Disney World opened 50 years ago; these workers never left

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Applying to be one of the first workers at Walt Disney World, high school graduate George Kalogridis made a split-second decision that set the course for his life: he picked a room where prospective hotel workers were being hired.

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 on Friday.

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.

Forrest Bahruth joined the workforce at Disney World in January 1971 as a show director, responsible for staging and choreographing parades and shows. He was also given the opportunity to help open other Disney theme parks around the world over the past five decades.

“There are people all over the world who get up to go work. They’re unhappy about it. They don’t really like their jobs,” Bahruth said. “As you can tell from us, there’s an enthusiasm. We are privileged to be at a place where we love what we do.”

There was no guarantee that Disney World was going to be a success 50 years ago. Walt Disney, the pioneering animator and entrepreneur whose name graces the Florida resort, had died in 1966, just a year after announcing plans for “the East Coast Disneyland.” The company had quietly acquired 27,000 acres (11,000 hectares) of scrub land outside Orlando for around $5 million via secret land purchases using fake names and shell companies.

The job of shepherding the project to Opening Day fell to his brother, Roy Disney, who with other company officials convinced the Florida Legislature to create a quasi-governmental agency that would allow Disney to self-govern when it came to matters of infrastructure and planning. Roy died almost three months after Disney World opened.

Just weeks before opening, construction at the Magic Kingdom was controlled chaos, and it seemed impossible that it would all come together in time.

“It was like an army of ants. Everything was under construction. Interiors were still being put in. Roofing was still being put on top,” Bahruth said. “There was painting, landscaping. Things were arriving by the moment. It was like trucks going everywhere.”

Bahruth rehearsed performers through parade choreography down Main Street, which cut through the center of the Magic Kingdom and resembled a turn-of-the-century small town from Walt Disney’s childhood. Even though he was a busser, Kalogridis was drafted into laying down sod outside the hotel he was working in, hours before Disney World’s grand opening.

Two things have stuck in the memories of the longtime employees from that opening day. The first was the photo. It was an image of thousands of Disney World workers standing in front of the iconic Cinderella’s Castle with Mickey Mouse and other costumed characters holding hands in front. Two weeks later, it was featured on the cover of Life magazine.

“They brought all the characters up, staged them first, and then they tried to keep all the different workers together based on the color of their costumes,” Milam said. “If you were from Fantasyland and in yellow, you would go over there.”

The second was the parade. It featured a 1,076-member marching band conducted by Meredith Wilson, the composer of the Broadway show, “The Music Man.” There were 4,000 Disney entertainers marching through the theme park, a mass choir and trumpeters from the United States Army Band. Hundreds of white doves were released into the air, and less environmentally friendly, so were thousands of multi-colored balloons.

“It was the biggest thing I had ever seen,” Bahruth said.

Only around 10,000 visitors showed up on that first day — which at today’s much larger Walt Disney World would represent about 90 minutes’ worth of visitors entering. It wouldn’t be until Thanksgiving 1971, almost three months later, when Disney executives had an answer about whether their new resort would be a success; that’s when cars trying to get into the Magic Kingdom stretched for miles down the interstate.

“It was very clear after that first Thanksgiving, that the public definitely liked what we were doing,” Kalogridis said. “That first Thanksgiving, that was the moment.”


Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP

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I opened my first cash-back credit card and have already earned $525

This article is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. It has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of the issuers listed. Some of the offers you see on the page are from our partners like Citi and American Express, but our coverage is always independent. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page.

Some might say I’m a little obsessed with travel rewards credit cards — to the tune of having owned nearly 20 of them.

In all these years of collecting credit card rewards, I’ve never bothered with cash-back cards because I’m an avid traveler who prefers points and miles. However, when the pandemic hit and travel came to a screeching halt, I started to wonder whether it was finally time to open my first cash-back credit card.

I decided the answer was yes, and in two months, I’ve already earned $525 in rewards.

Regular APR

14.99%–23.74% variable APR

Credit Score

Good to Excellent

Featured Reward

$200 after spending $500 in the first three months from account opening

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  • Details
  • Pros & Cons

    • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
    • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
    • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
    • No annual fee
    • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 – 23.74%.
    • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
    • Solid flat cash-back rate
    • You can combine cash-back rewards with Ultimate Rewards points if you have an eligible card
    • No annual fee
    • Some other cards offer a higher rate of cash back on certain types of purchases

    Read Our Review
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    How I chose a cash-back credit card

    The Chase Sapphire Reserve® has been my favorite credit card for years, and Chase Ultimate Rewards is my favorite travel rewards program. While Chase has introduced a number of temporary benefits to their travel cards in light of the pandemic, I still haven’t been earning Ultimate Rewards points as quickly now that I don’t travel anymore.

    If you have one of Chase’s travel credit cards, all of the rewards you earn with one of their Freedom cards can be converted to fully-transferable Ultimate Rewards points, which gets you a lot more value if you redeem them for travel. Getting one of the Chase Freedom cards seemed like an obvious next step to boosting my points balance.

    This was especially true given that at the time, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and Chase Freedom Flex℠ were offering 5% back on groceries, currently one of my biggest spending categories, for your first year. Even though this offer is no longer available for new cardholders, the Chase Freedom cards still have one of the highest rewards rates of any cash-back credit card with no annual fee. 

    I opted for the Chase Freedom Unlimited® over the Chase Freedom Flex℠. The two cards have some similarities, with both offering 5% back on travel booked with Chase and 3% back on dining and drugstores. However, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers 1.5% back on everything else, whereas the Chase Freedom Flex℠ gets you 5% back on up to $1,500 in combined spending per quarter in rotating bonus categories when you activate (then 1%) and 1% back on everything else. I didn’t want to have to worry about maxing out rotating bonus categories, so the Chase Freedom Unlimited® was best for me.

    How I earned $525 in rewards in just 2 months

    Both cards also offer one of the best sign-up bonuses you can get on a no-annual-fee credit card — $200 after spending $500 in the first three months from account opening. The bonus and earning is actually in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, worth 1 cent apiece when you redeem for cash back — so $200 is actually 20,000 points.

    I earned the sign-up bonus fairly quickly thanks to the low minimum spending requirement, and I’ve been earning another 7,500 points per month with my regular spending. Altogether, I’ve earned about 35,000 points since opening the card just two months ago. 

    That’s $350 in cash back, but when I transfer the points to my Chase Sapphire Reserve® account, they’re worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed for travel booked through Chase or with Pay Yourself Back — so 35,000 points are actually worth $525.

    How I’m using my rewards during the pandemic

    Granted, I’m not doing a lot of traveling due to the pandemic, so redeeming credit card points has gotten trickier. That’s part of why I wanted a cash-back card.

    Luckily, Chase has made it easier by introducing the Pay Yourself Back feature that allows you to use your Ultimate Rewards points to essentially “erase” purchases in certain categories until April 30, 2021, with an increased value. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, points are worth 1.25 cents each, and with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, 1.5 cents each, when you redeem for grocery, dining, home improvement store, and eligible charity purchases. 

    I’ve used Pay Yourself Back to save $597 on groceries and food delivery already during months when my spending was higher than normal. I even used this new redemption option to get a Nintendo Switch with credit card points. I’ve also used my Ultimate Rewards points for socially-distant travel by booking rental cars and private vacation homes.

    Other high-value cash back credit cards I considered

    As a traveler who is temporarily opting for cash-back cards, there’s no better option than the Chase Freedom cards. However, there are some other excellent cash-back cards on the market that I considered.

    For example, the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card is packed with value for anyone who spends a lot on food. The 4% cash back on dining and entertainment is about as good as it gets, plus you get another 2% back on groceries. I was tempted but decided I don’t spend enough money on the bonus categories to justify a $95 annual fee.

    I also considered the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card and the Citi® Double Cash Card, which are two of the best cash-back cards with no annual fee. I like that the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card lets you choose your bonus spending category and comes with a generous cash welcome bonus.

    While the Citi® Double Cash Card doesn’t have a welcome offer, it does offer the highest rewards rate of any flat-rate cash back card — 2% on all purchases (1% when you make a purchase and 1% when you pay it off). That being said, even the 1.5% back that I earn with the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is worth more because I can redeem Ultimate Rewards points for a higher value.

    Ultimately, the best credit card for you depends entirely on your spending habits and rewards goals. For me, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® was a clear winner.

    Get the latest Bank of America stock price here.

    Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. What you decide to do with your money is up to you. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team.

    Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team.

    Please note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they’re subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.

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    ‘Tip of the iceberg’: Over 160 cases opened on Capitol rioters, with sedition and conspiracy charges expected

    The Justice Department is looking into “significant felony cases tied to sedition and conspiracy” relating to the assault on the Capitol by pro-Trump rioters.

    Such charges could lead to prison sentences of up to 20 years.

    Steven D’Antuono, assistant director in charge of the FBI‘s Washington DC office, and Michael Sherwin, US Attorney for District of Columbia, said at a press conference that they have received more than 100,000 pieces of digital evidence from the public.

    More than 160 case files have been opened and 70 people have been charged to date. Mr D’Antuono described this as the “tip of the iceberg” and said that he expects the number of investigations and charges to go into the hundreds.

    Tuesday’s press conference was the first that the public has heard from either organisation in the six days since the attack.

    As more information is released about the the storming of Congress, Mr Sherwin said that “people will be shocked by the egregious conduct that happened within the Capitol”.

    “Even if you left DC, agents from our local field offices will be knocking on your door,” warned Mr D’Antuono, saying that the FBI has a long memory, broad reach, and all 56 field offices are involved.

    The bureau is appealing for those involved in the Capitol riots to hand themselves into law enforcement.

    Mr Sherwin added that some prosecutors are looking specifically at acts of violence committed against members of the media last week.

    In addition, investigators “are looking at all angles” according to Mr D’Antuono when asked whether there had been a plan to take lawmakers hostage. 

    Mr Sherwin says the pipe bombs found near the headquarters of the Democratic and Republican national committees “were real devices” with timers and explosive igniters and that he did not know why they were not detonated.

    It is unknown if the devices were a diversion mechanism or placed with the intention to injure people.

    Despite a clear message from Mr Sherwin and Mr D’Antuono about how serious the Justice Department and FBI are taking the investigation, it is unclear why Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen nor FBI director Christopher Wray were present to address the press. 

    Some observers said that their absence risks undermining the message put out by their respective organisations, or signalling that the outgoing administration is not prioritising the investigation.

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    FBI: 160+ Cases Opened From U.S. Capitol Riot Is “Tip Of The Iceberg”

    “We’re looking at significant felony cases tied to sedition and conspiracy charges related to the most heinous acts that occurred in the Capitol.”

    Protesters enter the Senate Chamber on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. | Getty Images

    Protesters enter the Senate Chamber on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. | Getty Images

    Officials from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice gave their first public briefing Tuesday about the deadly pro-Trump riot that left five people dead in Washington, D.C., nearly a week ago.

    Federal law enforcement officials have opened at least 160 cases related to the U.S. Capitol attack on January 6, which FBI Washington Field Office ADIC Steven D’Antuono called “just the top of the iceberg.” Officials expect to open “hundreds” of cases related to the riot and have filed charges in at least 70 so far, according to Acting U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C., Michael Sherwin.

    Officials have collected more than 100,000 pieces of digital media during their investigation; they will also look into attacks against reporters and members of the media who were covering the Capitol siege, Sherwin later said.

    Despite short and evasive statements from the president and White House press secretary following the riot, the U.S. government has not held a formal briefing on the domestic terror attack until Tuesday. The DOJ did put out a statement on January 8 announcing some initial charges and describing the attack as “lawless destruction.”

    The briefing came the same day as news reports suggested that the FBI warned other officials of the threat of violence at the U.S. Capitol a day before the pro-Trump rioters violently broke into the building, forcing members of Congress and their staff to go into hiding.

    D’Antuono said Tuesday that the FBI knew “a number of individuals” were planning to travel to the D.C. area “with the intentions to cause violence” ahead of the attack. He said that the FBI “immediately shared that information, and action was taken,” and pointed to the Metropolitan Police arresting Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio on January 4

    D’Antuono’s statement directly contradicts Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee’s claim one day after the riot that “there was “no intelligence that suggested there would be a breach of the U.S. Capitol.” The attack was discussed and coordinated on social media platforms. 

    Additionally, Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund resigned from his position the day after the riot. Other lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (who called for Sund to resign), swiftly condemned how law enforcement responded.

    Sherwin said Tuesday that law enforcement is looking at crimes including trespassing, theft of mail, theft of digital devices inside the Capitol, theft of national security or defense information, assault on local and federal law enforcement, felony murder, and civil rights excessive force.

    “Just the gamut of cases and criminal conduct we’re looking at is really mind-blowing,” he said. 

    Sherwin added that initial charges that federal officials have filed are likely to be lesser than final charges, saying, “this is only the beginning, not the end.” He pointed to some of those seen in widely shared imagery, including Eric Gavelek Munchel, who was arrested Sunday after he was allegedly seen inside the Senate chamber wearing tactical gear and carrying zip ties, as well as Richard Barnett and Adam Johnson, whom federal officials arrested last week after they broke into Pelosi’s office. Johnson was seen carrying Pelosi’s lectern.  

    “We’re looking at significant felony cases tied to sedition and conspiracy charges related to the most heinous acts that occurred in the Capitol,” he added. Some of those cases, if they result in conviction, could carry sentences of up to 20 years in prison. 

    He continued: “People are going to be shocked with some of the egregious conduct that happened within the Capitol.”

    The Washington Post reported Tuesday, hours before the federal officials’ briefing, that an FBI office in Virginia warned officials that extremists were planning on attacking the Capitol and engaging in “war” with lawmakers. Meanwhile, the FBI has also reportedly issued a warning to all state legislators to brace for potential violence and armed protests at each of their state capitals, as President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration is about one week away.

    Shelby Vaculin & Christina Cocca contributed to this report.

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