It was 1987 when my husband and I last entered the Magic Kingdom.  Our daughters were seven and ten years old, and somehow we’d been able to take them to Orlando over Christmas Break.  There was security then, but no double bag checks and X-rays.  We also remember that in order to take a picture of Cinderella’s Castle in the dark, we set our SLR camera on the top of a trash can.  In contrast, this year I pulled a smart phone out of my pocket and snapped these shots of the fireworks and light show.



So what else has changed at “The Happiest Place on Earth,” in thirty years?  Prices are higher, to be sure.  You scan your “magic band” to get in instead of presenting a paper ticket.  The customized bracelet also works as a debit card for hotel rooms, restaurants, and fast passes.



There are two more parks to visit now, but we stuck to the main ones: Magic Kingdom and Epcot.  The Muppets have been ensconced on Main Street USA, greeting visitors with a performance about the founding fathers.  Miss Piggy (who else?) represents the royalty from which our new country broke away.  Frontierland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland — all still there, with modifications such as Pixar’s Monsters Inc. “Laugh Floor.”  Peter Pan’s ride, below, is fun as ever, along with the Little Mermaid, Dumbo, Teacups and Space Mountain.  One can still float through “It’s a Small World,” and wind up with the tune in the head for the rest of the day.



At Epcot, time is best balanced among designing cars for the Test Track, navigating a mission to Mars, and taking in other countries’ shop wares and cuisine.  We had a wonderful experience at the Japanese grille, breaking bread (if not chopsticks) with an extended family from Pittsburgh.  And mouse ears of every color were everywhere: sprouting from headbands and caps; with sequins, bows, and fiber optics.  Those wearing them were all ages, all sizes, from just about everywhere, speaking their home languages.



Never changing is the fulfilled vision of Walt Disney.  Disney World is a place where you meet characters you grew up with, dance in your heart to music you’ve always loved; and dream more of what the future can hold.




As the track cooled from the sprints of Usain Bolt, water was mopped up poolside from the immense victories of Michael Phelps, and equipment from which Simone Biles vaulted to fame was taken down, we sat in awe of the dedication and physical ability of modern Olympians.  Athletes keep getting better and better, we say.  Every year they win more individual medals and set new world records..

Legends like Carl Lewis and Jackie Joyner will always be part of the history of the games for those of us who saw them compete.  But in the first half of the Twentieth Century, there lived a versatile athlete who won three Olympic track and field events and dominated several other sports for 20 years afterwards.  As if that were not memorable enough, it was a woman: “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias..


Mildred Didrikson, born in 1911, was nicknamed “Babe” after the famous baseball player while growing up in Texas.  It was appropriate because of the number of home runs she hit in elementary school baseball games.  The sixth of seven children naturally had to compete with older brothers and sisters, but her talent soon set her apart anyway.

She qualified in five events for the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles.  At the time, however, women were limited to participating in three (the same mentality as women’s basketball being played played half court, I suppose).  She won gold medals in the javelin throw and the 80 meter hurdles, and silver in the high jump.  The only reason she didn’t win gold in that one was that her head cleared the bar before the rest of her body.  The rule which prevented her first place finish no longer exists.


Babe married a wrestler, George Zaharias; he became her promoter.  Other sports she competed in were basketball, softball, tennis, diving, bowling, billiards and golf.  Golf did not come easy to her, but she practiced 10 hours a day.  She won 82 amateur and professional golf tournaments and helped start the LPGA.  She won her final tournament while in remission from colon cancer, but died in 1956, at age 45.

“Before I was in my teens,” she said, “I knew exactly what I wanted to be.  I wanted to be the greatest athlete that ever lived.”

“You can’t win them all, but you can try.”  Her words remind us of the times we wished we’d been in the Olympics.  Or a least tried to be.