I am a Disney fan and I don’t care who knows it. My best friend and I used to have the time and money to go to Disney twice a year. Back then, we were annual pass holders. But as we got busier and the economy got tougher we had to let our annual passes go and well, I haven’t been able to get to the Happiest Place on Earth for two years now.
The story of how Disney came to Florida in 1965 is one of intrigue, master spies and secret meetings. Chad Emerson is a law professor at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Ala., where his areas of expertise include law concerning land planning, intellectual property and amusement parks. He’s also the author of Project Future: The Inside Story Behind the Creation of Disney World, published this year.
It’s been 45 years since the Sentinel reported on its front page that a mystery buyer represented by Miami attorney Paul Helliwell had acquired about 9,700 acres from Bronson Inc. in Osceola County. The speculation on who was buying this land produced rampant rumors that the secret buyer would be revealed as Howard Hughes or Boeing aircraft or the Rockefeller family. Even the first legal secretary hired for the mystery company, Julia Switlick, didn’t know who her employer was. Can you imagine being hired for a position and not knowing who your employer is? Almost makes you wish that could happen now, secret meetings with unknown people, travel to foreign countries, oh wait, back to reality.
There were even rumors that the communists were buying the land! Say what? Maybe I would rethink that secret employer thing.
Emerson became absorbed in the story of Disney while he was researching an academic article and realized it had potential for readers outside legal journals. “There are so many secretive and spy-like maneuvers, all legal, but very interesting and intertwined,” he said. There was even a rule at Disney that no one at Disney could talk to anyone in Orlando, period.
I, for one, am a little jealous of Julia Switlick, not only for working at Disney but for being part of the big secret in Florida!
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