Disney and Marceline
MARCELINE - The Walt Disney Hometown Museum is located in the small town of Marceline, Missouri.
The town has a population of just over 2,000, but holds memories for every Disney fan.
“Marceline is the boyhood home of Walt Disney, but it’s even more than that because it’s this lovely little town that is nestled in Northern Missouri, halfway between Hannibal and St. Joe.” Kaye Malins, Director of Walt Disney Hometown Museum said.
The Disney family moved to Marceline from Chicago in 1905.
The Disneys arrived in Marceline by train at the Santa Fe Railroad station. That station is now home to the museum.
“When Walt decided to open Disneyland he used his memories from Marceline for Main Street USA,” Malins said.
Inez Johnson is a volunteer tour guide at the museum. Her family was close friends with the Disney family. She remembers Disney saying if he didn’t live in Marceline, “I dont know if I would have come up with the Disney characters.”
Disney sold his first piece of art in Marceline for a quarter.
Malins first met Disney when she was 8 years old and she shares this story every time she gives a tour:
“Walt came to Marceline to dedicate the Walt Disney swimming pool and park and our hotel was kind of run down and it didn’t have air conditioning so they asked my parents if the Disneys could stay with us," Malins said. "My folks were a young couple and they spent every cent they had on this brand new ranch style air-conditioned house and the furniture was all hand-me down. It got closer to the time for the Disneys to come and my mother said to her friends, ‘I can’t do this, it’s the Disneys and my furniture is junk.’ And they all said, 'Oh no, you have to have them because you have the air-conditioning. Don’t worry about it, we’ll move your junk out, we’ll move our better stuff in,' and that’s what they did."
Malins said her parents shouldn't have worried about it.
"So it took the whole town to get ready for the Disneys, but it was totally unnecessary because they wouldn’t have cared what kind of furniture anybody had," she said.
Malins said she may have had the best experience of all.
"Now I was fairly precocious at 8, so, I looked up at Walt Disney and said, ‘what room are you going to sleep in?’ and he said, ‘well what room should I sleep in?’ I said ‘well the pink one.’ So my claim to fame is that Walt and Lily Disney slept in my room," she said.
The last ten years of his life, Disney was an "intricate" part of her family, Malins said.
“Ruth, Walt’s sister was a dear friend of mine," she said.
Malins flew to Oregon to pick up Disney's memorabilia, which Ruth saved, thinking there would be enough stuff for an exhibit at City Hall.
She said, in the end, she documented 3,000 artificats.
"They started taking things out of tops of closets, out underneath beds and I thought 'I am way over my head here.'"
That is how the Marceline museum began in 2001.
Malins said she thinks she is now "exactly where I'm supposed to be" - a red house on N. Missouri Avenue.
“I live in a very interesting place. I happen to live in the house that the Disney’s lived in when they were here in Marceline." Malins said.
She's been there 45 years.
Malins and her family let everyone visit the Disney Farm.
"I think there needs to be some free place that people get to enjoy Disney and the farm meant so much to Walt that, yes, you can come on the Disney Farm and walk by the Dreaming Tree and the Son of the Dreaming Tree and go in the Disney barn." Malins said.
The original Dreaming Tree is where Disney learned to draw and write. In 2004, Disney's grandson planted a sappling of the original Dreaming Tree right next to the original Cottonwood tree, which was struck by lightning and fell down in 2015.