The Walt Disney Story
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The Early Years

Walter Elias Disney at 10 months old

Walter Elias Disney was born on December 5, 1901 in a suburb of Chicago. In April of 1906, the Disney family moved to Marceline, IL. to take over a Crane farm. Walt was the youngest of 5 children (Walt, Roy, Ruth, Herb and Ray)

The Disney Home in Marceline, IL

Walt was almost 7 when he was enrolled in school because his father thought it would be better if he waited. His grades were fair because he found things he enjoyed better than school work. Herb and Ray ran away from home.

Hard times hit the farm and the Disney family. Walt's father, Elias, came down with typhoid. They sold the farm and in 1910 moved to Kansas City. Elias Disney bought a distributorship for the morning Times and the Star newspapers. For 6 years Walt and Roy delivered newspapers without being paid for their work.

One summer night in 1912, Roy told Walt he was leaving home too. This placed a tremendous amount of responsibility on Walt for pleasing his tough to please father. Shortly after, Elias Disney decided to sell his newspaper distributor ship and move back to Chicago. Walt was allowed to move in with his older brother, Raymond, in order to finish the school year.

As the school year ended, Ray encouraged Walt to apply for a job as a News Butcher on the railroad. Being the ambitious boy he was, he expanded to selling soda pop, cigars, chewing tobacco, etc.

Elias and Flora Disney, Walt's parents

In 1917, Walt rejoined his family in Chicago and began work at the jelly factory that his father had a financial interest in.

During high school, Walt enrolled in special classes at Chicago's Academy of Fine Arts, where he was afforded an opportunity to sketch live models. Several of his teachers were cartoonists from the Chicago papers and Walt became convinced that his future was in the field of newspaper cartooning.

When Walt was 16 years old, Roy returned home for a military leave before shipping off with the Navy to Europe during World War I. Walt tried to enlist, but was told to come back when he was older. But he wanted to join, so he altered his birth certificate to show the year of his birth as 1900 instead of 1901. Walt joined the Red Cross. By the time he arrived in Europe, the war had ended. There was still much work to do though.

Red Cross Ambulance Corp

While the troops were preparing to return home from Europe, Walt would not sit idle. He used his artistic talent to paint medals on leather jackets for five francs each.