Walt Disney World (FL)

Looking Forward to … October 1, 1971

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Walt Disney World opened on October 1, 1971. Disney has celebrated the 50th Anniversary of that event since October 1, 2021, but the party ends March 31, 2023. We thought it might be fun to take a moment to travel back in time to opening day, 1971 and take a peek at what the world – and the World – were like, through the eyes of someone who was there when the Magic Kingdom dropped its first rope: John, the father in the Carousel of Progress. (Cue the music, please, as we rotate into the scene…)

Ahh, the year is 1971 and things couldn’t get much better than they are today. Average folks like me are earning around $9000 a year, more than enough to afford the 7.7% interest on the mortgage for our new home. It’s a real nice ranch with three bedrooms, one bath and only cost $28,300 to build.Gas is up to 36 cents a gallon, so it’s a good thing my new car gets over 13 miles per gallon. It’s a real beauty and ran me just over $3700. It’ll probably take me three years to pay it off, but then it will be all mine.

The family and I went to see that new Disney movie, “The Million Dollar Duck” last night. I’ve always liked Sandy Duncan and she was great, as usual; but I can’t believe the price of tickets is up to $1.65! And after spending 40 cents on popcorn, I’m thinking of bringing my own candy bar next time. The concession stand was trying to sell me red licorice — Twizzlies or something like that. I’ll stick with my favorite Caravelle bar.

I read in the paper that Hewlett-Packard is saying their new handheld calculator will make my slide rule obsolete. I doubt it, especially since just two years ago NASA engineers used slide rules to build the rockets that landed Neil Armstrong on the moon.

And then there’s a little company named Intel that introduced something they call a microprocessor chip. They think it may change the way the whole world works. Now that may be true, but I have to say we’re a lot more excited about a trip we’re planning for ourselves to a whole new world. And we don’t need a calculator or a micro-whozit to do it.

Way down in Orlando, Florida, Walt Disney World is opening on Friday, October 1, 1971, and we’d like to see what that’s all about. It’s sad that Mr. Disney died five years ago, but I read that he had a real hand in planning this place, so it ought to be wonderful. But it’s smack in the middle of a lot of swampland, can you imagine that?

I’m pretty sure we’ve decided to fly. Sarah and I have flown before, but Patricia and Jimmy never have. It’s true that a plane ticket would cost more than $46 each, but we’d be there in just a few hours instead of driving for a couple of days. And better yet, we would have free meals on the plane, served to us on real china, with silverware and crystal. Talk about living “the high life.” Depending on the plane, we could enjoy free drinks while Sarah and I stroll up to the passenger lounge or observation area. She really appreciated the vanity in the airplane restroom on our last flight where she could “freshen up,” as she calls it, before we landed.

We hear that there’s a lot to see at Walt Disney World – they say it is a Magic Kingdom. We’re still trying to figure out what ticket book to get so we can try out all the new rides. I think the “Eleven Adventure Ticket Book” is the one for us. Even though it’s a little pricey – $5.75 each for me and Sarah, $5.25 for juniors like Patricia and $4.75 for children like Jimmy – I think it’s a better value than the “Seven Adventure Ticket Book” that costs a dollar less. After all, “go big or stay home” is my motto.

Some of Sarah’s kinfolk, the Windsor family from Lakeland, say they’re going to drive over, so maybe we’ll run into them on opening day. Bill, Marty, and the kids sound like they’re really excited, and Bill even says he plans to be the first person to get in the park. That’ll be the day!

I’ve done a little reading about what we can expect, too. I’m looking forward to “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” and “it’s a small world.” Sarah thinks “The Hall of Presidents” should be fun. I hear President Nixon is represented there. Jimmy wants to visit the Frontierland Shootin’ Gallery and Patricia thinks the Haunted Mansion sounds like spooky fun.

From what I can tell, it may take us a whole day to see everything. But we’re not in a rush; we’ve reserved a room at the new Contemporary Resort for two whole nights. We could have stayed at the Polynesian Resort, but Patricia and Jimmy like to stay up to date, and think it looks “far out” as the kids say, so the Contemporary sounded like it was just the place for us. I thought about getting the $28 a night room, but with the four of us, the more expensive $44 room sounded like a better bet. It’s a splurge, but at those prices, you know they won’t raise them for a long time!

At the Contemporary hotel, there’s a monorail that actually passes right through the building! Talk about “contemporary!” I’m really looking forward to riding on that. Plus, there’s a restaurant called “The Top of the World Lounge” on the top floor. Dinner costs $8 and includes an appetizer, salad, and entrée. For that kind of money, I sure hope it’s good. Then again, it has to be better than Sarah’s cooking! (Don’t tell her I said that, okay?)

I think it’s going to be a great trip for our family. And who knows? I hear the folks at Disney think they may add even more to the place in the future, so maybe we’ll all go back some day. Well, enough of my talk. Tonight’s family game night and we’re going to play a brand-new card game called “Uno.” Yes, here in 1971, it’s hard to imagine how things could get much better! . . .

Photos courtesy Disney.

Originally published September 30, 2021. Updated March 29, 2023.

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Bob Jacobs

Bob Jacobs lives in Wisconsin where he retired as Editorial Director for a well-known catalog company. He and his wife Cristie have four children, seven grandchildren and a cocker spaniel named Penny the Dog. They’ve visited Walt Disney World regularly since 1992.

10 thoughts on “Looking Forward to … October 1, 1971

  • Loved the article – but then found myself waiting for the Carousel to turn to the next scene… And the next… And again..

  • This is great! I could almost hear John’s voice in my head as I read this!

  • This could be its own mini series.

  • I am so late but wanted to say I also loved this, it really put the date into perspective for me. o.o And such an on-theme way to do it, too!

  • I loved this. Great post!

  • You got John’s voice down perfectly! I loved it. And $44 a night for the Contemporary back then? If only…

  • Very nicely done! I was making only $7,500 in 1971, but that was my first job and a year before I got married. It seemed like a lot of money back then.

  • fabulous story! So clever. Really puts things in perspective. Would love to see their reactions to opening day!

  • This entire post is fantastic.


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