Walt Disney's sister honors him in Marceline
MARCELINE - Years after Walt Disney's death, his younger sister Ruth Disney still kept in contact with some of the people of Marceline, the town where they spent five years of their childhood. Some of her most special belongings are now on display there, in the Walt Disney Hometown Museum, and they tie back to the day Disneyland opened.
Inez Johnson, longtime friend of Walt and Roy Disney and volunteer at the Walt Disney Hometown Museum, said when Roy Disney offered her family the chance to buy the Disney farm, they bought it and Johnson's daughter Kaye Malins moved in. Malins raised her family there and still lives in the home.
"After Walt died, Ruth came back to visit an old friend. His name was Clem Flickinger," Johnson said. "Clem said to Ruth, 'I want you to meet the lady that lives in the home where you used to live.'"
This was the start of Malin's and Ruth Disney's friendship, which was full of letters and even visits to see each other.
"After Ruth died, her only son called and said his mother had passed on and she 'wants her things to be in Marceline,'" Johnson said.
Ruth Disney continued to save Walt and Roy Disney's things, just as their mother Flora Disney did. Ruth Disney wanted to donate all of those mementos to make a museum, so Malins traveled to Portland, Oregon, to retrieve them.
"As they wandered through her house, one of the things that they pulled out of her desk was this beautiful little receipt," said Peter Whitehead, the museum's creative director.
The receipt was for a television, and Ruth Disney's son said there was a story to go along with it. Walt Disney invited Ruth Disney to the opening of Disneyland, but since she was not a big fan of travel or crowds, she decided not to go. Walt Disney encouraged her to at least watch the opening on television, but at the time, Ruth Disney did not have a television. The receipt in her desk was for the television her famous brother sent her the money for, so she could watch the opening.
"Kaye said, 'Oh my God, that's beautiful,'" Whitehead said.
Malins asked to keep the receipt and Ruth Disney's son said Malins could have the actual television, too.
"At the back of this dark and dingy garage was this beautiful console television that she purchased in 1955 for the opening of Disneyland, and it's now downstairs in one of our gallery displays," Whitehead said.
Johnson said, "Kaye ended up coming home in a U-Haul truck, much more than we expected, so that's actually how, that's what started the idea of the museum."
The Walt Disney Hometown Museum opened in 2001 in the town's old train depot in honor of Walt Disney's love of trains. The museum, which is run by volunteers, is now home to many exhibits in addition to Ruth Disney's donations. It also hosts many speakers, such as legendary Disney animator Floyd Norman who is visiting this summer.
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