customer still uses his lifetime pass"
Dave MacPherson July 18th 1955
By Tom Wharton
The Salt LakeTribune
from the Los Angeles Mirror-News, The Los Angeles Times, The Los Angeles
Examiner and The Long Beach Independent are faded now. So is the photo
of 22-year-old Dave MacPherson giving the OK sign as he became the first
customer to buy a ticket to Disneyland
when it opened to the public
July 18, 1955.
But the now-72-year-old MacPherson is anything but faded.
A humor columnist for the San JuanCounty newspaper, he lives in a cabin in
He escaped what he calls "Quakafornia" 20 years ago, but
still uses his lifetime pass to visit
"I am old enough to be historical," MacPherson said.
When Disneyland opened, MacPherson lived 10 miles away from the
then-sleepy farm town of Anaheim. He was a student at Long BeachStateUniversity, where he worked for the
He watched the hoopla of the "invited guests only" televised
opening on July 17 -- a Sunday -- seeing guests such as Ronald Reagan
and Art Linkletter join founder Walt Disney. Some commentators said the
new theme park would be "Walt's Folly" because of myriad opening-day
MacPherson rode his Simplex motorbike, capable of going about
30 mph, to the big parking lot to be the first person in line.
"I had it in my mind to be the first," he recalled. "I would
have said forget it if someone was there. But I was the first person."
and MacPherson heard technicians testing animal sounds for the Jungle
Cruise ride. Before the day was over, 6,000 people would queue up behind
The former newspaper reporter offered these observations on
that first day:
* Roy Disney, Walt's brother, requested the first printed
ticket for his grandchildren's memorabilia.
* The park opened a day early for special guests and the news
media. Some printed counterfeit tickets, and some party crashers climbed
over fences surrounding the attraction.
* When Disneyland
opened for the public on that hot, humid Monday, Walt Disney posed with
Michael Schwartner and Christine Vess, the first two children in line.
"Since I wasn't Walt's relative or a special guest or party
crasher on the 17th, or a youngster on the 18th, I had only one option,"
MacPherson said. "Employing the hard work and initiative that Walt had
admired in persons like Mark Twain and Abraham Lincoln, I focused on
being first in line on the 18th."
MacPherson was the first to enter the park. But,
surprisingly, he did not ride any of the new attractions or get Walt
"I was still in school," he recalled. "I was dead tired.
People were fainting in the parking lot. I had to get back to school."
Some time later, the Monticello resident learned he had won a
lifetime pass to Disneyland for himself
and three guests. He has received that annual card each year since 1955.
Its use has expanded to Disney parks in Florida and France.
MacPherson has used the pass often. His favorite ride is the
Enchanted Tiki Room, an attraction he says is "for the birds." He also
likes the HauntedMansion. But he misses the 360-degree
The last time he went to Disneyland was 2004. But the first member of the public to
buy a ticket to "the
Happiest Place on Earth" probably hasn't seen
the last of the park he helped open.