Our very first Driving on Sunday guest post is from our dear sister, Anna, and her boyfriend, Caleb. They are both college students in our fair state and have a great story to tell of their recent day trip.
For college kids, April is one of the most stressful months of the year. You’re almost done with your studies and summer is so close that you can taste it. But that also means you can taste final exams, group projects, papers and the woes of packing up and leaving all of your friends for the summer. For this special kind of sadness, I imagine there is only one cure- a trip to the happiest place on Earth. Unfortunately, as as broke college students in the middle of America’s Heartland- we’re about as far away as you could get from either of Walt Disney’s famous parks. But, we do have the next best thing. About an hour south of my home-away-from-home in Kirksville, MO sits the quiet town of Marceline, MO-the beloved childhood home of Walt Disney.
Understandably, Marceline is pretty proud of its celebrity connection, and they have dedicated a whole museum to the life of Walt Disney. For just ten dollars per person, you can explore the place that inspired one of the world’s most beloved artists. The museum sits in the old train station (Clarence would have loved it) and still gets daily visits from trains everyday. All of the guides of the museum work as volunteers and have lived in Marceline for their whole lives. Our tour guide for the day, Inez, was a personal friend of Mr. Disney which added something special to our visit. She could talk about him as the man and not just the legend.
The Disneys moved from Chicago to Marceline in 1906 where Robert Disney (Walt’s uncle) had just purchased a farm. Elias and Flora Disney hoped that the farm would offer them some economic reprieve and a safe place to raise their children. Walt, one of five children, was four years old at the time of the move. It turns out that young Walt Disney loved farm life. The animals on the farm became his first subjects for drawing and young Walt began going on calls with the town doctor in his horse-drawn carriage. One day, the doctor commissioned Walt to draw his trusty steed and this was the very beginning of the Disney empire.
The Disneys, much to Walt’s dismay, left Marceline in 1911 for Kansas City. It wasn’t until the 1950’s that Walt had the opportunity to come back. You see, Marceline wanted to open a community pool and someone had the bright idea to name it after Walt Disney (who, by this point, was quite famous) and so they wrote to him asking to use his name. He wrote back that he would be honored to have the pool named after him and if they were planning to have a dedication program, he would love to be there. “So, you better believe that we began planning a dedication”, Inez said. She had plenty of other hilarious stories to tell us which helped to paint the picture of just how much Marceline loved Disney and how much he loved Marceline in return.
After we went through the museum, Inez encouraged to drive a few miles down the road to see the replica of Walt’s barn and his “Dreaming Tree”. Under this big tree was where young Walt spent many afternoons, drawing and dreaming up stories that later became some of the world’s most treasured tales. The tree became the inspiration for the tree in the Lion King and the tree that welcomes you into Animal Kingdom of the Disney Parks. Unfortunately, the original tree is now dead but they were able to collect saplings and replant them around the barn. At this site, you can see the saplings as well as the (very large) trunk of the original tree and imagine yourself in Disney’s childhood.
The replica barn also houses some interesting stories. Visitors to the barn are encouraged to sign their name and leave a message. Among some of scribbles of your average Joes, we were able to find the signatures and drawings of several notable cartooners!
Marceline is only one stop along the “Road of the American Genius”, Highway 36. If you take the whole highway, you can visit the homes of Mark Twain, Walt Disney, General Pershing, J.C. Penney, the unsinkable Molly Brown and several others. Who knew Missouri was such a breeding ground of incredible people?
All this is to say, we think everyone should save up ten dollars and take a trip to Missouri’s Magic Kingdom.