Speaking of desperate: "I wrote down 'I saw 2 boys drink sugar syrup. My mother said I couldn't do that.' What I remember is that a store sold flavored syrup, like an old candy store. They ran out of candy, and parents could only buy that for their children. You didn't drink syrup or ingredients like that at that time unless something was wrong. It would be like drinking maple syrup from the bottle. But I saw it happen."
There Were Some Epic Disasters That The Park Tried To Pass As Planned
"We were told to 'expect anything.' It was Walt Disney, so we didn't know what he had up his sleeve. I saw knights fighting, and we thought that looked great. I eventually saw a few movie characters, and we were excited about that."
But not all of the "attractions" Jonathan saw that day were planned. Some of them were small disasters played off as fun events. "There were fires in the castle. I thought it was the show, but it was real. We were walking by when a fire peeked out of the window. It wasn't very big, but it was enough. In Sleeping Beauty there are castles and fire, and we thought it was a show, but a few employees said to go around. It was real."
And then there was the asphalt: "It was spongy, but I thought it was supposed to be like that in case children fell down. I wrote down 'There are black shoe marks all over from the ground. I think this is supposed to make it look like guests making their mark on the park.'" And while that's rather high-concept, the reality is that the asphalt didn't have time to settle. The ground literally wasn't finished. But park employees were happy to pretend anything was an attraction if it stopped people from complaining:
"The more I think about it, a lot of things guests could do sounded like ways to get out of [employees'] hair. Like that area they had people stand in to get 'cooler.' They said it was an attraction, but it was probably a place to stick guests because of how crowded it was. It wasn't listed on any map. There were also employees asking guests if they wanted to take pictures of the giant parking lot from different places. I wrote that down. They actually tried to make the parking lot as something of a thing to see. And there were families snapping photos in front of it at their direction."
Because even before Instagram, we were still equal parts gullible and camera-happy.
Nobody Thought Disneyland Would Survive
Every theme park disaster movie, from Westworld to Jurassic Park, owes a debt to Disneyland shitting the bed on its first day. But while Disney parks are cultural touchstones now, they almost didn't survive their birth.
"When we left, there were Disney employees asking what we thought. I didn't write down what my father thought, but my brother giggled because 'He said words you weren't supposed to say.' I sold it all on eBay years ago, but my father bought us so much Disneyland stuff because he said they'd be collector's items when the park failed."
He wasn't the only one who thought that. The press, and even Disney employees, started calling the opening "Black Sunday." Not exactly a name meant to inspire hope.
"I used these journal notes to give a huge presentation in class. Don't ask me how it went, because I don't remember. But my teacher wrote on my report that I 'did a good job taking notes' and that 'Disneyland didn't sound like a good place to take a family.'"
Locals didn't think much of it, either. "We lived right by Anaheim, and it wasn't a huge draw ... Our school offered Disneyland tickets for the student who sold the most chocolate bars door to door. There were so few children signing up, they had to make the prize better. I think they added cash. The girl who won refused the tickets. Her parents didn't want to go to a park like that."
Throughout 1955, Disneyland was plagued with problems. A stagecoach ride had to be pulled after it flipped over and hurt some guests. Autotopia kept crashing its cars. A herd of llamas escaped and stampeded through the park, in what must have been one of the cuddliest waves of doom ever. An escaped tiger and panther fought each other right in front of the guests on Main Street, drawing blood. In all honesty, that does sound pretty bitchin'.
But Disneyland did the work. They listened to the guests' complaints and made changes. Within months, they had over a million people visit. John has since had some good trips there, but even on his disastrous first visit, he recalled something special about the place. "It wasn't fun. But I also remember that I wanted to go again. So much had gone wrong, yet there was still something to it. I reread all my journal before the interview, and it's bringing back memories of still being memorable and likable, and I remember not liking it. There was still something right there when everything seemed to go wrong. It's Disney. Maybe you can't explain it. Even with so much going wrong, you wanted to love it."
Some days are harder than others.
Evan V. Symon is an interviewer, journalist, and interview coordinator for the Personal Experiences section at Cracked. Do YOU have an awesome job/experience you'd like to share? If so, hit us up at email@example.com today!
If ever a new Disneyland opens up, remember to bring a survival kit.
If you loved this article and want more content like it, please support our site with a visit to our Contribution Page.
Have a story to share with Cracked? Email us here.
Also check out 6 Things Nobody Tells You About Working at Disney World and 6 Bizarre Realities Of Life In A Town Owned By Disney.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and check out Why Walt Disney is Nothing Like You Think He Was, and watch other videos you won't see on the site!
Follow our new Pictofacts Facebook page, and we'll follow you everywhere.