Wednesday with Walt: Searching for Roots
I have been watching a show called “Who Do You Think You Are” which focuses on different celebrities trying to find out about their genealogy and gain some insight into their family tree. I have seen Helen Hunt, Reba McIntyre and others travel all over the globe looking for a piece of their heritage. It is really interesting work tracing one’s roots. Even my own family, on my mother’s side, has begun to build a family tree by linking all of us together as we fill in the blanks about our current lives and the information we each know about distant relatives. It’s fun to find out information about our roots, isn’t it?
When I was watching the other night, it reminded me of a funny story I had read about Walt. Walt Disney had a curiosity and passion for his roots just like the rest of us. In fact, he actually went to see the home where his grandparents lived in Canada, and where his father grew up. He really wanted to go and, although Lillian wasn’t really into that sort of thing, he drug her along. He told this story to Fletcher Markle in 1963. I am sure that visit brought her years of enjoyment later and I’ll let Walt tell you why in his own words.
“I finally made it (to the old homestead). I took Mrs. Disney along and – she’s not too interested in ancestors and things, you know – we got up there, and she really fell in love with the town of Goderich. It was a beautiful town, and she was quite happy about it. But I wanted to find the homestead where my grandfather went out and cut the trees down and pulled the rocks apart, where my father was born. So they gave me directions, and everybody was trying to be helpful and everything. Mrs. Disney reluctantly went along. And I found this old place and I said, ‘This is it…there.’ It was really deserted. There were cows running through the house and chickens around and I had my camera, and I got out and photographed that thing from every angle. When I got through, I found out I had photographed the wrong homestead. [Walt laughs.] Ever since, Mrs. Disney has never forgot. She tells that to everybody. About when Walt went up to Canada and he photographed the wrong homestead.”
I don’t know if this sounds familiar to you, but I can see myself doing that same exact thing! HA!
Walt told that story to Mr. Markle for Telescope which aired on September 25, 1963. The fact that Walt himself told the story, and not someone else, says to me that he was doing alright. With all the pressures of running a company, keeping people paid, making great movies, developing the first ever theme park like Disneyland, raising two daughters, nurturing new ideas every moment; he still didn’t take himself too seriously. And, you know what they say, “you have to be able to laugh at yourself — before you can laugh at someone else!” (just kidding) But really we all have to be able to laugh at ourselves sometimes.
I am sure that Lillian never forgot that day, and it may have been one of her fondest memories of their time spent together. Who knows? Live a little! Laugh a little! If you don’t like laughing at yourself, feel free to laugh at me…I am sure I have done something to deserve it!