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One of the very first memories that I have of The Walt Disney World, was back in, well, it must have been the early to mid 1980’s. Yes, the 80’s. I remember riding in a motor-home (R.V.) down the Florida Turnpike. Specifically, I remember those toll booths. Back in those days, there was no such thing as “Sunpass.” No, it was each and every car having to stop and pay its toll. I guess Florida decided to cash in on Walt Disney’s entrepreneurship.

My first memories of the Walt Disney World are a bit spotty, almost forty years later – so you must forgive that in this post. I can honestly say, that I cannot remember leaving our house for that trip, or even the drive down prior to the Florida toll booths. Or even from the toll booths to that awesomeness of a sign. The Walt Disney World.

The Gates of Dreams | The Walt Disney World Resort Sign | The Disney World Blog |

What I do remember though, are the undying aspects of the Walt Disney World Resort that I experienced, and that I still love and treasure today.

I remember the Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground. Growing up, my parents preferred camping over hotels. So, even with our the Walt Disney World vacations, we would stay at the Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground. This gave the benefits of the outdoors, with the convenience of staying on the Walt Disney World property.

I remember the nights of sitting at the picnic table, with a Coleman gas lantern, and watching Florida fireflies. I remember sitting around a campfire and listening to Cast Members play a guitar and singing – well . . . campfire songs.

One of the most memorable though was the ability, at that time, to walk to so many places. We would walk to a lake – here is where fuzzy memories take over, since I don’t remember it’s name, but I do remember on a 30 degree night, it was cold – and watch the Electrical Parade (I think now it is the Electrical Water Pageant … maybe it was then?) A water based parade, with barges of different characters in lights.

I remember the smell of the diesel fuel exhaust from the buses – and, the ‘flags’ that they had painted on the buses at that time denoting where they were going to and from. They were like the peg pieces from Trivial Pursuit, if you ever played that. Brown, Blue. I don’t remember all of the colors that they had at that time.

I remember walking back to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground on a cold winter night. Cold for Florida standards for sure – but, probably in the low 30’s, and seeing a family all but running trying to stay warm, as they sported shorts and tee-shirts. They apparently did not expect cold weather in central Florida – in December. On that walk, I remember looking at all of the vine vegetation that is so prominent throughout Florida, perhaps it’s Golden Pothos … But I cannot be sure. Regardless, to this day, when I see trees and shrubs covered in it, I see that night.

I remember going to the Hoopty Doo Review. At least twice.

Back at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground, I remember renting the four seat bicycle-ish things. They weren’t really bikes, but you peddled them as such. We ran into things.

I remember that first time riding Space Mountain. We made my Mom go with us, or at least I did. And the first time riding the go-carts. And wishing that they were not on rails.

At that time, they also had the … Sky Bridge? The gondola’s in the Magic Kingdom. I have to admit . . . those were kind of scary. And of course Haunted Mansion. I don’t think that it has changed too much over the years – at least not from the ride perspective.

And of course, there was that very first character breakfast – at least that I remember. When I met Mickey. I believe, if memory serves correct, that it was at the Contemporary restaurant. Although we never stayed there, we did eat there.

And who could forget Figment?

I remember though the after-ride area more, and that gigantic whatever-it’s-called where you can make imprints basically with needles – but they don’t hurt.

Speaking of EPCOT, there was a ride, and I don’t think that it’s there anymore, in which part of it, you felt as if you were flying. Or at least you looked out over a vastness. The seats I think were similar to those used in the Haunted Mansion – kind of the half-moon type. Maybe that was Spaceship Earth originally?

And perhaps the fondest memory that I have isn’t a ride, or even any of the parks at the Walt Disney World itself. But instead, a single camera strap. My Dad had this Mickey mouse camera strap with like, 8 pockets for rolls of film (remember this was close to 20 years before the invention of camera phones, or even digital pictures.)

It’s funny to think back now. Growing up, I never knew that I had a passion for the Walt Disney World. But I believe this, and other, early trips sewed a passion that lives to this day, but that I never even realized until I was blessed to work there.

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