The initials were still there. Scrawled on one of the bricks, the initials WR were still there after all these years. The Del Mar train station was deserted now, but back on July 17th, 1955, when William Kelly was ten years old, the station was alive with passengers. As he waited that sunny July morning, so many years ago, with his mom and dad for the northbound San Diegan train, he had found a paper clip on the ground and lightly scratched his initials into one of the column bricks.
Billy, as his parents called him, had something of joy and wonder in his pocket. His uncle Charles had given it to him. Good ol’ Uncle Charles. Part media mogul, part charlatan, had said with pride that the ticket that young William held in his hand would one day be valuable. As he handed it to the young lad, he said, “Billy, keep this ticket stub. It’s the first day. This thing is going to be big.”
Billy remembered his dad laughing at the thought. Uncle Charles always had “something big,” working in his life, but the big thing was usually a dream, not a reality. This one would be no different. He had presented the three tickets to the family as a gateway to the land of tomorrow. It sounded mysterious and oh so cool to a ten-year-old boy. But his dad warned, “Don’t get your hopes up, Billy. You know how Uncle Charles exaggerates.”
He was right. Uncle Charles always had a deal going. 1950 it was a gold mine in Yucaipa, 1952 it was a carburetor for your car that would guarantee a hundred miles to the gallon, 1954 was the grand whopper of all, waterfront property on the Salton Sea. All of these dreams had left Uncle Charles broke and that was why he was selling these golden tickets for a whopping twenty bucks apiece.”
Billy’s dad was a well to do architect in town, so he usually humored uncle Charles with a donation, even though he knew it would be fruitless. Hey, three tickets to the land of tomorrow was cheap in comparison to the other schemes he had dreamed up; that crazy carburetor had cost him a whopping five hundred bucks, and it would give him an excuse to take Friday off and take the family on an adventure.
As the day came for the trip, the family dressed up. Dad had a new sports coat for the occasion, mom had a new dress and a pair of high heel shoes. Billy knew this was serious if mom had new shoes. As they waited at the Del Mar station at six on a misty Friday morning, the train whistle could be heard in the distance. They would soon be heading to a mysterious adventure ninety minutes away.
Billy had been on the train numerous times before. There was no freeway to San Diego in the mid-fifties, so the train was a primary way north. He loved to sit by the window and look out at the ocean and then repeat the city names as the conductor would yell them out. Solana Beach came first, then Carlsbad, Oceanside and San Clemente. Soon the train lurched to a stop at their destination of adventure, Anaheim California.
The family stepped off the train and headed to one of the buses marked “Special.” The crowds filing into seats on the bus were intense. There was something to this event. Many other people had tickets in their hands. Within minutes the buses stopped in a row on Harbor Boulevard. There was excitement in the air. Then the doors opened and the towers of a large castle could be seen in the distance.
Billy was excited now and so were the crowds but he knew some of the other people were talking nonsense. They said things like you could fly with Peter Pan over moonlit London, or tumble into Alice’s nonsensical world of wonder or maybe even take a spaceship to the moon. Dreams flew through his mind. If only such things were possible. If they were, Uncle Charles would be the coolest uncle ever. But Billy had such dreams dashed in the past. Uncle Charles knew how to dream, but reality always caught up with him.
Except this day was different. The Castle turrets were now clear, marching bands could be heard playing, and the crowds talked joyously. Everyone was going to someplace special. After waiting in line for over an hour, Billy and his family followed thousands of other people past a sign that said:
Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy. Welcome to the magical world of Disneyland.
It was not only a world of tomorrow but one of yesterday and one of adventure. To a ten-year-old boy, it was so amazingly cool. Way past what he could have imagined. Billy couldn’t believe it. Uncle Charles had really come through. The family joined other guests behind a row of television cameras to hear Walt Disney give his opening remarks. He recast the dream . . .
To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.
The day was magical, even though it was a hundred degrees and mom’s new high heels had sunk in the soft asphalt and the water fountains didn’t work because of a plumbers strike. By the end of the day, little Billy was wound to the max after consuming a number of Pepsi drinks.
Overall it was a day to remember, and now that Billy was seventy years old, still one of his favorite memories. Uncle Charles had passed away soon after the great adventure, and it was revealed that there were over fifteen thousand forged invitations that day. Certainly, the ones that Charles had given the family were bogus, but William had kept the printed invitation book just the same.
In fact, after visiting the Del Mar Train Station with a sense of nostalgia, William went home and pulled out the old invitation. He pulled the printed invitation card out of the envelope and read it again, but then noticed there was a small piece of paper folded in the back. He pulled it out and found a handwritten note. It simply said . . .
You have been one of my most loyal employees over the past few years. You stood by me when everyone doubted. You believed the dream.
Please take these tickets as a gift for all your hard work with the team.
A hand written note by the Walt Disney himself to Uncle Charlie.
A man who believed the dream!