My first trip to Disneyland was probably around 1974 or 1975. I remember our family road trip from Houston, Texas to California. We stopped at the Grand Canyon, Painted Desert and Petrified Forest. I also recall seeing Newspaper Rock and hearing my mom wondering if they represented aliens (check out the fingers and toes). Today I just wonder how families planned these trips in the days before the Internet. Travel brochures? That must have had something to do with it. I remember we had one that mentioned a ride called the “Haunted Mansion.” I pictured “dune buggies” driving through an old haunted house.
But I digress…
I have no photos from that visit (or the one or two more I got to make in the late 1970s), nor did I take a camera with me when I got to return to Disneyland in December 1995. I do recall that 1995 visit, though, since I finally learned where many of my childhood memories came from – like seeing a giant whale (Storybookland) and a skeleton drinking from a bottle (Pirates of the Caribbean). There were so many things I remembered from Disneyland that were not found in Florida’s Magic Kingdom.
By 1996, I had my first digital camera and would start documenting all my trips. Do you remember this Disneyland sign?
That sign was in use until they expanded the resort and added California Adventure. Vehicles would enter from the main entrance on South Harbor Blvd. (Disneyland’s official address is 1313 South Harbor Blvd with the 1313 rumored to either be MM – 13th letter of the alphabet twice for Mickey Mouse – or Disney poking fun at superstition.)
The parking lot entrance itself was much smaller than what we are used to today. I can’ t recall if there was another entrance on the other side of the park, or just an exit.
I took a better photo of the main entrance sign during my next visit on August 16, 1996:
Notice the power lines? For those too young to remember, they cut across the Disneyland parking lot (where California Adventure is today) and you’d park under or around them. Here’s what that looked like:
I’m not sure of the direction that photo was taken, but that may be the Paradise Pier Hotel in the back right (though it was probably still known as the Pan Pacific Hotel at the time. Disney bought it in 1995, but didn’t rename it until 2000.)
If you were lucky, you could park close enough to just walk to the entrance, else you took trams. If you were even luckier (or richer), you might have been able to use the special parking area just for Club 33 visitors!
Thanks to the Internet, this “secret” club in the park was now well know (at least online). But, back then, the only photos you could find were a few official Disney press photos. Today, every inch of Club 33 seems to be documented as “everyone” that wants to seems to have gotten inside. (I’ve even been there, in 2017, after declining three invitations back around 1996 or so.)
Back then, annual pass holders also got special parking. It’s hard to believe there was a time when annual passes were rare enough to give perks like that!
In 1996, the Indiana Jones Adventure was the hot new ride. It had just opened up the previous summer for Disneyland’s 40th anniversary. It was constructed on land that was formerly the Pinocchio parking lot. Originally, it was just a huge, green building with a security booth on top:
When the Grand Californian Hotel was built years later, they decorated the building up a bit and planted palm trees in front of it so it would look nicer for guests staying at the expensive hotel.
Another detail about the old parking lot was a covered waiting area for folks getting picked up:
Today, the closest you can be dropped off is near the Harbor Blvd. entrance where shuttles and taxis are allowed to go.
The actual entrance of Disneyland was a bit different. The ticket booths used to be in front of the park under the monorail track:
As you can see, the park had long lines to get in even back then.
Once you got to the front of the line, they would scan your ticket with these ticket scanners. There was even a Hidden Mickey cut into the back of the booth. (I have photos of many of these early Hidden Mickeys that I submitted to the original Hidden Mickey site — hiddenmickeys.org — though as I check now, the site may be down. Here’s an archive of it from 1998.)
I’ll leave you with one item that doesn’t seem to have changed much: the outside lockers. Although today this is now at the end of Downtown Disney rather than across from a parking lot, I think the locker area is about the same other than having all the greenery in front of it (blocking the view of guests who are eating at the picnic area).
I should really try to get “now” versions of some of these photos the next time I make it out there.
I hope you enjoyed this short tour of some of my earliest digital photos. I plan to do more postings like this from time to time, so be sure to follow my Facebook page or Twitter account to stay in touch.