Walt’s announcement drew big crowd, but details were thin

A clipping from the Nov. 16, 1965 edition of the Orlando Sentinel includes a headline
that reads: “Walt Disney to Build World’s Best Tourist Attraction in Mid-Florida.”

Counting down to the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World’s opening in October 1971,
the Orlando Sentinel begins a weekly feature looking at the construction and impact of the theme park on our area. See more Disney at 50 coverage at OrlandoSentinel.com/DailyDisney.

Walt Disney’s presence in Florida went from rumored to reported to reality as he came to downtown Orlando’s Cherry Plaza Hotel on Nov. 15, 1965 to announce his plans for 27,000 acres in Orange and Osceola counties. A clipping from the Nov. 16, 1965 edition of the Orlando Sentinel includes a headline that reads: “Walt Disney to Build World’s Best Tourist Attraction in Mid-Florida.”

There was an invitation-only presentation to government and business leaders followed
by a news conference described by Gov. Haydon Burns as the largest in Florida history.
An estimated 400 people crowded into the Egyptian Ballroom.

In this week’s Disney at 50, the Sentinel’s look at Walt Disney World of yesterday and
today, we present photos from that occasion.

The Cherry Plaza building stands today on East Central Boulevard. It’s now Post Parkside Orlando apartments and home to several businesses, including World of Beer, which faces Lake Eola. Back in ‘65, it housed offices for Delta Air Lines, Florida Symphony and an art gallery. Many civic organizations such as Elks, Parliamentarians and the German American Ladies met there regularly.

President Lyndon Johnson had stayed there overnight during his 1964 campaign.

In 1965, after Walt Disney spoke and answered questions, there still was confusion about just what was coming to Central Florida. Disney dodged specifics, saying planning was still in the works. It would be the same as Disneyland but entirely different, he said, and it would definitely not be called Disneyland.

He was crafty in other ways. Reporters trying to catch him checking into Cherry Plaza were disappointed. It was later revealed that he stayed at the Robert Meyer Motor Inn under an assumed name, perhaps his pilot’s name. That hotel, on the corner of Washington Street and Rosalind Avenue, was on the opposite side of the lake from Cherry Hill. Robert Meyer eventually was known as the Harley Hotel, which is now condos called Metropolitan at Lake Eola.

If you live there now, you can say Walt Disney slept there then.

2020 is finally over. Here are 10 Orlando moments to remember from the year that wasn’t

About that eternal lockdown: The principle of “Hanlon’s Razor” holds that we shouldn’t credit malice for actions that can be explained by stupidity, but in Florida, in 2020, sometimes it was tough to tell the difference. As other countries and even states worked together to flatten their disease curve and return to something approaching normality, those of us in Orlando who scrupulously observed COVID protocols watched helplessly as those who refused to danced, drank and wedding-partied Florida into a viral cesspit. Malice, stupidity, or a little bit of both? We’ll never know, but in the meantime, our three months of quarantine is stretching out into 13 with no assured end in sight.

But even though it felt like living the movie Groundhog Day, things happened that deserve notice, both commendable and regrettable.

Rep. Val Demings is a manager of the Trump impeachment:

We kicked off 2020 with the hometown-pride-inducing sight of U.S. Rep. Val Demings serving as one of seven managers to physically “transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate.” As an impeachment manager, Demings walked to the Senate chamber to hand over the printed articles and after reading the charges aloud, returned to the House to give a verbal report. “I’ve enforced the laws and now I write the laws,” Demings, who was once Orlando Police Chief, said during the debate before the House impeachment vote. “But the laws mean nothing if the accused can destroy evidence, stop witnesses from testifying and blatantly refuse to cooperate.”

COVID craters the local tourism industry:

Before 2020, conventional wisdom was that, no matter what, theme parks don’t close; 9/11 only interrupted Disney operations for less than a full day, for god’s sake. But the coronavirus pandemic put paid to that notion, shutting down the tourist industry that Orlando’s economy hinges on in March. Theme parks and attractions closed and furloughed scores of workers. Then hotels, restaurants, bars, the convention center, even the airport all followed suit to varying degrees. The ripple effects were heartbreaking, like watching a car wreck in slow motion. In June, Universal and SeaWorld reopened, followed by Disney World in July. But with limited capacity and large events like Halloween Horror Nights off the table, profits nose-dived enough to cause thousands more layoffs. It will be a long road back to where we were at the start of 2020, and things will get worse with Disney and Universal, yes, set to lay off still more employees by the time you read this issue.

Continue reading “2020 is finally over. Here are 10 Orlando moments to remember from the year that wasn’t”

Creepiest places in Florida guaranteed to haunt your dreams

1.) Castillo de San Marcos (St. Augustine)

Built in the 17th century, the Castillo de San Marcos covers over 20 sprawling acres of land and is filled with a rich 450 year history that has withstood the test of time. 

If we’re talking haunted or creepy destinations in Florida, of course, St. Augustine is going to top most lists. Let’s talk about Castillo de San Marcos, a former military fortress that’s infamous for some of its battles. 

Some say the spirits of Spanish soldiers still defend the 17th century fort. Others say a light shines from a fixture in one of the watchtowers that has no electricity running to it. The spooky accounts also include one Spanish soldier in particular who stands at the edge of the fort, looking out to sea just when the sun is about to rise or set. And then there’s the dungeon — where many people have reported the feeling of cold hands touching them. Others say they just felt cold in general while walking through, according to a website called  ghostsandgraves.com. Visitors to the fort say they’ve shot videos and photos of glowing orbs, misty shapes and even some shapes resembling bodies. Enthusiasts of the paranormal and supernatural definitely flock to Castillo de San Marcos for a number of reasons — all of which will make your skin crawl.

Continue reading “Creepiest places in Florida guaranteed to haunt your dreams”

This Day in History

On Sept. 7, 1907, the
British liner RMS Lusitania set outfrom Liverpool, England, on its maiden voyage, arriving six days later in New York.

RMS Lusitania coming into port, possibly in New York, 1907-13

In 1940, Nazi Germany began its eight-month blitz of Britain during World War II with the first air attack on London.

September 7, 1940: Men assess the damage following a night raid on Elephant & Castle. Civilians sheltered in the underground station as German bombs were dropped.

In 1963, the National Professional Football Hall of Fame was dedicated in Canton, Ohio.

Opened in 1963, the Hall of Fame enshrines exceptional figures in the sport of professional football, including players, coaches, franchise owners, and front-office personnel, almost all of whom made their primary contributions to the game in the National Football League (NFL)

In 1977, the Panama Canal treaties, calling for the U.S. to eventually turnover control of the waterway to Panama, were signedin Washington by President Jimmy Carter and Panamanian leader Omar Torrijos.

In 1979, the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN) made its cable TV debut.

ESPN makes it debut to an estimated 30,000 viewers.

In 1986, Desmond Tutu was installed as the first Black clergyman to lead the Anglican Church in southern Africa.

Desmond Tutu named Archbishop of Cape Town

This Day in History

In 1939, Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand declared war on Germany, two days after the Nazi invasion of Poland.

Adolf Hitler (right) prepares to fly to the Polish front, 1939. Hugo Jaeger—The LIFE Picture Collection

In 1976, America’s Viking 2 lander touched down on Mars to take the planet’s first close-up, color photos.

This photo from NASA’s Viking 2 lander was almost certainly transferred from magnetic reels to a finished photo using a Model 505 data reconstruction camera. (Photo: nasa.gov)

In 1978, Pope John Paul II was installed as the 264th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church.

In this Oct. 22, 1978 file photo, Pope John Paul II blesses the faithful in St. Peter’s Square from a Vatican City balcony after he was named Pontiff.  (AP Photo, File)

In 1995, the online auction site eBay was founded in San Jose,California.

After spending Labor Day weekend at home writing code on his personal computer, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar launches AuctionWeb, a site “dedicated to bringing together buyers and sellers in an honest and open marketplace.”

On this day, 1944 Paris was liberated from 4 years of Nazi occupation.

After more than four years of Nazi occupation, Paris is liberated by the French 2nd Armored Division and the U.S. 4th Infantry Division. German resistance was light, and General Dietrich von Choltitz, commander of the German garrison, defied an order by Adolf Hitler to blow up Paris’ landmarks and burn the city to the ground before its liberation. Choltitz signed a formal surrender that afternoon, and on August 26, Free French General Charles de Gaulle led a joyous liberation march down the Champs d’Elysees.

Paris fell to Nazi Germany on June 14, 1940, one month after the German Wehrmacht stormed into France. Eight days later, France signed an armistice with the Germans, and a puppet French state was set up with its capital at Vichy. Elsewhere, however, General Charles de Gaulle and the Free French kept fighting, and the Resistance sprang up in occupied France to resist Nazi and Vichy rule.

The French 2nd Armored Division was formed in London in late 1943 with the express purpose of leading the liberation of Paris during the Allied invasion of France. In August 1944, the division arrived at Normandy under the command of General Jacques-Philippe Leclerc and was attached to General George S. Patton’s 3rd U.S. Army. By August 18, Allied forces were near Paris, and workers in the city went on strike as Resistance fighters emerged from hiding and began attacking German forces and fortifications.

Continue reading “On this day, 1944 Paris was liberated from 4 years of Nazi occupation.”