A Look Back at June 14, 1959: Grand Opening of the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail System, Matterhorn Bobsleds and Submarine Voyage at Disneyland Park

A Look Back at June 14, 1959: Grand Opening of the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail System, Matterhorn Bobsleds and Submarine Voyage at Disneyland Park 1

From George Savvas, Public Relations Director, Disneyland Resort

The first major expansion of Disneyland park included three brand-new attractions so special they helped usher in a brand-new era of something called an “E-Ticket.” As he had four years earlier, Walt Disney planned to share the celebration of this expansion with a national television audience during a television special hosted by Art Linkletter on ABC. Walt invited more than 2,000 members of the press, celebrities and dignitaries to attend, including Vice President Richard Nixon, his wife, Pat, and their daughters, Tricia and Julie, who sent us a special message you’ll read later in this post.

Walt Disney sent the following letters to the vice president in May of 1959 as he was finalizing his plans for the biggest event since he opened the park.

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With assistance from the Walt Disney Archives and the Nixon Presidential Library I was able to piece together details from this event as well as solve some lingering “mini-mysteries” from the festivities of Sunday, June 14, 1959, that might surprise you.

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Using the text of the actual itineraries, finalized just two days before this event, here’s how the day unfolded:

Itinerary for Sunday, June 14, 1959

  • 07:30am – ABC–TV personnel arrives to set up equipment and rehearse
  •  09:15am (approximate) – Vice President and family to meet with Walt Disney at the Monorail Station for press photographs on the dedication of the Monorail

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With this morning publicity photo shoot we have the answer to one of those “mini-mysteries” I mentioned. Fans may have noticed that the Nixon family is wearing different clothing in some of the Monorail dedication photos from this day. As it turns out, these early-morning pictures, which include Art Linkletter as the Monorail pilot, were taken to enable wire services and newspapers east of the Rockies to include the photography in their Monday morning editions. Press photographers and television cameras would capture the official dedication later in the afternoon.

  • 12:00pm – Parade starts forming. Lunch at Red Wagon Inn for celebrities
  • 12:15pm – On return from Church, the Vice President and family will be guests of Walt Disney at an informal luncheon at his apartment.
  • 01:15pm – Pre–parade steps off from gate by Fire Station. Vice President and party to parade in “horseless carriages” from City Hall to the official reviewing stand.

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The reviewing stand for this special parade was built at the central hub of the park with a clear view down Main Street, U.S.A. In this photo, Walt is seen talking with the vice president as Mrs. Nixon looks on. Seated behind the Nixon family you’ll also see Roy O. Disney, his wife, Edna, and Walt’s son-in-law, Ron Miller with two of Walt’s grandchildren on his lap.

  • 01:30pm – Parade steps-off from gate by Opera House

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This fun photo captures one of my favorite moments from this day. Look closely at this rare color picture and you’ll see Hayley Mills, Roy O. Disney and Diane Disney Miller in the background. The man pictured between Walt Disney and Vice President Nixon is Meredith Willson, composer of the smash hit musical, “The Music Man,” which was still in its first theatrical run on Broadway at the time. Mr. Willson was an invited guest of Walt’s who was seated behind the vice president. During the television taping of this special parade, host Art Linkletter says, “What do I see down there? Meredith Willson, would you come up here for a minute?” Mr. Willson then came to the front of the reviewing stand. Art continued, “I want to hear from an expert. You’re ‘Mr. Music Man,’ what do you see coming up the street?”

To Mr. Wilson’s apparent amazement, what he saw was an all-brass band including 76 trombones, marching down Main Street, U.S.A., playing his signature song from “The Music Man,” “Seventy Six Trombones!” Mr. Willson could be overheard saying, “I’ve been saying it all afternoon, but Walt Disney, when he does anything, he does it right, doesn’t he? Listen to that!”

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As this incredible band approached the reviewing stand, Art led Mr. Willson to a small platform in the middle of the street, telling him, “Come on up here Meredith!” The drum major handed his hat and baton to Mr. Willson who then conducted the band to the finale of the song as the crowd roared from one end of Main Street to the other.

  • 02:10pm (approximate) – Matterhorn Show
  • 02:15pm (approximate) – Vice President and family will be escorted from the reviewing stand to the rear of the Carnation Ice Cream store on Main Street for special photographs. Following these photos, the family will return to Walt Disney’s apartment.
  • 03:00pm – Matterhorn Bobsleds, Autopia, and Motor Boats open to the press
  • 03:15pm – The Vice President and his family will be taken to Monorail Station in Tomorrowland for press photography of the Monorail dedication
  • 03:30pm (approximate) – Submarine Dedication ceremony

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Following an introduction by Admiral Charles C. Kirkpatrick, Mrs. Mildred Nelson, wife of the chief machinist on the the first nuclear-powered submarine, USS Nautilus, christens sub D-301, appropriately also named “Nautilus.”

  • 04:00pm (approximate) – Monorail Dedication ceremony. The Vice President and family will participate in the actual television dedication of the Monorail. Following the dedication, they will be returned to the apartment and the Vice President will be free to conduct any meetings that will be necessary, utilizing the office located adjacent to the patio of Walt Disney’s apartment.

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  • 04:15pm – Submarine and Monorail open to press guests
  • 05:00pm – 08:00pm – Press party at Holidayland with buffet and special entertainment

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  • 06:15pm (approximate) – Fireworks display
  • 06:30pm (approximate) – Walt Disney will meet Vice President Nixon and family and escort them to the informal press buffet and party in Holidayland

Walt invited the Nixon family back two years later when the Monorail track was expanded to include the Disneyland Hotel. In this letter, Walt also mentions those pesky scissors from the 1959 event.

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As you can see from the handwritten assistant’s note at the bottom of this letter, the Nixon family was unable to attend due to the former vice president’s travel schedule, but they did visit Disneyland again later that summer and at least one more time, in the late 1960s.On the occasion of the 55th anniversary of this landmark day in Disneyland Resort history, Tricia Nixon Cox and Julie Nixon Eisenhower sent the following message exclusively for Disney Parks Blog readers:

Exclusive Congrats

Click for a larger image

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Author: TMSM Avenger

Co-Owner / Webmaster / Business Relations / PT Writer
As co-owner and co-creator of The Main Street Mouse. Working in a technical support position for 18 years, it was time for a change. As the Webmaster and Project Planner, I spend most of my time researching everything from the latest Disney News, technology advances and of course keeping up on all the Marvel news that comes out. I never considered myself a writer but I’ve come to like blogging and sharing news with all. I feel blessed everyday that I get to spend my days working with my best friend and love of my life while we continue to grow and expand what started as a hobby all those years ago.

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