On this date in 1966, Walter Elias Disney passes away at St. Joseph’s Hospital of acute circulatory collapse (caused by lung cancer) just ten days after his 65th birthday. When the news of Walt’s death reaches Disneyland in Anaheim, consideration is given to closing the park for the day, but instead it is kept open (as Walt would have wanted), but the flags on Main Street USA are lowered to half-mast. Mr. Disney will be cremated two days later. (His 74-year-old brother Roy O. Disney will postpone his planned retirement and start construction in Florida on Walt’s latest project, Disney World.)
On the CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite, commentator Eric Sevareid states this about Mr. Disney: “He was a happy accident, one of the happiest this century has experienced. And judging by the way it’s behaving, in spite of all Disney tried to tell it about laughter, love, children, puppies, and sunrises, the century hardly deserved him.”
That evening Disneyland’s Fantasy on Parade (a special presentation for the holiday season) steps off for the first time. An unusually cold night for Anaheim, a somber Disneyland experiences a light snow.