On this day in 1910, one of Disneyland’s very first employees and only true residents, Owen Pope, was born in Josephine, Texas.
Pope, along with his wife Dolly, are the only people to ever live at and literally call Disneyland their home. For years, the Pope’s resided at what was known as the Pony Farm where they trained and cared for Disneyland’s horses.
Owen Pope was first hired by Walt Disney in 1951 after Walt attended a show they produced at the Pan Pacific Auditorium. The show was recommended to Walt by Disney Legend Harper Goff, who had been recently hired to work on some very early Disneyland concepts. Walt was thrilled by the horses in the production and, after meeting Pope, hired him to begin acquiring and training horses for his future theme park.
Shortly after being hired, the Pope’s moved into a trailer on the Disney Studio lot. In addition to training horses, Owen also helped design and build the various wagons and coaches for Disneyland. When Disneyland was getting ready to open in 1955, the Pope’s were invited to live at the park. Walt gave the couple their choice of any of the former houses that remained on the former farm land he had acquired. The house picked out by the Pope’s was then moved behind Disneyland, next to the area that would become the Pony Farm (later called Circle D Ranch) and be home to more than 200 animals under their care.
For the next 16 years, the Owen and Dolly remained at Disneyland in their unique role before heading to Florida in 1971 to help with the opening of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. The Pope’s oversaw the development of Tri Circle D Ranch at Fort Wilderness before retiring from Disney in 1975.