Disneyland

Disneyland’s First Customer Still Uses His Lifetime Pass Annually – 64 Years Later

As someone who has frequented California's Disneyland park, I can say with absolute certainty that it truly is the happiest place on earth. So it's really no wonder why around 18 million people visit there every single year.

But out of all those 18 million smiling faces, one definitely stands out from the rest because that same face has been appearing at the park every year since 1955.

Yeah, and you thought you were a Disney fan.

Dave MacPherson has the incredible honor of being Disneyland's first customer ever.

Disneyland

On July 18, 1955 at 2 a.m., the 22-year-old college student from Long Beach, California secured himself a spot at the very front of the line at the brand new park.

"I decided I wanted to be the first in line," he 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."

Load Comments

After driving 10 miles from Long Beach to Anaheim on his motorcycle, MacPherson stood in front of the nearest ticket booth and started a lineup.

Disneyland

When the sun rose that morning, he purchased the very first ticket to gain entry inside, effectively making Disneyland history as the first regular person to enter the park on its first regular day.

Load Comments

Disneyland privately opened its gates on July 17, 1955 to Disney's family members and celebrities.

Disneyland

While the day was intended to be an “international press preview", counterfeit invitations were distributed and more than 20,000 eager park-goers showed up, crowding the 164-acre plot.

Load Comments

That first day wasn't exactly the dream opening Walt had envisioned for his park, thanks to the severe overcrowding.

Wikimedia | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mark_Twain_Riverboat_pilothouse.jpg

Unprepared for the sheer number of attendees, the park's refreshment stands quickly ran out of food and drinks. This, mixed with the hot California weather and the long ride lines made for some pretty miserable guests.

Load Comments

The next day, the 18th, was when the park officially opened to the rest of us regular folk.

Unsplash | Barbara Zandoval

It only took seven weeks for Disneyland to surpass 1 million visitors, soon surpassing both the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park in popularity. It was America's newest and greatest tourist attraction.

Load Comments

MacPherson said his only regret is that he didn't get to shake the hand of Walt Disney himself.

Wikimedia | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Walt_disney_portrait.jpg

After welcoming guests into the park, Walt virtually disappeared, likely to let the guests enjoy the attractions without distraction.

Load Comments

In honor of being the park's first-ever customer, MacPherson was rewarded with lifetime passes.

Disneyland

"Each January I eagerly await the arrival of the next installment of the pass which is then good for another year at any Disney park, and I have received these annual passes since 1955," the 86-year-old said.

These cards read "VIP MAIN ENTRANCE PASS" on the front and feature his name on the park, as well as "Admit Passholder and 3 Guests."

Load Comments

And you can bet MacPherson uses those passes every single year without fail.

Disneyland

He's been coming back to the park annually since that first trip in 1955, and he has no plans on stopping anytime soon.

Load Comments

In order to enter the park with his lifetime passes, MacPherson has to show a photo ID.

Unsplash | pan xiaozhen

But for extra insurance, he brings along some photocopies of his scrapbook featuring "first-day" clippings from the park's opening so he can prove that he is, in fact, the first-ever customer.

Load Comments

MacPherson said he's become something of a celebrity among Disney fanatics who recognize him and his honor.

Disneyland

"It isn't unusual after I give a copy of that scrapbook page to anyone manning the entrance gate, to have that official shout to the crowd, 'Folks, this man bought the first ticket to Disneyland when it opened in 1955'," he said.

"You can't believe how many folks from different parts of the world have then come over and asked for my autograph or shot a picture of my wife, Wanda, and myself!"

Load Comments

Of course, the fame is but a small perk of being known as the first man to ever enter the park.

Disneyland

For MacPherson, the real pleasure comes from the memories of that day and of the history he made, simply by taking a chance late one night and getting on his motorcycle to drive to Anaheim.

"Being the first member of the public to buy a ticket at Disneyland on July 18, 1955, and seeing the 6,000 people behind me in line when the gates opened, and seeing Walt Disney himself is something I will never forget," he said.

h/t: This Day In Disney History

Load Comments
Next Article