50 Years of Walt Disney World: Being First in Line

September 20, 2021, 6:06 PM · One week from Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Walt Disney World Resort. To get ready for the big birthday, all this week I will be featuring stories from my book about working at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, Stories from a Theme Park Insider.

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At the start of my first summer working attractions in the Magic Kingdom, a weathered cast member who'd worked at the park since the day it opened told me this story. I assume it is theme park legend, but I wanted it to be true, because, like many apocryphal stories, it perfectly illustrates the way that theme park employees - and visitors - often feel about crowds in the parks.

Three cast members were "playing in the park" on their day off. For fun, they decided to queue up in front of the door to the riverboat crew's office, around the corner from the Hall of Presidents entrance, in Liberty Square. Sure enough, within a minute, a couple walked up to them.

"What are you in line for?" the man asked.

"I don't know, but we're first!" the leader of the three replied, while the others did their best to keep straight faces.

The man turned to his partner, shrugged, and joined the "line."

Within minutes on this busy summer day, two dozen others had joined the queue, which was now snaking toward the stockade that stands in front of the riverboat dock, about 20 yards away. When the line reached the riverboat's entrance, cutting off the path toward the Haunted Mansion, the original three grinned at one another and the leader nodded. He turned to the first man who'd joined the queue.

"Darn it, it's almost time for our lunch reservations at the Diamond Horseshoe. Gotta go."

With that, the three walked over to the Horseshoe, suppressing laughs the whole way. As they passed the riverboat dock, the leader waved at the riverboat greeter, whom he knew, and said, "I don't know what's going on, but the crowd here looks like it's actually a line waiting for something in front of the crew office over there. You better check it out."

The three then ran for it, as the greeter walked over to the front of the crowd, wondering why a line would have formed in front of an unmarked (though well-themed) utility door.

"Excuse me, sir," he asked the man who'd first joined the queue, "but what do you think you are in line for?"

"I don't know," he replied.

"But I'm first!"

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You can support Theme Park Insider by ordering a copy of "Stories from a Theme Park Insider," available in paperback for $6.99 and for Kindle as an eBook for just $2.99.

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Replies (5)

September 20, 2021 at 11:59 PM

I have this book in which these stories are included and it's a fun read! Man theme parks are great. In this case Disney World is just legendary. Everybody has a Disney World story or a few. That place is just special for a lot of us.

September 21, 2021 at 1:04 AM

Great story. I just bought your book. Looking forward to reading it.

September 21, 2021 at 11:16 AM

"Incredibly, the River Boat Greeter then charged everyone in line $20 a piece for a two minute tour of the crew office. That greeter's name? Bob Chapek."

September 21, 2021 at 12:14 PM

Ah, the old days of having to hope you were lucky enough to catch a line with a low number rather than the apps detailing wait times.

September 21, 2021 at 4:42 PM

A fellow I used to work with in the Training Department at Six Flags over Georgia way back in the 80's used to tell a somewhat similar story to new hires in orientation. On Vince's first day working (way back in the 70s) at the park's version of The Jungle Cruise, he didn't know any better so he waited in line for the ride to get to work. Guests in the queue asked him what he was doing. Vince, thinking he was doing the right thing just told them this is how employees reached the dock to get to work. I find this a little big hard to believe, but Friend Fowler as we all called him was not known for telling stories, so I can only trust him at his word.

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