In part 1 of my trip report, I covered the first half of the day, including our warm welcome by the students of Marceline, our trip to the Walt Disney Hometown Museum and more.
After our yummy lunch, we had the opportunity to visit Marceline’s elementary school, aptly named Walt Disney Elementary. The school was built in 1960 and as part of it’s opening, Walt commissioned Disney artist (and Disney Legend) Bob Moore to create some original artwork that is still hanging in the school today. Walking into the school, you immediately know this is a special place.
The artwork extends into the gymnasium and covers all four walls with images from Goofy to Donald to Alice.
The school’s motto is “Where the magic of learning begins” which is perfect for a place with a very special past.
After visiting the school, we had a little bit of time to walk around Main St. Walt’s memories of the town and particularly it’s Main St., gave him inspiration when he was building his own Main St. at Disneyland and you can definitely see some similarities, and some familiar stores.
There were several shops selling antiques, jewelry and lots of Disney memorabilia. We had a great time browsing in the stores and talking to all of the Marceline folks. They were so welcoming and excited for us to be there. Almost everyone we spoke with had some personal story about meeting Walt on one of his trips back to town and it quickly became clear to us that Walt had a huge impact on this small community.
After our stroll along Main St., we headed to the Uptown Theater, where we were going to be treated to a screening of “So Dear To My Heart”, a movie that was influenced by Walt’s childhood years in Marceline. The theater has been used twice for Disney movie premieres and Walt visited in 1956 for the “Great Locomotive Chase” premiere. Before the movie started, we saw a skit done by “Walt” and “Ruth”, two Marceline children who spent the day as two of our hosts and were so sweet. Dave Smith, founder and Chief Archivist Emeritus of the Disney Archives, shared a few memories from his first visit to Marceline in 1971 and then we settled in to watch the movie.
The movie was cute – I hadn’t seen it for many, many years and was a nice afternoon break.
From there, we boarded the buses and headed out to the site of Walt’s childhood home. The house itself is privately owned and is not open for tours at this point, but close to the house is Walt’s “Dreaming Tree” – a favorite hangout for both Walt and Ruth and a spot that inspired Walt’s drawing and storytelling. “Walt” and “Ruth” introduced us to the Dreaming Tree and then another Marceline resident, Chris Ankeney, whose family has been in the area for 4 generations, shared some of her family’s memories of the Disney’s time in Marceline.
A short distance past the tree, Walt’s barn, where he first dabbled in entertainment by putting on a “circus” for his friends, has been restored. The barn has turned into a memorial of sorts, where Disney fans from all over the world have visited and left messages for Walt on the walls and beams.
Each one of us was encouraged to leave our own message or signature in the barn and we all did so while enjoying a glass of Missouri wine while watching the sunset. What a gorgeous area this was, and I could certainly see how the area must have been very inspiring for Walt. It was a great experience and a wonderful end to the day…although we weren’t done yet!
Our evening finally ended with a trip back to the center of town, where we were treated to a farewell dinner, Missouri-style. All the food was delicious and included roast beef, turkey, carrots, green beans and mashed potatoes. Dessert included peach cobbler and a chocolate pie, which I was told was an “icebox” pie. During dessert, a group of singers seranaded us with a song about Marceline that was sung during the opening of EPCOT. It was a perfect ending to a perfect day!
Reluctantly, we said goodbye to our new friends from Marceline and boarded the buses for our trip back to Kansas City. The ride back was quiet and uneventful as everyone relaxed and, I’m sure, thought back over the amazing day spent in Marceline!
My final thoughts on the event are coming up in Part 3.