Remember the Magic

3 season pass from January 1985I figured the best way to jump into adding Disney-blogging to my site was to start at the beginning, and share how I became Disney-obsessed to begin with. Most people have a definite and strong opinion regarding the Disney Company itself, both the parks and the entertainment/film division. I, have always been a fan it seems. Although I have met many people over the years that do not share my love, I have never really understood how that is possible. 😉

My dad’s family lived outside of Ocala, FL, and I guess I visited when I was less than a year old, but obviously don’t remember that. My first memory of Walt Disney World was when I was about 6 or 7. We went to visit my dad’s family, and Disney World at the same time. I really don’t recall too much from that visit though. I remember chocolate-covered frozen bananas, orange drinks in a plastic orange from The Orange Bird stand outside the Tiki Room, the Wedway People Mover and Small World. However, it was after that visit that my family’s love for Disney really started to grow.

I was always talking about how much I loved Mickey, while  my dad’s favorite was Donald Duck. Over our many visits and later when I worked at Disney World, I would always get him Donald-themed gifts. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-20’s that he admitted to me that he was never overly fond of Donald in particular, but he just wanted to back me up because my siblings gave me such a hard time over my love of Disney. Yeah, I was a Daddy’s girl.

Our next visit to Disney World was in 1983. This stands out in my mind, because I still have souvenirs from that trip, and I proudly wrote “1983” all over them in metallic paint pen. Ahh, the 80’s. I wrote the date on everything because I had planned to discuss our trip (which was a car trip from Boston to Orlando and back, stopping at many historical places along the way – Baltimore, Delaware, Philadelphia, DC, Williamsburg, Charleston and Savannah if I recall correctly) at length when I got back to school that Fall. So my original EPCOT guide books with the little wheel on them would probably be worth something if it weren’t for my well-intentioned attempt at date-keeping.

When we returned from that trip, my parents made the decision to leave the cold winters of Boston and move to Ocala, FL. There they opened a home made ice cream shop (named after me) and of course, we got annual passes to Walt Disney World. I’m pretty sure that was the first year (1984) that they came out with the Florida 3 Season Salute as it was called then, now a Seasonal Annual Pass. Back then, you got an actual ID card, with your picture on it. I remember it was January, and we were unprepared for the freezing weather. We had to buy sweatshirts, but for some reason, I refused to get a regular one, and instead got a thin cotton sleeveless hoodie, because it had Figment (my favorite character from my favorite ride at that time) on it. Silly me.

While we lived in Ocala for the next two years, we visited Disney World quite often. The ice cream shop was closed on Mondays, so I was known to be ‘sick’ every few Mondays so that we could enjoy a less-crowded visit to the 2 parks. We loved EPCOT and it quickly became our favorite park. We rarely even visited Magic Kingdom in that time, because EPCOT had so many wonderful things for us to explore and enjoy. I have so many wonderful memories from that time period – getting completely soaked when the skies would open for the daily Central Florida rain showers and running into a country to stay dry while it passed…getting completely soaked *on purpose* at the jumping fountains outside of Imagination to stay cool…playing in the Image Works…smelling the orange blossoms on Horizons…getting stuck in front of the scary bull when the ride would stop on World of Motion…exploring all the ‘futuristic’ things in the Communicores…getting cast members to write my name in their home language…I could go on and on. It was a wonderful two years.

Then my parents decided to move to Virginia for a couple of years, and after that my mom and I ended up back in Massachusetts. We visited Disney a few times in that period, but not nearly as often of course. By that time I was in high school and as fate would have it, happened to get lucky enough to have a boyfriend that also liked Disney. I don’t think he was quite as obsessed as we were, but he soon was joined us in our love for visiting The World.

After floundering at college for a couple of years, it finally dawned on me what I wanted to do with my life. I explained to my mom and boyfriend that I wanted to move to Orlando and work at Disney World, as a cast member in the Travel Company. What would be more fun than planning vacations for people wanting to visit Disney World?? I found a college with a Bachelors program in Travel & Tourism Management and transferred there. Very soon after making that announcement, my mom decided that was a great idea and wanted to move down too. My boyfriend was slower to convince, having no desire to work at Disney and only ever living in Massachusetts all his life. But…somehow I convinced him and we all moved in May of 1995.

We all decided to get jobs at Disney World. Unfortunately, there were no openings at the Travel Co. at that time. I decided to just ‘get a job’ and then transfer in six months if something opened up. I took a position as a Merchandise Hostess on Main Street, USA. I was pretty excited, even though I’d never worked in retail before. My mom took a position at the All-Star Sports resort in the food court there, since she had a background in restaurants. My boyfriend got a coveted position in attractions, hosting the “Inside the Magic” tour at the then Disney-MGM Studios. He got to host the water effects tour outside, and the special effects tour inside (remember the bee and the blue screen?).  I used to love watching him to his speil, it was so cool knowing someone that was helping to run Disney!

I soon discovered that as fun as it was at times to work at Magic Kingdom (the walk through the tunnel and picking up my costume never ceased to amaze me), I made a much better guest than cast member. I guess I had a lower tolerance for crowds and crowds of tour groups than I expected. Plus working till 2am some summer nights got old kind of quick. I still made some great friends there and had wonderful times. The perks were wonderful as well. I loved the Cast Member holiday parties and the special stores we had to buy things too. It was a fun time and I recommend it for anyone in their 20’s that wants something fun to call ‘work’.

After that I became an actual travel agent. The boyfriend and I got married in 1996, having our reception at the Walt Disney World Dolphin resort. The Wedding Pavillion had just opened the year before, and we would’ve LOVED to have gotten married there, but with so many room nights and other expenses required, it was just not feasible on a Cast Member’s budget! It is my dream to get our vows renewed there for our 15th or 20th wedding anniversary. 🙂

We then had our first of two children in two years, and began moving around a bit. We thought we wanted to be back ‘home’ in New England, yet the mouse kept calling us back to Orlando. We moved back in 2003 to a town north of Orlando, and two years later my husband’s job transferred him to Tampa. We’ve been here ever since and I think we’ve finally decided to stay in Florida. We had our third child last October, and now get to show him the magic all over again, like we did with our first two.

We’ve had annual passes many times over our years here and they let us just drive over for the day and have lunch in a country, or park and not worry about ‘wasting’ a day’s ticket. We’ve gotten to show The World to many friends over the years that have come to visit for the first time, always leaving wanting more. My friends and family all know I’m the Disney-obsessed ‘expert’ of the family and will ask me any questions they have about an upcoming trip, or a specific ride or bit of trivia. I just love Disney World so much, and love learning new things about it and remembering all the old things that used to be here as well.

I miss the days of the Communicores and the real Journey into Imagination, and Horizons of course…and there are times I am disheartened with the changes Disney has chosen to make…but I have to remember that the way things are now are the memories *my* children will have and be able to share…it’s all still magical and full of wonder. There are times (okay, pretty much every time), when I walk down Main Street, look at that Castle standing before me, and tears well up in my eyes. It happens with fireworks and parades too. I remember the wonderful carefree times spent there with my mom and dad, with my husband, and with my big kids when they were little kids…and I cry silent tears of joy for the gift of memories that Disney has given me. And *that* is why I don’t understand people that don’t love it at Disney World…the magic is there…everywhere…you simply have to open your eyes to it.

Thank you for letting me share some of my Disney history with you…I’m sure there will be many stories and new memories to come. I’d love to hear some of your favorite memories too!





About Suzannah Otis

Boston girl living and blogging in Walt Disney World's backyard. Wife, Mom of 3, coffee addict, lover of travel and adventure.