Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth. It has been that way since it first opened on July 17, 1955. Can you imagine what it must have been like on that opening day? You were surrounded by hundreds of like-minded individuals who couldn’t wait to try the new amusement park rides.
Dave MacPherson was the lucky man to be selected as the first Disneyland customer on that day. He was granted a lifetime pass and he has used that reward every year since. We’ve got his story.
The First One In Line
MacPherson was a 22-year-old college student at Long Beach State College when he found out about the opening of a brand-new amusement park, Disneyland. He decided he wanted to be the first customer. If he was going to accomplish a high feat in life, it might as well be that.
“I decided I wanted to be the first (person) in line,” McPherson said. “The first person to go into the park who wasn’t a relative of Walt’s or some celebrity. The first regular guy to go in through the front door.”
After Walt Disney’s family and close friends entered and explored the park on July 17, it was MacPherson’s turn the next day when it was opened to the public on July 18. The young man watched local news coverage of the opening. At 2 a.m., he hopped on a motorbike and rode from Long Beach to Anaheim.
No one was in line yet, so MacPherson stood next to the ticket booth. He started a line of 6,000 people and he waited for a few hours until that morning when he purchased the first Disneyland ticket sold to a civilian.
Returning Every Year
When MacPherson purchased his historic ticket, he received a complimentary card for him to use when he returned to the amusement park during the opening weekend. MacPherson couldn’t use the card because it was a long motorbike ride from Long Beach to Anaheim.
Fortunately, MacPherson wasn’t out of luck. He received a lifetime pass because he was the first customer, and then he could return to the park annually free of charge. That’s exactly the kind of good news college students like to hear.
MacPherson, now 86, has used the lifetime pass every year since 1955. Because he’s allowed to bring three guests with him, he always brings his wife, Wanda, and two friends, Joe and Martha Ortiz.
MacPherson is perhaps one of the biggest Disney fans of all time, but he has one regret: that he never got to meet Walt Disney out of all the years he visited Disneyland. He saw him at the park on opening day, but he didn’t get to shake his hand.
Becoming A Celebrity
MacPherson’s title as the first Disneyland customer has circulated amongst fellow Disney fans. When he visits the amusement park, people spot him in the crowd. They exclaim, “Folks, this man bought the first ticket to Disneyland when it opened in 1955.” It’s a surreal experience, and it’s definitely one that MacPherson never expected.
“You can’t believe how many folks from different parts of the world have then come over and asked me for my autograph or shot a picture of my wife, Wanda, and myself!” MacPherson remarked. He’s happy to be recognized, but it’s still something he will always have to get used to every year.
If you ever see MacPherson at Disneyland, say hello to him. He’s a small part of Disney history. He waited in line for a long time in 1955 to be the first customer. He deserves to be greeted with a smile.
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