Florida Before Disney World: Paisley Florida

Florida Before Disney World: Paisley, Florida

About an hour north of the Magic Kingdom is a cemetery located between Altoona and Paisley in Lake County. The cemetery has an incredible connection to Walt and Roy Disney, and Walt Disney World.

The Ponceannah Cemetery is one of the oldest in Florid and the first burial was in 1860.

But what is the Disney connection to Paisley, Florida?

Disney and Lake County?

On January1, 1888, newly formed Lake County gave out its first official marriage license to Flora Call and Elias Disney. Yes, Walt’s parents met and married in Lake County, less than 70 miles from where their children would plan and build the Vacation Kingdom of the World almost 100 years later.

Flora’s parents (Charles and Henrietta Call) moved from Kansas to the Paisely area of Orange County around 1884. At the time, the future Lake County would be comprised of Orange and Sumter counties. They bought 80 acreas about a mile north of the current area of Paisley. The Calls had five children: Charles, Jr.; Flora; Jessie; Grace Lila; and Julia.

Do you know where this sign is at Walt Disney World?

Kepple Disney and his son Elias (Walt’s father) moved from Kansas and settled in the Paisley area around the same time. From what I’ve read, the Calls and Disneys were neighbors in Kansas and Elias and Flora first met there. Elias took a job as a postman and delivered mail by horseback to over 300 families in the area. One of those families being the Calls and Flora Call continued to catch Elias’ attention.

Flora and Elias were married on January 1, 1888, in a small church in Kismet, Florida. Sadly, Kismet is one of the more than 50 ghost towns of Lake County, and it’s exact location, and the location of the church, are unknown.

What Happened to Kismet?

Image courtesy of Lake County Government

It is not clear why the post offices were discontinued at Ponceannah (1887), Kismet (1890), and Acron (1890). These closings left Paisley with the only active post office in the area.

During these years “Crow’s Burial Grounds” had become ”Ponceannah Cemetery”. The residents of the area formed a Cemetery Association. On November 6, 1891 the Association’s Trustees J.C.Hethcox, G.H. Gardiner, J.J. McEwen, Joshua T. Crow, and R.W. Stokes signed Articles of Incorporation for the Cemetery Association, witnessed by Alfred D. Hancock and
L.J. Owens. At this time Secretary of State J. L. Crawford decided the address of the Cemetery Association should be Paisley.

These actions left Paisley the only settlement in the area with a church, a post office, and a cemetery. There were also a number of sawmills, a gristmill, a cotton gin, a general store and a schoolhouse, all of which contributed to the survival of Paisley, while most of the other small settlements disappeared. (History of Paisley and surrounding area : “The Paisley Precinct” by Paisley Extension Homemakers, 1990, pp. 16-17)

Aunt Jessie and Walt Disney

After Elias and Flora were married, they moved to Daytona Beach where their first son, Herbert, was born in 1888. They would move to Chicago in 1889, where Elias and Flora would build a home on Tripp Avenue. The remaining Disney children would be born in Chicago. Interesting tidbit: Elias Disney worked construction at the Columbian World’s Exposition.

(State Archives of Florida)

The photo of Walt with Aunt Jessie Perkins and cousin Irene Campbell sitting on a porch in Paisley has been passed around and is part of the Florida Memory Collection at the Florida State Archives. To me, based on the caption and the style of the type, it was from an internal Disney communication piece, but I haven’t identified the source. From articles in the Orlando Sentinel and the Daily Commercial, it is stated that Walt would have spent summers in Paisley with Aunt Jessie. There are ruminations that Walt eyed the Paisley area and Lake County as a potential site for the Florida Project, but the lack of major highways would have been a deal-breaker.

Let’s Visit the Ponceannah Cemetery

Visiting the Ponceannah Cemetery offers an interesting piece of Disney history that isn’t discussed often.

As you enter through the gates off of State Road 42, you travel down a dirt road towards a gazebo.

There’s a plaque on the gazebo that discusses Aunt Jessie and her contribution to the cemetery.

In 1923 member Jessie Perkins, Secretary/Treasurer of the Ponceannah Cemetery Association 1927-1946, raised money to have this gazebo built. The present day six-sided structure has served well through the years, as a chapel, meeting place, and a shaded rest area for members on work days.

As you approach the gazebo, which is centrally located in the cemetery, you might spy a familiar color scheme through the distance. As you head deeper into the cemetery, be on the lookout for a very unique grave marker with a red and black structure nearby.

The grave marker looks like a tree stump and there is a red and black bench  for visitors to sit and reflect.

The small stone at the foot of the grave site says FATHER & MOTHER.

The monument is a headstone provided courtesy of the Woodmen of the World Life Assurance Society. The organization was a fraternal order that guaranteed the right of a dignified and marked grave. The Woodmen of the World created a unique marker for every member when they passed. Due to the costs associated, the order stopped providing the free monuments in the 1920s.

The top half has the Masonic Symbol carved on it.

  • Charles Call Born Mar. 22, 1823 Died Jan. 6 1890
  • Henrietta Call Born July, 23, 1837 Died Feb 21, 1910

Aunt Jessie and Walt Disney in Paisley

At the bottom of the monument is a plaque, with the following inscription:

Charles and Henrietta Call were the grandparents of Walt Disney. The Call and Disney family [sic] moved to Florida in 1884 from Kansas. The families settled on land about a mile north of Paisley. Charles and Henrietta’s daughter, Flora married Elias Disney in 1888 and later moved to Chicago where Walt was born in 1900. As a child and adult, Walt was a frequent visitor in Paisley with his Aunt Jesse Call Perkins.

The grave for Aunt Jessie and her husband, Albert Perkins, is in the same plot as Charles and Henrietta. Albert was the postmaster in Paisley until his death, when Jessie took over. Aunt Jessie worked in several schools in Lake County, eventually serving as principal of East High School. Aunt Jessie passed away on March 6, 1956.

Have You Visited The Call Family Gravesite in Paisley, Florida?


For more more fantastic stories about the early days of Walt Disney World, heck out Aaron Goldberg’s AMAZING new book: Buying Disney’s World: The Story of How Florida Swampland Became Walt Disney World

FTC Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

Walt Disney and Trains

Walt Disney and Trains

Do you love Disney trains? Want to learn everything there is to know about Walt Disney and his fascination with railroads? How did Walt’s love of railroads influence Disneyland?

Check out Walt Disney’s Railroad Story: The Small-Scale Fascination That Led to a Full-Scale Kingdom by Michael Broggie to get a fascinating look into Walt’s life and his love of trains.

Walt Disney’s Railroad Story by Michael Broggie Book Review

It’s still hard to imagine Walt’s first trip around Disneyland on his Disneyland Railroad. It must have been an amazing event to be part of. And Michael Broggie was there to tell the story.

Have you ever had the chance to visit Walt’s Barn in Griffith Park?

Check out these posts on the Walt Disney World Railroad.

What’s your favorite Disney train?


FTC Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

Disney: The First 100 Years Book Review

Disney: The First 100 Years by Dave Smith

Interested in learning about the life of Walt Disney and the history of The Disney Company? Dave Smith’s book is a great introduction to the first 100 years (starting in 1901) of Walt and the Disney Company. The book covers his life, animation, live-action films, theme parks and o many other projects.

Disney: The First 100 Years Video Review

Looking for other books about Walt Disney?


FTC Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

The First Disney Artist Display at EPCOT

The First Disney Artist Display at Epcot

The Art of Disney Gallery at Epcot recently moved to the former Heritage Manor Gift Shop in the American Adventure Pavilion. The Heritage Manor space is much smaller than the former Art of Disney Gallery. During my visit, most of the art on display were canvasses and prints and not as many collectibles.

In one corner you see a display entitled The First Disney Artist. It’s near an animation desk in which a Disney artists sits throughout the day and creates art, presumably for sale.

The First Disney Artist

Presented in a bookcase, there is a display of photos of Walt Disney in his pre-Disney Brothers Studios days. There are images from his World War I service and his time in Kansas City. There are also items and paraphernalia representing Walt’s early days in cartoons and animation.

Walt Disney’s Service Days

While working for the Red Cross during WWI, Walt was a driver for the American Ambulance Corps. In his free time, he drew caricatures of fellow soldiers and whimsical cartoons of the people and places he saw oversees.

The letter behind the jars of ink was sent by Walt to his school in April of 1919. It includes various caricatures of doughboys and world leaders.

Walt’s First Art Venture

After Walt returned home from the war, he began working at a small ad agency in Kansas City, Missouri,, where he illustrated advertisements and drew fun cartoons for local businesses. It was here that he fell in love with a new at form known as animation. Before long, he branched off to start his own animation studio named Laugh-O-Grams Films.

There’s also a mock-up of a poster for Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in Ocean Hop. The studio artists would have created this bill as an advertisement, usually for a movie house display or poster.

Laugh-O-Grams 1921

Part of the display is a series of film canisters featuring Laugh-O-Gram films:

  • Cinderella 1922
  • Alice in Wonderland 1923 (should be Alice’s Wonderland–Walt used it to get a distribution deal with Margaret Winkler)
  • Tommy Tucker’s Tooth 1922 (commissioned by Kansas City Dentist Thomas B. McCrum)
  • Jack and the Beanstalk 1922
  • Goldie Locks and the Three Bears 1922
  • Martha 1923 (presumed lost and no prints are known to exist)

It’s not a complete listing of the eleven shorts created by the Laugh-O-Grams Studio.

As expected, what caught my eye was the series of books on the bottom shelf. Two of them should be very familiar to readers of ImagiNERDing.

Both of these amazing books focus on Walt’s career before moving to Los Angeles and opening the Disney Brothers Studio with his brother Roy.

The other books feature Gedeon by Benjamin Rabier, a French illustrator, animator and comic book artist that was well known for animal adventures. He might have been an inspiration for some of the Alice comedies and other animal antics-styles films. There’s a copy of Pinocchio and several titles about drawing and technology.

What Do You Think About This Display Featuring Walt’s First Art Ventures?

In Service of the Red Cross: Walt Disney’s Early Adventures

In Service of the Red Cross: Walt Disney’s Early Adventures by David Lesjack

What could be so fascinating about Walt’s time in France serving in the Red Cross?

I started reading about Walt Disney and the Disney Company more than 25 years ago. I never imagined that a book covering two years of Walt’s life would be so intriguing.

David Lesjack is a renowned Disney historian who focuses on the early years of Walt’s life, with a specific interest in the World War I and World War II years. Lesjack has written two other titles that look at the Disney Studios and their contribution to the war effort during World War II. In Service of the Red Cross is a 2015 release and was on my To Read list for a few years.

Why Should I Care About Walt Disney in 1918 and 1919?

People talk about formative years, especially in someone who has been cultural touchstone; with a person as influential and revered as Walt Disney, you’re going to have researchers, biographers and critics looking for anything that will help shed light on Walt. Biographers always point to Walt’s time in Marceline and Kansas City with being the most influential periods of his life.

Lesjack is an intrepid researcher with a deep knowledge of Disney history. When you try to piece Walt’s life together to understand where his creative genius came from, you have to look at his whole life. With scant mention of what Walt Disney during World War I, you wonder how that experienced changed the young adult Walt Disney. As we all know, after the war, Walt pursued animation and filmmaking, where most of the biographies focus.

Lesjack takes us back in time to see Walt at three different periods of his life that define the man that helped define modern film and outdoor entertainment. We also get the rare treat of learning about Walt’s friendship with Alice Howell, an educator who ran a commissary during World War I. She was known as the Doughnut Queen and fostered a lifelong relationship with Walt. In Lesjack’s book, Alice plays the friend and fan of Walt Disney, as many of us wish we could have. We get to experience a time in Walt’s life, from Alice’s perspective, that shows Walt quickly become a revered name across the globe.

Image courtesy of Phil Sears

In Service of the Cross shares Walt’s desire to be part of something larger. We also learn about his need to make the world a better place. Lesjack sprinkles quotes from letters sent to and from Walt throughout the book. There are also several never-before-published photos that have been collected and curated by Paul Sears and Eric Queen.

Why Should I Read In Service of the Cross?

The book is more than just a glimpse into Walt’s life during the war. Lesjack shares information about the current events of the time and how they related to Walt. This gives the reader a deeper insight into the popular culture of the time. We also get a glimpse of Walt as a person and not a studio head. We follow along Walt’s journey to being a Red Cross driver in France and all of the other duties that enabled, including a court martial!

Lesjack leaves us with a decent look at Walt’s life during the World War I years that foreshadow his choices later in life. The insight provided tells us about Walt’s thoughts before, during and after the war. In a few cases, Walt shows a preternatural positivity that would last throughout his life, even against hardships and loss.

What Other Disney Biographies Should I Read?

My two favorite Walt biographies are The Animated Man by Michael Barrier and Walt Disney: An American Original by Bob Thomas. Both books are well-researched and provide a different look at Walt Disney.

You can also check out my bibliography of Walt biographies!

What’s Your Favorite Walt Disney Biography?


FTC Disclosure: In some cases, a copy might have been provided by the company for the purpose of this review. This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

2019 Top Disney and Amusement Park Books!

2019 Top Disney and Amusement Park Books!

Looking for a great Disney book recommendation? Check out my video to see what my favorite Disney and amusement park books were for 2019.

There were so many published in 2019, but this is the first year that so many books blew my mind!

Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube Channel for more videos on Disney history, Universal Studios, theme park books and more!

As I mentioned in the video, I read 23 books related to Disney and themed entertainment in 2019. I’ve listed my seven favorite and one that garnered a special mention.

What do you think about these recommenced reads?


Have you read any of them? There are books on Disney theme parks, the history of amusement parks, Disney animation, Walt and Roy Disney, the Disney Studios, Marc Davis and more!

Check out my other book reviews!


FTC Disclosure: In some cases, a copy might have been provided by the company for the purpose of this review. This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

I Am Walt Disney by Brad Meltzer

I Am Walt Disney by Brad Meltzer

“Who is that old man holding Mickey Mouse’s hand in front of the castle?”

How many times have you had to answer that question on family trips to Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom about the Partners Statue?

Are you looking for a way to introduce Walt Disney to a child in your life? Or better yet: your kids don’t believe that Walt Disney was a real person!

Have I got a book for you!

Check out my video preview of a new book called I Am Walt Disney by Brad Meltzer:

I received a review request for I Am Walt Disney, which is part of a larger I Am… series by Brad Meltzer. The book series consists of more than 30 titles about people that changed and shaped our world.

This Walt Disney children’s biography is full of extremely charming illustrations by Christopher Eliopoulos. Throughout the book, Walt is portrayed as a child-like adult, but with a larger-than-average-sized head, like a cartoon character. There were obvious tributes to Calvin and Hobbes throughout the illustrations, adding immeasurable playfulness to the book. Brad did a great job of condensing Walt’s life to the bare necessities and shares highlights that will lead young readers to want to learn more about Walt.

I Am Walt Disney is a great title for an elementary-aged child and a great book to read to younger children!

Check out the other books about Walt Disney:



Special thanks to Wes B.,  Aaron R. and Nicole S. for supporting me on Patreon.


FTC Disclosure: A copy was provided by the company for the purpose of this review. This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

Meet the Disney Brothers by Aaron H. Goldberg

Meet the Disney Brothers by Aaron H. Goldberg, a book review

Are you looking for a great biography of Walt and Roy Disney?

Aaron Goldberg, author of The Disney Story and The Wonders of Walt Disney World, just published a new biography, called Meet the Disney Brothers, focusing on the relationship between the Disney brothers. Aaron sent me a review copy and I was surprised and excited to see that Aaron wrote the book for a younger audience. I field a lot of questions about biographies about Walt and I recommend the Bob Thomas and Michael Barrier books. Bob Thomas also wrote a wonderful biography of Roy Disney. Beyond that, there aren’t many books that offer a straightforward look at either Disney brother, let alone their relationship.

Meet the Disney Brothers

The book is a slim work, coming in at 89 pages, including a bibliography. It is a children’s biography, but adults that want a quick and authoritative look at Walt and Roy will enjoy the book. There are twelve chapters and a few extras that make the balance of the title.

Table of contents for Meet the Disney Brothers by Aaron H. Goldberg

As expected, Aaron hits the highlights of Walt’s life as Walt works through hardships and setbacks to create one of the most revered entertainment companies in the world. Throughout the biography, Aaron explores the relationship between Walt and Roy through their interactions and projects. Aaron takes care to not focus on myths and urban legends; he pulls information from authoritative sources.

This title is a great read for young students that want to learn more about Walt Disney. OR for adults that are looking for a quick refresher on the subject.

I would be remiss if I forgot to mention the contributions of illustrator extraordinaire, Rob Yeo. Rob is a Disney fan who has created artwork for other Disney-related titles (like the Wonders of Walt Disney World) and he brings a special spin to each work. With Meet the Disney Brothers, Rob designed the cover and the multitude of illustrations throughout the book. Like thumbnail sketches, Rob’s illustrations are like Disney story board artists signatures drawings. Bringing the story of Walt and Roy to life are over 80 small sketches.

An illustration by Rob Yeo of Walt Disney sitting on the bench watching his daughters ride the merry-go-round at Griffith Park

Should I Buy this Book about Walt and Roy?

If you’re a fan of Walt Disney and want to learn more about his life without reading a 400 page book, then, yes. Aaron offers a quick read that hits all of the highlights of the Disney brothers in an accessible format. I highly recommend this book for younger fans that are enamored with the park and want to learn more about the guys in the statues at the Magic Kingdom. This is a great book for public libraries and school media centers.

So, grab a copy and learn more about the trials and tribulations of the Disney brothers!


Special thanks to Wes B.,  Aaron R. and Nicole S. for supporting me on Patreon.

Check out the ImagiNERDing Patreon page to be part of the ImagiNERD community. Get special updates, behind-the-scenes information and more!


FTC Disclosure: A copy was provided by the company for the purpose of this review. This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

Eat Like Walt Book Preview!

Eat Like Walt Book Preview

Eat Like Walt: The Wonderful World of Disney Food by Marty Carriker Smothers was released in 2017. I knew about the release but didn’t pick up a copy until recently. Most people know the story of Walt’s chili and his preference for more mundane foods. So I wondered how Disney Editions was going to discuss Walt Disney and food while relating it to the ever popular dining at the theme parks.

Eat Like Walt Video

Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube Channel for more videos on Disney parks, Universal, theme park books and more!

What do you think about this book about Eating Like Walt? Are you going to pick up a copy?


Check out the ImagiNERDing Patreon page to be part of the ImagiNERD community. Get special updates, behind-the-scenes information and more!

Join me on Patreon!

Special thanks to Wes B.,  Aaron R. and Nicole S. for supporting me on Patreon. https://www.patreon.com/imaginerding

Check out the ImagiNERDing Patreon page to be part of the ImagiNERD community. Get special updates, behind-the-scenes information and more!

Travels With Walt Disney Book Review

Travels With Walt Disney Book Review

Travels With Walt Disney: A Photographic Voyage Around the World by Jeff Kurtti is that rare book that offers new insight as well as new images of Walt Disney. In today’s over saturation of media, that’s a pretty impressive feat. Kurtti’s new book is going to quickly become a fan favorite by offering such an intimate look at Walt Disney and his travels around the globe.

Taking  look at the table of contents for the book shows that Kurtti takes broad look at Walt’s life and career, starting with his first travels and ending with people that traveled to Walt’s Magic Kingdoms. The design of the book is pretty fantastic. The table of contents is presented as an itinerary on company letterhead. Throughout the book are special details that refer directly to the company during Walt’s life.

The book serves two purposes: a loving photographic look at Walt’s  travels and historical insight into the man and his work. Most fans will walk away in awe of everywhere that Walt traveled and who he took on trips with him. Even extended business trips were taken his his wife, daughters and family friends. Imagine being a girlhood friend of Sharon or Diana and going to Europe with Walt Disney!

I will admit that there were many photos that I had simply never seen before, especially candid shots of Walt and his family in Europe. Throughout the book are illustrations by Chris Kawagiwa that help tell Walt’s life stories. For instance, there are illustrations of Walt’s arrival in Hollywood and other times/places when photos weren’t available. It’s a small touch, but really adds to the charm of the book and helps relate to Walt’s beginnings as an illustrator.

Travels With Walt is more than just a photograph book. Kurtti has curated a collection of photos which he’s illustrated with text that helps define why the photos are important. There’s also an index (yay!), notes (double yay!) and a bibliography (triple yay!). I’ve mentioned this before in reviews, but having notes and a bibliography is crucial for a work of this caliber. He’s left a trail of his research for future historians and writers.

Even the hardcover of the book has a charming mid-century design!

Kurtti manages to relate a lot of Walt’s life through the book, including some unexpected travels, like Smoke Tree Ranch and his honeymoon. We also get to go along with Walt and Ward Kimball as they visit the Chicago Railroad Fair, an obvious influence on everything Walt would later do. It’s an impressive amount of text, photos and information in 150 pages. Kudos to Jeff for creating a work that’s going to resonate with so many people.

Travels With Walt Disney is a wonderful and heartfelt look at Walt’s life and work through his travel with family, friends and co-workers. Fans are going to devour this book and cherish every page. Kurtti shares a level of intimacy with the Disney family that we haven’t seen anywhere else.

Travels With Walt Disney Sneak Peek Video

Title: Travels With Walt Disney: a Photographic Journey Around the World
Author: Jeff Kurtti
ISBN: 978-148473768-2
Release Date: April 3, 2018

FTC Disclosure: A copy was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review. This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!