Walt Disney Had Flags Waving in Both Eyes

The 2004 Disney All-American College Band plays at Disneyland's daily flag ceremony

The 2004 Disney All-American College Band plays at Disneyland’s daily flag ceremony.

Certain structures have become iconic for Disneyland.  When we think of the Magic Kingdom we can easily visualize Sleeping Beauty Castle which has become the paramount visual symbol for the Park.  Disneyland’s mountain range made up of the Matterhorn, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain also present a vivid image of Walt Disney’s beloved theme park.  While I certainly recognize these and other Disneyland structures for their significance, another structure found towering high above Town Square in front of the Main Street Train Station goes unnoticed. It is Disneyland’s main flagpole which has played an important role beginning on the Park’s opening day.

Although flags and flagpoles have been prominently placed throughout Disneyland, the main flagpole was not originally planned to be located at the center of Town Square.   A domed bandstand was constructed to sit where the flagpole stands in an area that was to be named Bandstand Concert Park, but when it was moved into position Disney saw that it blocked the view of Sleeping Beauty Castle.  The castle was intended to be an incentive drawing visitors up Main Street to the center of the Park.  Walt called this kind of incentive a “weenie,” and just like a dog will run to grab a “weenie” from his master, park visitors were expected to hurry along Main Street to get a better view of the castle.  If the visitors could not see the “weenie” they would doddle along looking at every detail of the buildings on Main Street.  To insure that visitors would be able to see Sleeping Beauty Castle the bandstand had to be moved and Bandstand Concert Park became Town Square.

Flagpole and Dedication Plaque at Disneyland's Town Square

The Flagpole and Dedication Plaque at Disneyland’s Town Square.

With the bandstand gone, what would then be the focal point of Town Square?  As luck would have it, one of Disneyland’s designers happened to drive by a traffic accident on Los Angeles’ Wilshire Boulevard where he saw an antique light post toppled by a car.  He noticed its elaborate base and immediately bought the pole for five dollars.  The light post was priced as scrap metal, and so the man had to haul the light post away.   At Disneyland’s construction site in Anaheim, the metal base became a fancy base for the Park’s 65 foot flagpole.

At the beginning of the dedication ceremony on opening day master of ceremonies, Ronald Reagan, announced the dedication of Disneyland as Walt Disney stepped forward to recite a specially prepared statement.  “To all who come to this magic place, Welcome,” Walt intoned, “Disneyland is your land. . .”  Next California’s Governor Goodwin Knight dedicated the U.S. flag that was to be raised calling Disneyland, “a wondrous community with all the charm of the old world and all the progress and ingenuity of the new world.”  Then the band struck up the “Star Spangled Banner” as a joint military team hoisted the U.S. flag to the top of the pole.  Governor Brown’s speech has been forgotten, but Walt wanted his words of dedication remembered so they are found on a brass plaque attached to a pedestal at the flagpole’s base.  The plaque was already there on opening day and more than half a century later it remains in place.  The flag, the pole and its cast base displaying Walt Disney’s famous words of dedication are a landmark for Park Visitors.  This demonstrates the impact this type of monument can have.

Disney—who had a love for the flag—once said, “Actually, if you could see close into my eyes, the American flag is waving in both of them and my spine is growing this red, white and blue stripe.”  Therefore, opening day began a tradition of flag display at Disneyland that continues yet.

Each morning before guests are admitted to the Park the U.S. and California State flags are hoisted on the flagpole at the center of Town Square.  More importantly, the lowering of the flag in the late afternoon is a tradition celebrated with ceremony.  Many Park guests rush on by not wanting to waste time at the flagpole; however, many stop and watch and listen, because music is always part of the observance.  Sometimes the Disneyland Band performs, sometimes another Park musical group such as the Dapper Dans perform.  The Park sponsors Disneyland’s All-American College Band each year, and when they are in residence they provide the music.  Always the music is patriotic and befitting a ceremony to lower the national flag.  The result for observers is impressive, inspiring and even entertaining.  Yes, it is—as Walt Disney no doubt believed—a grand old flag.  The flagpole at town square is a tangible reminder of his belief.  When Disney’s California Adventure Park was recently remodeled what did they add just inside the main gate?  They installed a flagpole with a dedication plaque.

If you could see close into my eyes, the American flag is waving in both of them.

Walt Disney

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