks for sharing.

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  6. Great photos and a wonderful narrative to go with them... Thanks for sharing!

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  7. I was there that day too, 12 years old. I looked for any sign of myself in George's photos but alas, nothing. But did anyone notice what the heck two Disneyland Storybookland Canal boats are doing in the hub moat in the pictures they took of each other on the Crystal Palace bridge?

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  8. To Mr Miranda...THANK YOU!...these were so great, your memories and your captions had me laughing. To Keith...I wanted to thank you as well..I am hearing impaired, so I never 'turn on the music' on my computer: at your prompting I scrolled down to main st music and my husband found me some ear buds, and I cried my way down main street!...I've never heard the music in Disney...until now..thank you from the bottom of my heart...still crying tears of happiness Ü

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    1. Hi Dawn!! Thank you so much for taking the time to share that with us. You have made my day and I can't tell you how good it feels to learn that you were able to finally hear the music of the Magic Kingdom. I hope you will scroll through the playlist and enjoy countless hours of magical Disney music. Thanks again for sharing this with us Dawn!!

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  9. Thank you all so much for sharing. That was awesome. Also, thanks for keeping this page up for all of us Disney freaks. It really means a lot.

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  10. Thanks for the great photographs and the story of their honeymoon.
    My wife and I honeymooned at WDW 53 days later. Never would we have dreamed that 45 years later we still get there multiple times a year.
    Thanks for the memories.

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  11. When I was just a little one we were on the road and could see Cinderella's Castle, my father got so fed up with the traffic he just turned the car around and went back to Lakeland. My two brothers, sister and I and i'm not sure if my mother and her parents weren't crying and screaming all the way to there. I have since, been to WDW many times and want to thank you for the great memories, so many enhancements have been made and are still being made as time goes along, it's just that much different but the same. Rides and attractions come and go and I find myself remembering the first Walt Disney World. You've just reminded me of how special it really was and Walt Disney's true dream of people being happy together. Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Miranda.

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  12. Thanks for the great pictures.I to was at WDW Oct 1,1971 as an employee at the Polynesian Resort.I worked in recreation at the Poly and Contemporary hotel.I was a young 23 yr.old and all I did all day was rent boats,sail, life guard at the pool and have fun.I remember opening day and with the hotels still under construction all we did for the first few weeks was sail and fill the lakes with boats until we had real guest.I was there for 3 years and had fun.I now live in Tennessee and go to Gatlinburg often.Thanks for the memories.

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  13. I would like to thank George and Becky for sharing these amazing photos. As I was scrolling through the pictures, I had tears rolling down my face-happy ones. I used to work at Walt Disney World, and the pictures brought back many happy memories for me. I got to go home for a little bit through these photos. Again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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