Dave MacPherson may have been the first paying guest at Disneyland when the theme park openedits gates 50 years ago, but he didn't even have time for one ride. In a hurry to get back to campus for a college class, he instead visited a restroom after spending hours in line and left without as much as a souvenir.
Dave MacPherson may have been the first paying guest at Disneyland when the theme park opened its gates 50 years ago, but he didn't even have time for one ride. In a hurry to get back to campus for a college class, he instead visited a restroom after spending hours in line and left without as much as a souvenir.
Still, the honor of being the first paid admission came with a special perk: a lifetime pass for four to Disneyland and other Disney parks as they opened.
"I was the most popular guy at the college," said MacPherson, now 72, a retired journalist living in Monticello, Utah, about 240 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.
He's taken full advantage of it scores of times, especially when he lived in California. Usage dwindled after he moved to Kansas City, Mo., to work for newspapers and radio.
But being closer to California has made it more useful, and he last made the trip a year ago with his wife, Wanda. He receives a VIP renewal every January.
In 1955, MacPherson was watching televised coverage of the opening of Disneyland for the media and invited guests on July 17, 1955, a day before the park opened to the public.
"I said, 'Boy, I sure would like to go out there,'" said MacPherson, who figured he might draw a prize for standing first in line.
He drove his Simplex motorbike to Anaheim, arriving shortly before 1 a.m. to take his place in line an hour before anyone else showed up.
The crowd steadily grew overnight to about 6,000 people, and MacPherson made sure no one got in front of him. When the admission booth opened, a photographer for the Long Beach Press-Telegram captured him buying the first ticket.
Looking at the photo years later, he realized he had his own camera but didn't use it.
"Why didn't I shoot some pictures?" he wonders. "I even forgot to ask Walt (Disney) for his autograph. I must have been balmy or something after staying up all night."