Thursday, July 17, 2014

Marty Sklar and Disneyland's Opening Day

By Keith Mahne

During the opening day ceremonies at Disneyland, Marty Sklar was a member of what was called the Public Relations department. His main job was to write, edit and produce The Disneyland News, which was a tabloid newspaper in 1890 font and style that Walt had requested as part of the 1955 "streetmosphere" at Disneyland. Continue after the page break as we step into the shoes of Marty Sklar during Disneyland's opening day...

1955 photo of Disneyland's Public Relations department featuring Marty

On July 17, 1955, as the youngest member of the publicity staff at Disneyland, and only 21 years old, Marty had two assignments. The first was to assist the local television news team working around Hank Weaver at the anchor desk, as part of ABC's national live telecast of the Disneyland opening. Since the park had extremely limited facilities in those days, Weaver's desk was set up in a big open room that normally housed about eight people in the Public Relations department. For Weaver and his crew, Marty supplied everything from background information to soft drinks.

The second part of his assignment on Disneyland's opening day was a bit more exciting. Marty was a roving trouble shooter positioned just inside the Main Gate, with the idea that there would certainly be plenty of press to help out. Actually, as it turned out there was plenty of "trouble" because although 10,000 official invitations to Disneyland's opening had been printed, there were another 25,000 counterfeit invitations that had somehow flooded Southern California. And all these ticket holders, whether real or fake, wanted "in". Up until then, no one knew what Disneyland's real in-park capacity was. They found out with a vengeance that day.

It turned out that Marty didn't help many press members that mourning, although for the rest of the summer he was picking up the pieces and working all kinds of hours to repair the damage caused by the "Black Sunday" madness. But that day Marty's biggest problem occurred around 4 p.m., when Fess Parker, the "King of the Wild Frontier" himself, came riding up to Marty on a horse that could hardly move because of the crowds, saw his "official" badge for the day, and implored him to help him find a way out before Davy Crockett's horse kicked somebody!

Walt and Fess Parker

Today, it's all a fond memory for Marty in the wake of 35 fabulous Disneyland years. But on July, 1955 when the drinking fountains didn't work, the freshly poured asphalt melted, and mobs descended on the happiest place on earth, Marty knew that July 18th was going to be the start of a long road back to really make Walt Disney's dream a reality.

For more fantastic stories of Marty and his 35 amazing years with the company, be sure to click the link below and grab a copy of his fabulous book Dream It! Do It!: My Half-Century Creating Disney's Magic Kingdoms, you won't regret it!

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