About the Column

As, first, the protege of Disney Legend Herb Ryman, then a frequent companion of many other Disney animators and imagineers, and now Ryman's biographer, John Donaldson has much Disney lore to share, and share it he will each week in his unique, lyrical style.

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FROM: Squeak of the Week Published Fridays

Laugh, and the World Laughs with You

John returns from a brief absence with a story about a date palm tree, which once figured in the life of author and poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox, and which now is part of Disneyland's Jungle Cruise. Enjoy John's telling of how it got there.

Gladys Hipes knew something of Anaheim oranges; besides her late husband having been head of the Citrus Society of said city, she had been raised on such a Cerritos Avenue ranch.

She also knew of a particular Canary Island Date Palm, Phoenix canariensis, planted by Spanish settlers some one hundred and fifty years earlier, to where that ranch would wrap. Sure, she had been married under such shaggy shade in 1919; but that tree carried much more importance than anything sentimental.

Especially since it had served the author of poetry and prose, Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

Best known for the lines, "Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone", Ella had made many an Anaheim stay in the late eighteen hundreds; the family of her husband, Robert Marius Wilcox, then owning that parcel with palm.

And to that calm balm, she would lean back at base, tying rhythm and rhyme to imaginative metaphor.

So certainly, Gladys Hipes found it disconcerting to see this tree about to receive the slay of bulldozer blade in excavation for one Disneyland.

"But, Mr. Disney is an understanding man," an on-site engineer consoled. "Why don't you write him about this historical bit?"

And so she did, quickly sticking stamp before stump.

Would it please Walt Disney to heed her tree pleas?

How could he not?

The palm was transplanted to where it still stands, near the Jungle Cruise in Adventureland.

Other than in Warp and Weft, my biography of Herbert Ryman, has this story been truthfully told.

"There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can circumvent, or hinder or control, the firm resolve of a determined soul."

The words of Ella Wheeler Wilcox seem so Walt and Park apropos.

"So many gods, so many creeds, So many paths that wind and wind, While just the art of being kind, Is all the sad world needs."

She really should be remembered with a placed plaque.

John Stanley Donaldson, once the protege of Disney Legend Herb Ryman, is the author of Mr. Ryman's biography, Warp and Weft: Life Canvas of Herbert Ryman, which you can purchase directly from the author's site.


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