Chuck Milam got a tip about a job opening from a transplanted Disney executive whose new house he was landscaping. Earliene Anderson jumped at the chance to take a job at the new Disney theme park in Florida, having fallen in love with the beauty of Disneyland in California during a trip two years earlier.
At the time, the three were among the 6,000 employees who opened the Magic Kingdom at Disney World to the public for the first time on Oct. 1, 1971. Now, they are among two dozen from that first day still employed at the theme park resort as it celebrates its 50th anniversary.
Over those decades, Disney World added three more theme parks, two dozen additional hotels and grew to have a workforce of 77,000 employees as it helped Orlando become the most visited place in the U.S. before the pandemic.
What never changed was the original employees’ devotion to the pixie dust, the dream machine created by Walt Disney and his Imagineers.
“Disney has been my love, and it still is,” Anderson said recently before starting her shift in merchandising at a Magic Kingdom hotel. “I love Disney.”
The employees who make up the 50-year club say the theme park resort has allowed them to grow their careers and try on new hats. Kalogridis worked his way up to be president of Walt Disney World and Disneyland in California. Milam went from a warehouse worker to a buyer of spare parts for rides and shows.
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