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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Marceline Missouri: Walt Disney's Hometown

Marceline, Missouri
Several years ago we lived in Fort Collins, Colorado.  One of the unique things about Fort Collins is that Disneyland chose to model several of its buildings on "Main Street, USA" after ones in Fort Collins.  Really there were two towns that were the inspiration behind Disneyland's Main Street- Fort Collins, Colorado and Marceline, Missouri.  At the time, I filed it away in my mind that if I was ever in northern Missouri, I'd take a stop in Marceline. 
Walt Disney's Childhood Home
So here we were, several years later.  There's a small museum in town that will tell you all about Marceline being the town of Walt Disney's boyhood.   The town is similar to many others in the midwest: an old main street with a train track on the edge of town and an agricultural based economy.  The most noticeable difference between how things were built back then and how cities are built now is in the downtown.  Back then the businesses and buildings were built right up to the sidewalk.  Other then a few parking spots out front on the street, any additional parking was found out back.  There's a fair amount of large glass windows so one can look inside and see what's going on.   It beckons you to get out and take a stroll.  Newer cities have stripmalls.  There's no parking out back since it's all up front in a large parking lot.  Buildings are set back from the sidewalk and away from each other.  It doesn't matter if there's a glass storefront or not, chances are you can't see inside it anyway.  It sends a pretty clear message: Don't even think about walking anywhere- you only do that if you are poor or old fashioned.  Clearly progress sometimes isn't.  I think there's a pretty big correlation here on why Disneyland's Main Street is so noted- it helps people relate to the values they would like to have.  Friendly, unhurried, charming, slower-paced, and neighborly.
Sign outside Walt Disney's Boyhood Home
On the north end of town is Walt Disney's childhood home.  It's the house on the northwest corner of the first intersection as you drive in.  It' s a private residence, but there's a sign outside that tells you a little bit of the history of the house.  The sign says:  "Disney Home.  A private residence.  The Disney family moved into this home in 1906.  'I went with my family to live in Marceline when I was four years old...I clearly remember the day we arrived there on the train.  A Mr. Coffman met us in his wagon and we rode out to our house in the country just outside the city limits.  I believe it was called the Crane Farm.  My first impression of it was that it had a beautiful front yard.' -Walt Disney.  It was on the side of this house that Walt Disney painted with black pitch talking his sister Ruth into adding large zigzags by promising it would come right off.  Walt remembered 'I wasn't thanked by the family for my efforts.'"
Walt Disney's Dreaming Tree
About half a block further west from the home is a small pullout, large enough for about three cars.  Pull in and park at this small parking area and take a small stroll.  A couple hundred feet north of the road is Walt Disney's dreaming tree.  It's an old cottonwood tree that's  mostly dead, but I'm sure it was in its prime a hundred years ago when Walt was a boy.  The branches have all fallen off or been cut off and now it's just the trunk left standing.  Nearby, and a few other places on the property are other cottonwood trees- the offspring of the Dreaming Tree.  The Dreaming Tree was where Walt got the inspiration for Mickey Mouse and several others of his early cartoons. 
The Disney Barn
A little bit further is the Disney Barn, or more correctly, a replica of the Disney Barn.  The real barn was disassembled and taken to Los Angeles where it now sits in Griffith Park.  It's open to the public and functions as a railroad museum.  The replica has no such luck.  It sits empty in a field in the middle of Missouri. One thing the replica has that the original doesn't is signatures.  There's a few markers there left next to a small plaque encouraging people who appreciate Walt Disney to sign anywhere on the inside of his barn.  We took the liberties to add our own signatures among the thousands already there. 
Inside the Walt Disney Barn (replica) in Marceline, MO
There's a few signs to read along the way with fun stories about Walt Disney's childhood, such as when Walt had a barn circus with his farm animals in the barn and charged the neighbor kids a dime to see his goat, pig, and the family dog and cat dressed in doll clothes.  Clearly he loved his time in Missouri and never forgot the experiences he had here.  The experiences became the foundation of his character and also formed the nucleus of what would later become the well-loved Disney entertainment empire.

Nearest City: Marceline, Missouri
Location: West Broadway, Marceline, MO
Time Needed: 30-60 minutes.  No need to rush here!
Difficulty: easy
Kid Friendly: yes
Additional Info: Walt Disney Hometown Museum

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