Memories to Last a Lifetime

by Joshua Olive, ALL EARS® Guest Columnist

Feature Article

This article appeared in the September 20, 2005, Issue #313 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

I remember, more than anything, the uncontainable excitement when my parents would sit the family down and tell us those magical words: "We're going to Disney World!" My older brother and I did not get along very well -- he's five years older -- but that one announcement brought us together in a way nothing else did. We would lie awake for hours at night, he in the bottom bunk, me in the top, and whisper about what we were going to do this time, which rides we were going on first, the whole nine yards; we would plan and revise itineraries for months. Walt Disney World has been a touchstone for me ever since those days.

Getting there was always an adventure. Any 12-13 hour car trip with seven people in one car is going to be interesting. Sometimes the car would break down, and sometimes one of the kids would be sick -- that was always fun. Sometimes -- the only time we stopped off at a hotel halfway through the drive -- the fire alarm would go off at 2:00 in the morning because some numbskull tried to cook a pizza in the kitchenette while the pizza was still in the box! But, regardless of what it took to get there, it was always worth it.

I remember one of our first visits to Walt Disney World, we took the ferry from the Transportation and Ticket Center to the Magic Kingdom, with Mr. Smee zipping past us on water skis, waving as he went! More power to that guy!

I remember staying at the Polynesian Village (longer ago than I care to think about!), and my parents renting one of the little speedboats for my older brother and me. My brother took us out in the bay and we drove that thing around at breakneck speed for a glorious half hour. It was wonderful -- right up until Matt figured out that if he got going real fast, then cut around to starboard really hard into our wake, water would come pouring into my side of the boat, drenching me. Looking back, as irritating as it was then, it's pretty funny now.

I remember being enthralled by the Main Street Electrical Parade back in the long, long ago. The giant Elliot float, from Pete's Dragon, was always one of my favorites. I always liked the Electrical Water Pageant too, but they still do that one, thankfully!

I remember when Big Thunder Mountain Railroad opened. Lines were excruciatingly long and the heat was oppressive, but that ride was worth every second of it. I still get that same tingly, child-like excitement every time that runaway train flies around the corner and we go through the dinosaur skeleton protruding from the rock. What wonderful memories!

I remember discovering the secret cave exit from the fort on Tom Sawyer Island. I thought I had discovered something no one else knew about! I secretly still feel that way, even though I know every other little Lewis and Clark in the world has been through there.

I remember that they used to let you into Main Street USA up to an hour before the Magic Kingdom officially opened, and that my brother and I had figured out the absolute fastest ways to get to either Space Mountain or Big Thunder Mountain when they lifted the ropes at the end of the street and let people through. We were always among the first to be on our Mountain of choice on any given day at the Magic Kingdom. I think I could still do it in no time flat!

I remember wishing they would let me stay overnight in the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse -- talk about the ultimate dream treehouse for a kid! It's much better than a hotel room any day.

I remember my sister Lori being terribly sick one time when she was 3 and we were at the parks -- nothing contagious, but she felt terrible -- so my dad rode It's a Small World with her over and over and over.

I remember being enthralled at the discovery of Atlantis as I rode the Nautilus with Captain Nemo, and I remember going "merrily, merrily, merrily on my way to nowhere in particular" on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. I like Winnie the Pooh, but the thought of that beautiful, imagination-inspiring lagoon being turned into a playground saddens me a little. And the Pooh ride is a lot of fun, but I wish they could have built it alongside Mr. Toad instead of over it.

I remember being among the first to see Mickey's PhilharMagic and just being in awe of that incredible 3-D experience.

I remember hauling my large frame onto the back of one of the horses on Cinderella's Golden Carrousel because my girlfriend wanted to ride, and I remember enjoying it.

I remember experiencing Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party for the first time, and LOVING the Boo to You Parade. It's worth it just for the sight of the Headless Horseman!

I remember taking the monorail to Epcot the year before it opened and gazing at the construction as it took place, excited about the prospect of yet more Disney fun.

I remember eating orange sherbet in The Land, right after learning on Living with the Land that they let wasps loose in the greenhouse on purpose! The idea of wasps being anything other than a painful pest was just staggering to me.

I remember Dreamfinder and Figment in Journey into Imagination, and I remember that my sister Lori became instantly enamored of the little purple dragon. I miss Dreamfinder, odd fellow though he was, but I'm glad Figment is still around.

I remember Horizons, with the beautiful scent of oranges and its unique feature that let me decide how I wanted to return to home base. What a great ride!

I remember thinking that The Living Seas attraction was quite possibly the coolest thing ever. For the record, I still love it, even though I have since discovered that the hydrolators aren't real.

I remember stepping out and trying something new and eating at Restaurant Marrakesh for the first time. It was fabulous! I HIGHLY recommend it.

I remember going to WDW in '92 as part of my senior trip. That was the first time I went to Disney-MGM Studios, and I LOVED Indiana Jones and the Tower of Terror.

I remember, that same year, getting to ask David Letterman if he'd ever done anything educational with a turkey, then watching video as they dropped frozen turkeys onto a trampoline from 10 stories up and they bounced into a swimming pool. I also had a great time watching two luckless adventurers attempt to run the candy production line scene from I Love Lucy; that was hilarious.

I remember, last October, my girlfriend and I being selected to serve as sailors on the set of Pearl Harbor in the Backlot Tour -- we had a blast and, thankfully, weren't the ones who got drenched!

I remember taking her -- a very non-thrill ride person -- on the Tower of Terror. I knew I was in trouble when she who usually screams at every drop or fast turn on a roller coaster made no sound at all. I think I've still got the marks on my arm where her fingernails dug in!

I remember going to Animal Kingdom for the first time a couple of years ago and falling in love with the place -- the first time I ever laid eyes on the Tree of Life, the thrill of excitement zipped up and down my spine.

I remember my first encounter with the giant anteater in the Oasis; what a great guy! He does mostly want to sleep during the day, but he's a beautiful creature if you can spot him.

I remember experiencing the amazing Kilimanjaro Safari, with its mind-boggling collection of animals, and the incredible Pangani Exploration Forest Trail with all the beautiful gorillas -- one of my favorite creatures ever.

The Maharajah Jungle Trek is another favorite, of course. I'll never forget coming face to face with a Komodo Dragon, being impressed with his size and build, and then discovering that he was only an adolescent! He's going to get bigger!

I remember amazing everyone as our boat went UNDER the big wave -- thanks to my rather more than usual weight being on the downhill side -- at the bottom of Kali River Rapids. We had Cast Members checking up on us to make sure we were OK because they'd never seen anyone come off the ride so thoroughly soaked before!

I remember experiencing Festival of the Lion King for the first time -- what a wonderful show!

I remember rocking it out with Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade, one of the more fun parades in WDW.

I'll never forget our last ride at WDW before we had to leave, getting a private ride on the Kilimanjaro Safari just before the park closed. It was a magical way to end a fabulous vacation.

As you can see from this miscellaneous collection of reminiscences, Disney World has been a part of my life for a long time, and some of my favorite memories, ones I'll cherish for a lifetime, are of my experiences there. Every time I visit I add at least one or two more memories to the list -- what more can you ask of a vacation than to create a wonderful memory that will last you a lifetime?


Guest Columnist Joshua Olive, 30, is a 6'6", 380-lb. man whose inner child is bigger yet. He's been a BIG fan of Walt Disney World since his first visit in 1979 and he's now a 15-trip veteran. A program manager for a robotics integrator by day, Josh was also a peer reviewer for PassPorter Walt Disney World for Your Special Needs, written by's Deb Wills and Debra Martin Koma.

Meet Joshua Olive and read his other columns:


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.