In the spirit of the holidays I figured it was a good time to kick off a new series, “Hometown Hero”. This series will follow the life of the man himself Walt Elias Disney. I will not claim that it is all inclusive, but will cover important and interesting times and topics in his life. Along the way I will include my own photos and experiences visiting these placed as much as I can. I hope you find this as interesting and fun as I do!
I have the fortunate experience to live in Kansas City, MO in the thick of a great deal of early Disney history. Only a short car drive away is the small town of Marceline, MO the childhood home of Walt Disney. My wife and I recently took a trip to this wonderful little town to visit the museum and Disney farm to learn about a town that was very important to Disney and had a huge influence on his life and subsequent work that has changed the face of entertainment in many forms.
In 1906 when Walt Disney was 4 he and his family moved from Chicago to Marceline. Walt’s father Elias had acquired farmland near town and was hoping for new opportunities. Here young Walt experienced many interesting things. He gained his interest in drawing by copying the cartoons from his father’s newspapers. He also got his first customer when a neighbor paid him to draw his horse for an ad. He also found his love of trains in Marceline. In fact Marceline was settled specifically for servicing trains as it was midway between Kansas City and Chicago. Even to this day around 70 trains travel through the town daily. Walt and his brother Roy would hear the train whistle and run down to see the trains pass by. In fact it is the old Santa Fe Railway train station that houses the Walt Disney Hometown Museum, our first stop on our trip.
As we approached the outside of the Walt Disney Hometown Museum I was surprised at how it didn’t look like it had aged a day. It was extremely well kept up. My wife and I walked into the building into the main room and were immediately greeted by one of the volunteers who told welcomed us, collected our admission and informed us that a tour had just started but they would be starting the next one shortly if we wanted to wait. We knew we wanted the tour so we wandered around a bit in the front looking at the pictures and reading things. We visited the gift shop to see what they had to offer and otherwise admired the well-kept architecture of this century-old train depot. It came our turn to go on the tour and we were lucky enough to be the only two in our group! We were further lucky to get to tour with Kaye. She was extremely engaging and knowledgeable and had lived in the town her whole life. She knew Walt personally and had many fascinating stories to tell!
After the tour with Kaye we had free reign to look at the rest of the museum. We saw many great things from personal items of the Disney family, as small scale model of Disneyland that filled an entire room, a flag that actually flew over Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland, and even Walt’s old desk he used in elementary school.
Another interesting thing we saw was an original Midget Autopia car. This is a ride similar to the ones in operation at the Disney parks today. However, this is the only ride to be removed from Disney property and operated elsewhere. It is no longer currently operating, but in August of this year the museum launched a campaign to restore the ride to operation.
Overall, this was a great museum! It was entertaining and educational. The staff were very kind and knowledgeable and we greatly enjoyed our time there. We know that we will be going back once it is open for the season again! This is part one of two of our trip. Next installment I will talk about the rest of the town including the street that Walt modeled the Main Street USA in both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom parks and our visit to the Disney farm to see the Disney barn and the famed “Dreaming Tree”. Finally, if you are anywhere near Marceline, MO I highly recommend going and seeing what this wonderful town has to offer for Disney history!