Walt Disney
Hometown Museum


in Marceline, Missouri
Missouriland at Yesterland.com

Just a few days from now, on April 1, the Walt Disney Hometown Museum will open for its 2014 season. Today, Yesterland takes you to the museum about Walt Disney in his boyhood hometown, Marceline, Missouri.

Werner Weiss, Curator of Yesterland, March 28, 2014


Walt Disney Hometown Museum

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

Museum in the restored Marceline Santa Fe Depot

The United States has three permanent museums devoted to Walt Disney. Each is terrific in a different way. In San Francisco, the Walt Disney Family Museum is the most spectacular—a real “E” ticket. In Central Florida, Walt Disney, One Man’s Dream, a “must see” attraction for Disney fans at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, is the most convenient to visit—at least if you’re a Walt Disney World guest. And somewhere near the center of the continental United States, the Walt Disney Hometown Museum is the most personal.

Walt Disney Hometown Museum

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2012

The bottom of a letter, signed “Love, Walt”

How personal? Here’s an example…

You’ve probably read many quotations from Walt Disney, but unless you’ve visited the Walt Disney Hometown Museum, you haven’t read these words until now:

I may not be getting as excited over Studios goings-on as I once did — but I haven’t hit the rocking chair either. No sir. As a matter of fact, I bought myself a jazzy little sports car this year. A Mercedes 230 SL. That probably won’t mean much to you — but I’ll bet Teddy will know it. Anyway, it’s just the car for the man who thinks young and I am the guy for it. I thought for a while I was going to have to fight Sharon for possession of it. I loaned it to her one week while we were away and she threatened to steal it. It’s a little beauty and almost as good as a blond on each arm for getting a little envy from my fellow man.

— Walt Disney, dated December 1, 1964

The paragraph above is from a letter to Walt’s sister Ruth. As families did in those days, Walt and Ruth kept in touch by writing letters. At the time, Walt was just shy of 63 and Ruth was just shy of 61. In the letter, “Teddy” is Ruth’s son Ted Beecher and “Sharon” is Walt’s daughter Sharon Disney.

Walt Disney Hometown Museum

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2012

Personal letters

It’s eye-opening to read Walt’s own words, not words written for him by PR writers. Walt comes across as someone who cares deeply about his family and his company—and has a good sense of humor.

Walt Disney Hometown Museum

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

Historical photos, Walt’s actual school desk, cases with artifacts, and books to read

Like her brother Walt, Ruth Flora Disney Beecher (1903–1995) never forgot her happy childhood in Marceline. She stayed in contact with Marceline friends her entire life, despite living far away in Oregon. Ruth told her son Ted Beecher that when she died, she wanted her “stuff” to come to Marceline.

Walt Disney Hometown Museum

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

Brothers Herbert Arthur Disney (1888–1961) and Raymond Arnold Disney (1890–1989)

Ruth lived to age 91. Then, Ted called Marceline resident Kaye Malins, who is now the museum director. Kaye flew to Oregon with an empty suitcase, hoping to bring enough back to Marceline to mount a small exhibit.

When Kaye arrived, Ted started clearing closet shelves, emptying drawers, and pulling boxes from under beds. An empty suitcase would not suffice.

Kaye returned with two top-notch museum professionals. They set up shop on the dining room table—cataloging, scanning, photographing, measuring, and making sure everything would be safe and properly preserved. The effort yielded more than 3,000 artifacts—and the basis for the Walt Disney Hometown Museum.

Walt Disney Hometown Museum

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2012

1955 RCA Victor console television

One of the museum’s rooms features a vintage television continuously showing scenes from the ABC broadcast of Disneyland’s opening event in 1955. The exhibit includes ticket books and brochures from Disneyland’s early years. The exhibit is even better if you know the story behind the television.

Ruth had been a saver. Going through Ruth’s papers, Kaye Malins came across a box of receipts, including a receipt for a television set. Kaye commented to Ruth’s son, “So Ted, this is about the time Disneyland opened.”

“Yes,” replied Ted, “We were invited to the opening day, but my mother didn’t like crowds, and so Uncle Walt sent us money for a new television set.”

Kaye realized this was a great story. By displaying the receipt in the museum she hoped to create, she could tell a personal Disney story about the opening of Disneyland. She was not prepared for the next words from Ted.

“Well, you want the TV?”

“Okay, Ted!”

According to Kaye, “He had it in his barn. It was out next to where all the cattle were. And I just love that part of the story because we’ve all heard about the opening of Disneyland and what happened that day, but here’s a family member who was invited, couldn’t be there for the big day, so Walt paid for a TV… and the TV is in the barn. I love that story.”

I love that story too—and how almost sixty years later, museum visitors can watch the opening day broadcast on the same TV as Walt Disney’s sister and her family.

Walt Disney Hometown Museum

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2012

Midget Autopia car from the Disneyland attraction

The Walt Disney Hometown Museum is much larger than I expected. When it opened in 2001 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Walt Disney, it filled the bottom half of the carefully restored Santa Fe Depot. By now, its collection and exhibits have grown to fill much of the second floor as well.

The Midget Autopia was not only a Disneyland attraction from 1957 to 1966, it then operated at Walt Disney Park in Marceline for several years until the town could no longer maintain the aging attraction. It had been a gift from Walt Disney. Very appropriately, the museum proudly displays a Midget Autopia car. There’s even hope of bringing back an updated ride, just outside the museum.

Walt Disney Hometown Museum

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

Railroad exhibit at the Walt Disney Hometown Museum

Marceline, a town founded in 1887 by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, is a railroad enthusiast’s dream. Seventy trains pass the museum each day. Visitors can watch them from the depot’s original brick platform or from the windows of the second floor train watching spot, complete with chairs just for that purpose. A railroad exhibit is on the ground floor.

Walt Disney Hometown Museum

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2012

Lift to the second floor

There’s always been a stairway to the second floor, but one of the more recent improvements has been the addition of a lift to make the second floor accessible to all. One of the Mickey Mouse statues from Celebrate Mickey: 75 InspEARations is near the ground floor lift entrance. It’s “All Aboard!” Mickey by animation legend Ollie Johnston, one of Walt’s “Nine Old Men.”

Walt Disney Hometown Museum

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2012

“Jim Henson’s Muppets” Comics, temporary exhibit

A large gallery on the second floor houses special exhibits.

But there’s also something amazing and completely unexpected upstairs…

Disneyland!

Walt Disney Hometown Museum

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

Dale Varner’s Disneyland

Here’s how the museum explains where the Disneyland model came from and how it got to Marceline:

In September of 2006 Dale Varner, the artist who created the model, was a guest in Marceline for the Walt Disney Hometown Toonfest. He brought with him a portfolio filled with photographs of the Disneyland model he had been working on and refining for over 40 years.

On that visit Dale voiced his concern that while the model had been exhibited on several occasions at fairs and Disney events, it did not have a home where it could be enjoyed on a regular basis. He asked if the Disney Museum in Marceline would like to have the model. Dale’s only stipulation to the donation was that he wanted to continue to work on the model and to add new pieces. We flew to Portland, Oregon to see the model and immediately said yes!

Through the generosity of Carolyn and Teddy Beecher the model was shipped to Marceline the summer of 2008. That September, Dale Varner came to Marceline to install the model. On September 20, 2008, the museum hosted a reception to celebrate the opening of the Disneyland model exhibit.

In the spring of 2009, Dale Varner passed away. At the time of his death, Dale was working on several new pieces for the Disneyland exhibit. As you view the model, you will see buildings in various stages of completion. These pieces give you the opportunity to see the techniques Dale used in the construction of his beloved model.

Walt Disney Hometown Museum

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2012

Sleeping Beauty Castle in Marceline

Walt Disney Hometown Museum

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

Example of the detail

Walt Disney Hometown Museum

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2012

Museum shop

If you’re a Disney fan driving across the United States (or just driving from Kansas City to Chicago), plan to your route to include the Walt Disney Hometown Museum.

Walt Disney Hometown Museum

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

Hours and prices

The Walt Disney Hometown Museum is open from April 1 to October 31 each year. Its hours of operation are Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m to 4:00 p.m. and Sundays from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays and during the months of November, December, January, February, and March.


For more information about the Walt Disney Hometown Museum and Marceline, see the following external (exit from Yesterland.com) links:

You might be interested in these other Yesterland articles about Marceline:

 

Click here to post comments at MiceChat about this article.


One City, Two Moonliners
Home


© 2014 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated April 4, 2014.