Mansion No. 3

I am gobsmacked: the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland is celebrating its 50th anniversary. I understand the mansion has been out of commission for some time getting renovated for the big day. But it certainly isn’t the first renovation, and definitely not the most extensive.

Not long after Disneyland first opened in Southern California my parents took us to the park on Thanksgiving Day. It was a surprise for my younger sister. We drove from San Diego to Anaheim that morning and still had plenty of time to experience all the attractions. Two things made the choice of Thanksgiving Day special: First, although darkness enveloped the park, it stayed open late on Holiday hours; and second, Thanksgiving being a “visit the relatives” holiday meant that the crowds were at home, the lines were short, and the experience was more leisurely.

A few years later friends from my parents High School days visited and we took them to Disneyland in the middle of July. Big mistake: it was brutal. Imagine 12 hours in the hot sun standing in long, long lines being slammed into by riotous kids and foreign visitors glued to their cameras, and the Haunted Mansion would at best be a friendly tickle.

But there was no Haunted Mansion. Back then the structure that became the Haunted Mansion was an old Southern Plantation house that served fried chicken and gravy. But that reminds me, there was another excellent reason for going to Disneyland on Thanksgiving. Turkey dinner with all the fixin’s at the Southern Mansion. Sitting out on the veranda watching the stars in the sky (and in the trees) begin to twinkle as you sopped up gravy with that last piece of biscuit.

In keeping with the theme, Br’er Bear and Br’er Fox entertained the guests, but that was before Song of the South was cancelled.

The Disneyland we experienced back in the 1950s has been eclipsed by the vision and ingenuity of today’s theme parks. Imagine Disneyland without the Matterhorn, without New Orleans Square and the Pirates of the Caribbean; without Mickey’s Toontown (what! Toontown is no more?); does the rocket ship still go to the Moon? Mars? Michael Jackson?

I suspect that a ticket book costs more that $3.00 today. What’s a ticket book you say? That’s a D-ticket question for sure. Somehow I suspect $129 for a day pass today will not bring the excitement of barfing up my Mickey Burger in the teacup or the wonderment of florescent London on the Peter Pan Flight or my first Charlie Horse deep in the dark of Injun Joe’s cavern, as it did back in 1956. If you have ancient memories of Disneyland, take a peek at this interesting site: Yesterland.

The Southern Plantation is gone, but so is Walt Disney and the original Sleeping Beauty Castle. Still, that turkey dinner was mighty good. Do they serve roast turkey at Tokyo Disneyland?

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