|The Katella Avenue Myth
The bus driver had a great trivia question. I even loved his answer. But he was wrong.
, Curator of Yesterland, July 27, 2010
The Claim: Walt Disney named Katella Avenue after his daughters.
After a day at Disney California Adventure, it was time to return to the Toy Story Parking Lot on Harbor Blvd. My wife and I turned to the right at the park exit toward what was once the Lion King parking lot tram stop.
The Toy Story Parking Lot is still rather new. Its grand opening was March 19, 2010. Located on what was once the Fujishige family strawberry farm, it provides much-needed additional parking capacity for the Disneyland Resort. And if youre driving from the south on Interstate-5 or Harbor Boulevard, its much more convenient than the massive Mickey & Friends garage.
An exceptionally friendly bus driver welcomed us as we boarded a bright blue Toy Story Shuttle Bus that doubled as a travelling billboard for Toy Story Mania. We sat down for the short ride down Harbor Boulevard.
After a warm greeting and sincere remarks hoping that everyone had a good time at the parks, the driver offered a trivia question.
“Well be crossing Katella Avenue, the southern edge of Disneyland. Does anyone here know how Katella got its name?” he asked.
What a great trivia question, I thought. I had no idea what the answer might be. Perhaps its a Spanish word? Or maybe an unusual last name?
Nobody had an answer, so the driver continued, “When Walt Disney built Disneyland, the City of Anaheim allowed him to name the road that ran along his property. It was just a dirt road at the time. Walt Disney had two daughters. Their names were Kate and Ella. He put the two names together to make Katella!”
When we reached our destination, I spoke briefly to the driver. I tried to be nice.
“Thank you for the great service. I love the idea that Katella is a concatenation of the names Kate and Ella. Its true that Walt Disney had two daughters, but their names were Diane and Sharon,” I explained.
The driver looked dejected. “My boss told me that story,” he said, “I thought it was true.”
So whats the real story?
John and Margaret Rea and their daughters Kate and Ella moved to Anaheim in 1896. Their walnut ranch needed a name, but John wanted a more memorable name than Rea Ranch.
According to an article by C.D. Smith in the October 1989 issue of Orange Coast Magazine, here’s how John Rea came up with a name:
One evening, the girls were out in the yard when their father called them to dinner. “Kate—Ella, supper!” he called. Suddenly he had an idea. “I have chosen the name,” he announced. “Katella.” The girls were delighted and a big sign went up at the entrance to the family’s land: Katella.
Others liked the name too. Soon afterwards, when the Anaheim School District built a schoolhouse nearby, they named it Katella School. The east-west path adjacent to the property became Katella Road, which by 1934 had become Katella Avenue.
Walt Disney, who was not yet born when the name Katella was coined, came to Anaheim much later. According to the same Orange Coast Magazine article, Walt Disney liked the name Katella:
In 1955, Walt Disney built Disneyland barely a block away from Katella Avenue. “Why don’t you rename the old street Disneyland Road?” someone suggested. “No,” Disney said, “Katella is a pleasant name. And one to be remembered.”
Kate Rea (1876-1972) and Ella Rea Wallop (1881-1966) both lived well past the opening of Disneyland.
Walt Disney had two daughters too.
Diane Disney Miller (born Diane Marie Disney in 1933) owns the Silverado Winery along with her husband Ron Miller, former CEO and president of Walt Disney Productions. Diane Disney Miller is a philanthropist and co-founder of the Walt Disney Family Museum.
Sharon Mae Disney lived from 1936 to 1993.
Theres a bit of Katella at Walt Disney World too. The produce stand at the Sunset Ranch Market at Disneys Hollywood Studios is a tribute to Anaheims agricultural past.
Walt Disney World guests who are familiar with Disneyland may get the joke that this produce stand of the 1930s might be located on Katella Avenue where Disneyland was later built.
But wheres Palm? Even current Anaheim residents might be puzzled by that sign. Palm Street was the name of what is now Harbor Boulevard in the old part of Anaheim until 1960. (Down by Disneyland, Harbor Boulevard was always called Harbor Boulevard.) So, even though Palm Street ran more-or-less north-south, it was a major road north of Disneyland.
You might be interested in these other articles about Disney myths:
© 2010-2012 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks
Updated September 17, 2013.
Photograph of Katella Avenue street sign: 2010 by Tina Weiss.