ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — On the morning of Friday, Oct. 1, 1971, Kathy Luck arrived to work, made her way through the cast member areas and to the backside of Cinderella Castle. The sun had not yet come up and the park was just a few hours away from welcoming its first guests.
“I came in from behind the castle, up to Main Street and then the manager who was opening the merchandise shop, says everybody out on the street,” says Kathy. “We looked up at the castle; it was pure black, dark night, foggy, but the spotlights had silhouetted the castle against this pure black background. And the fog was creating little rainbows all around it. And at that time, there were trees in front of the castle that were strung with the twinkle lights; and all you saw were flashing rainbows at the base of the castle. And we just stood there and watched sunrise over the castle. And that’s something that nobody else experienced.”
On that day Kathy’s job was to sell flash cubes on Main Street USA. Today, after 50 years with Disney she works as a secretary at Fort Wilderness Resort; one of six resorts where she’s worked in her five decades.
“Anytime that I felt like I was getting burned out or stymied in my role, there’s always something new to learn, somewhere else to go,” says Kathy.
“I’ve been blessed to be Walt Disney World for 50 years,” says Earliene Anderson a sale hostess at the Contemporary Resort who was there for the opening of the Magic Kingdom and a decade later, Walt Disney World’s second park. “I opened Epcot. Ten years later, I did Fort Wilderness, and I did all of the hotels, so I’ve just been around doing all kinds of things.”
For Earliene, the sheer growth of the park in her 50 years is what stands out. Not just the addition of new theme parks and water parks but the construction of the entire resort. That growth means she has gotten to know guests over the years as they come back year after year to see what’s new.
“To me, it’s like, you know, you have your job at heart. It’s like coming out to play every day, and certainly we make the guests make us happy. We make the guests happy,” says Earliene.
While Earliene has turned down retirement at least three times, one of her fellow original cast members, Forrest Bahruth will be retiring just as the park hits 50.
“My hire date is Jan. 1, 1971. So, I think I have more time in than anybody else. Among the original cast members here,” says Forrest. “But I’ve been at Walt Disney World worked on the grand dedication opening. And that was an incredible time. And I’ve been here, just working ever since. And it’s such a joy to be able to bring happiness and memories to all the guests that visit.”
Today, Forrest is a show director in live entertainment, a similar role to the one he had on opening day when he helped plan the grand dedication along Main Street.
“There were hundreds of people out there performing. When that was over, there was a dedication by Roy Disney. When that was completed with, the parade began. And it was the biggest parade I have ever seen in my life,” says Forrest. “With players from every major country and every major symphony in the world. The whole world came to honor Walt Disney’s dream.”
Forrest, Earliene, and Kathy are just three of the 23-original cast members who were at the park on Friday, Oct. 1, 1971. For them, this golden anniversary is a testament to a vision and a story, still being written.