Class of ’55 graduate Bob Penfield is convinced his life has been charmed. During his 42 years with Disneyland, he always seemed to find himself in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. Bob shares his journey, and the story of the world famous theme park he grew up with, in his new book “The Last Original Disneylander – Stories & Secrets from the Last of Retire of the First to be Hired.”
Similar to Walt Disney’s humble beginnings, Bob was raised in a small Midwestern town, then headed for the sunshine and opportunity out West. Blessed with an insatiable curiosity, days after graduating from Anaheim High School he went looking for summer work at the strange new amusement park being built down the road. He lucked into a job days before it opened, starting in July of 1955 as a ride operator on Disneyland’s Carrousel.
Three days later, he was named foreman of the Snow White ride and, as soon as he turned 21, was promoted to management. He later transferred into the Facilities Division, where he got the opportunity to explore and examine every square inch of the park. Along the way, he also enjoyed side trips to help open Walt Disney World, Tokyo Disneyland, the Squaw Valley Winter Olympics, and the New York World’s Fair.
After working in a variety of positions that gave him the opportunity to explore every square inch of the park, he retired in July of 1997, as the last of the original employees. His intimate knowledge of the park, its history, and its amazing cast of characters provides a unique, up-close look at the creation and operation of the world’s most beloved vacation destination.
He continues to be actively involved with Disney, regularly participating in promotional events for the Company, organizing a monthly breakfast club for retirees, and serving as “keeper of the flame” for “Club 55,” the group comprised of fellow longtime cast members who started in 1955.
Today, much of his efforts go into promoting the Walt Disney Birthplace Museum in Marceline, Missouri. Proceeds from his book sale will, in fact, go toward the restoration of a Midget Autopia ride, which Walt donated to the city in 1966. His book may be purchased at Amazon.com.