Have you ever noticed the somewhat cryptic symbol that often appeared on Walt Disney’s ties?
While some interesting theories have been shared by some over the years, the symbol is actually the logo of the Smoke Tree Ranch private resort community in Palm Springs, California. The design is a combination of the letters S, T, and R.
Walt and Lillian purchased a lot in Smoke Tree Ranch in 1946 and had a home constructed there in 1948. Walt, Lillian and their daughters, by all accounts, loved spending time at their vacation home at the ranch and could be found there on most major holidays. Walt often referred to it as his own “laughing place.” That affinity is evident by the fact Walt regularly wore ties embroidered with the Smoke Tree Ranch logo.
Walt’s warm feelings for his desert getaway would be tested around 1953 when his attention was increasingly focused on building a theme park. In the early days of the project that would become Disneyland, Walt was personally paying the staff salaries and other costs associated with the design and planning. This was a point in time when Roy Disney, the company money man, believed the Walt Disney Company was a movie studio and shouldn’t be involved in an amusement business it knew nothing about. So with Walt personally on the hook for pursuing his dream of Disneyland, he was forced to raise the funding needed to keep his ever-expanding vision on a forward path. Walt borrowed funds against his personal life insurance policies. He maxed out his personal credit lines. He raised some funds from personal friends and studios employees, a group known as the Disneyland Boosters and Backers Club. And, finally, Walt sold the family’s home at Smoke Tree Ranch.
Thankfully for Walt, in spite of the early doubts of his brother Roy and a long list of skeptics, Disneyland turned out to be a hit and a very worthwhile investment. In 1957, a couple years after Disneyland opened, Walt and Lillian bought another house and returned to Smoke Tree Ranch. To memorialize the impact Smoke Tree Ranch had on Walt personally and the small role it had in making Disneyland a reality, legendary Disney sculptor Blaine Gibson included the infamous Smoke Tree Ranch on the Partners statue that can be found in Disneyland and other parks around the world.