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Bringing Home a Pair of Mouse Ears

Jul 10, 2013

by Lisa Butterworth handmade and vintage goods

I grew up in Southern California, in a small suburb outside of LA. My family never took any grand vacations when I was young, but every year (since before I was even old enough to remember) my parents would load me and my little brother into the car and we’d drive 45 minutes to Anaheim, home of Disneyland. The theme park’s tagline is the Happiest Place on Earth. And you know what? As far as I’m concerned, that’s not too far from the truth.

I remember lying in bed the night before our annual trip, unable to sleep from the impending thrill, kicking my little legs under the bed sheets and clenching my fists out of sheer excitement. Walking around Fantasyland, with its colors and lights and characters brought to life, felt just like that: a fantasy. The taste of an ice cream cone from the Carnation Cafe on Main Street was pure heaven. And I can still hear the chug of the embroidery machine as it stitched my name on a pair of Mickey Mouse ears.

I’m certainly not the only one. If the mouse ears sold annually were laid out end to end, they would stretch over 175 miles; more than 80 million ears have been sold since the park opened in 1955. And that’s just one element of Disneyland’s world of souvenirs. You can also nab postcards, keychains, T-shirts, mugs, pins, and Christmas ornaments. Pretty much any darn thing your heart desires is available for purchase somewhere in Disneyland.

You’d think, being the “adult” I am now, that the magic of Disneyland wouldn’t hold up; I’m old enough to see the wig cap on “real-life” Ariel, Pirates of the Caribbean’s underwater track, the abundance of plastic souvenirs and the commerce behind it all. Walt was a businessman, first and foremost. Every Disneyland milestone or event has associated collectibles and Disneyland attractions aren’t so much rides as they are potential merchandising empires. And yet, when I see the Matterhorn, the park’s Alps-shaped roller coaster, looming over the Orange Country sprawl from the 5 freeway, my stomach tickles with excitement. And somehow, my initial sense of Disneyland wonder will be forever encapsulated in the charm bracelet my mom passed on to me from her own childhood trip to the park.

It’s this inextricable link between the experience and the souvenir that make Disneyland collectibles feel so intimate. Tangible pieces of ephemera can take you back through the park’s ever-changing history—like the booklet of E-tickets that acted as ride entries when the park first opened, or photos of ’60s-era Tomorrowland featuring the epitome of retro futurism: the white, aerodynamic, Monsanto-sponsored (!) House of the Future.



The handle of a souvenir Disneyland spoon from the 1980s.

But what’s even better is that for collectors, souvenirs take you back through your own history as well. Last year during the holidays, after a nearly two-decade hiatus, my family took that annual trip to Disneyland, which felt like a retro future experience in and of itself. I marked the occasion with my iPhone, instantly uploading the moment to Instagram, as we do now: a photo of me and my brother during the drop on Splash Mountain — hair flying, arms akimbo — and pure, unadulterated joy on our faces. But I also marked it tangibly: the pressed penny I got at the arcade on Main Street that night sits in my wallet — a little bit of magic amidst my money.

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What’s your favorite childhood souvenir?

1 Featured Comment

  • agebo

    Ann Cosgrove from acbcDesign said 7 years ago Featured

    I remember the excitement around Disneyland trips! My favorite momento from my first trip wasn't a pair of ears, but rather a Robin Hood had with a HUGE white feather. Not sure if I loved the hat or the feather better!


  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie said 7 years ago

    I love Disneyland too! I have lots of great memories from family vacations there. We are actually going for a week and leaving this Monday. I can't wait for the looks on my children's faces! Super excited to start creating memories for them from Disney!

  • FluffyFlowers

    FluffyFlowers from FluffyFlowers said 7 years ago

    I grew up a stone's throw away from Walt Disney World and know exactly what you mean. I treasure small tokens from my past :)

  • jessgreenleaf

    Jess Greenleaf from GREENLEAFblueberry said 7 years ago

    I stopped sucking my thumb for Mickey Mouse. True story.

  • admspeicher

    Adam Speicher from SpeicherBowTieCo said 7 years ago

    Disneyland! The Best!

  • nativestrandsjewelry

    Rachel from PeppersJewelry said 7 years ago

    This was a fun read. Thanks!

  • amberike

    Amber Ikemoto from FromtheHeartbyAmber said 7 years ago

    Great memories as a kid and now with my own kids!

  • NicolasKnitKnacks

    Nicola and Jessica Belton from CelticKnittingCo said 7 years ago

    I have not been to Disney Land yet but hope to in the future. But the memories I have of all the Disney characters will stay with me forever!

  • inspiringanchors

    Megan Braswell from inspiringanchors said 7 years ago

    Awesome story! I've never been but I know the magic you are talking about feeling as a a child. It is the best and even better when you can get close to that feeling again as an adult. I think it is usually done through our children now.

  • mattyhandmadecrafts

    Matejka Max from NattyMatty said 7 years ago


  • mclaughlinnautical

    Marsi McLaughlin from McLaughlinNautical said 7 years ago

    I love this feature! The Electric Light Parade that was the coolest thing I'd ever seen. I still have my "It's a Small World" LP and Electric Light Parade 45!

  • LaLindaArtStudio

    Linda from LaLindaArtStudio said 7 years ago

    I love this post. I grew up 30 min. from Disneyland, and I still live close enough to hear the fireworks every night. The best memento is the hat for sure. I lost my first one when I was 10 years old on the Pirates of the Carribean ride. I just got a new pair of Mickey Christmas ears last year : )

  • laramored

    Anemone from AnemoneReadsVintage said 7 years ago

    Living on the west coast, I too have many memories of trips to Disneyland!

  • SusanFaye

    Susan Faye from SusanFayePetProjects said 7 years ago

    I too can relate! Disneyland and I were born in the same year, and I too grew up just 30 miles away. Where else could you be seven and go on a submarine ride and drive a car and ride a pirate ship and fly with Dumbo all in the same day? Truly a magical place ! We both have a few wrinkles, but have held up over the years I'd say...

  • lovelygifts

    Linda from lovelygifts said 7 years ago

    Love Disney!

  • SpareBedroomStudio

    SpareBedroomStudio from SpareBedroomStudio said 7 years ago

    I used to work for Disney. I worked in character entertainment in Walt Disney World (all 4 parks). Needless to say, it's home away from home!! :D ...although I'm ashamed to admit that I still have not made it to Disneyland. Someday. Soon. Very soon! ;)

  • agebo

    Ann Cosgrove from acbcDesign said 7 years ago Featured

    I remember the excitement around Disneyland trips! My favorite momento from my first trip wasn't a pair of ears, but rather a Robin Hood had with a HUGE white feather. Not sure if I loved the hat or the feather better!

  • H88255

    H88255 from HillarysSuperfoods said 7 years ago

    I love Disney!!! I want to be Pocahontas!!!

  • KaiyasCloset

    Jessica Meyer from KaiyasRoom said 7 years ago

    Awww, good story :) I can only say I've been to Disney World, but I can recall having the same excited, thrilling feelings as you had while anticipating your vacation. Those were the days!

  • VintageMarketPlace

    VintageMarketPlace from VintageMarketPlace said 7 years ago

    my vacations were spent at Disney World so many memories of it but now that I live on the west coast we experienced disneyland thru the eyes of my child for the first time this year and it was a life changing moment

  • OhMafelt

    Sorcha from OhMafelt said 7 years ago

    heynow Lisa, the Matterhorn has been refurbished! I know, but it is so much smoother, faster and hey thats progress!!

  • ArleenDesign

    ArleenDesign from ArleenDesign said 7 years ago

    I love Mickey as well as Minnie!Hopefully i can see them soon in person with my eagerly excited kiddos!

  • ebkriley

    EBK Riley from DeeAndFee said 7 years ago

    I also grew up close to Disneyland, with a Dad who was a native of Los Angeles, and certain that there was no better place to be than Southern California! I think he started the "stay-cation" trend about a quarter of a century ahead of its time! It was fun though, to go there and Knott's Berry Farm, et al. Can't wait to be able to take my youngest kids!

  • DarburyCottage

    Rosemary Wascher from DarburyCottage said 7 years ago

    Never got to go, but love the mouse.

  • artbywinona

    Winona Johnson from ArtByWinona said 7 years ago

    I have some of those ears with my name on it! Only with a purple bow from about 1984.

  • LittleGussy

    Kasia B from ShesGUtSSY said 7 years ago

    It's still a place I have to visit... But Disney has a special place in my heart and my childhood memories. I loved every little snippet of it; shows, magazines, the princess movies. I love the original cartoons though not the new computerised, censored ones my poor kids watch.... Disney i heart you so much that, I even taught myself how to draw a lot of the main characters in hope that one day I can work at Disney! Ah! Disney! So many memories!

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage from accentonvintage said 7 years ago

    Great memories!

  • Sparkleandswirl

    Hillary from Sparkleandswirl said 7 years ago

    Nice finds. My friend just came home with the bridal ears and I imagine they'll help her remember some great memories!

  • zwzzy

    zwzzy from zwzzy said 7 years ago

    Huge Disneyland nerd here. Loved this! xo.

  • richdon1

    Rich and Dona from TheCottageMouse said 7 years ago

    I was always fascinated by Disney being an artist myself. I have vintage Disney books dating back to the 60's. yet, I have never been to Disney land. Will one day I hope. Great read

  • StillVintage

    StillVintage from StillVintage said 7 years ago

    Mickey is always one of my favorites. And visiting Mickey at his home in Disneyland is always a treat!

  • ManicManx

    Kristi from ManicManx said 7 years ago

    Nice article. It was an E ticket ride.

  • LoveOfTheBoardPHOTOG

    M Daniels said 7 years ago

    Oh my goodness, this particular blog evokes a plethera memories! Having moved to CA from Canada, we made so many trips there, taking friends and relatives. I still have my Minnie Mouse hat from the 60's! I believe it had a foam, pink bow, which is now deteriorating. I recently came across some of the old "ABCDE" ticket books. I remember our senior trip in 1977, riding the rockets in Tomorrow-land, wind in my long hair, enjoying listening to the rock band below.. Came home with a stuffed Mickey Mouse, I still have from that visit. Lived in Redondo Beach and then Camarillo back then. Really miss the beach as well! Thanks for taking me back to such a great time in my life and America...Special times :)

  • WhisperingOak

    Quality Handmade Items from WhisperingOak said 7 years ago

    Great postcards from Disneyland

  • worksofwhimsy

    worksofwhimsy from worksofwhimsy said 7 years ago

    I worked at Disneyland in college during the 80s. I still have a few cast member mementos from my time in the park, including my name badge. Hmmm...maybe I should list them.

  • PinesVintageClothing

    Pine from GoodOldVintageOnline said 7 years ago

    Luvin some vintage Disney these days! Scored a sweet Daisy Duck muscle shirt at Salvation Army that has been my favorite summer shirt this year even though people think I'm 12 when I wear it. Still have my mickey ears from our family trip in 1987 with my name embroidered on the back in gold thread...I should start wearing them to work ;)

  • HelloKnitty

    HelloKnitty from HelloKnitty said 7 years ago

    I guess Etsy is no longer worried about copyright infringements

  • awesomeminis

    Gladys from AwesomeMinis said 7 years ago

    I still remember my first trip to Disney World in 1976... we travelled from Puerto Rico. Now I've been living in the Orlando area for 14 years and I still get the chills when I hear the music from the Electric Parade. My best memory now is seeing my 2 yo son hug Mickey for the very first time last year. It was priceless to see his big smile. It is always a magical day at Disney! Thanks for sharing your story.

  • ChellaCreates

    Chella from ChadesAccessories said 7 years ago

    I'm from the East Coast, so I have never visited Disneyland, unfortunately. But to those who do go, they experience that exact sense of magic you reiterated in your post. When I look through websites dedicated to past Disneyland, I love looking at the old souvenirs. They truly take you back to a different time. As much as I love Disney World, I hope to make it to Disneyland someday. Thank you for a beatiful post.

  • NirvanaRoad

    Lisa from NirvanaRoad said 7 years ago

    What a fabulous trip down memory lane! We lived in Nor Cal and my parents would treat us to Disney Land every summer. I loved it!


    VINTAGE NOW from ESTATENOW said 7 years ago

    I have great memories in both Disneyland and Disney World, thanks for sharing...

  • recycledwares

    Nerrissa W from RecycledWares said 7 years ago

    Thanks for bringing back wonderful childhood memories.

  • patspottery

    Pat Parker from PatsPottery said 7 years ago

    We have been to Disneyland more times then I can count, and my DH keeps wanting to go again and again, even though we are now in our late 60's with no grandchildren. He is still a kid at heart:>)

  • mettaville

    Guatyen Koh from Mettaville said 7 years ago

    In my wish list - to go to DIsneyland, I grew up watching M.I.C.K.E.Y... M.O.U.S.E. Love!

  • JensRecycledCloset

    Jennifer from DistilledVintage said 7 years ago

    I <3 this article!!!!

  • WendysJoy

    Wendy Garrigues Jenkins from WendysJoy said 7 years ago

    We just got back from Disneyland, and the ears are our favorite souvenirs! I cannot get over how totally lovely everyone treats you while you are there. It made us so happy.

  • kjtgp1

    Amanda from kjtgp1 said 7 years ago

    This is such a wonderful article! I've never been to Disneyland but I hope to go one day. But I can say that all my memories and souvenirs from my trips to Disney World in Florida always bring back great memories!

  • PattieJansen

    Pattie Jansen from PattieJansen said 7 years ago

    My dad took us kids to Disneyland when it first opened...1955? (I think)... We drove over from Pasadena. I remember I was all dressed up in my best Sunday dress with my Mary Jane's. It was pure magic, the whole day. And i got my Mickey Mouse ears, except I wanted the one with the bow but they had run out, so I settled for the "boy" ears. Ever after that, my brother and I wore those ears while watching Mickey Mouse Club on TV.... totally blissed out on Disney! Thanks for jogging some long-buried memories, Lisa... great article!!

  • HelloShoes

    HelloShoes from HelloShoes said 7 years ago

    We also just went to Disney's California Adventure. It is always worth every penny..

  • GeorgieGirlLLC

    D George from GeorgieGirlLLC said 7 years ago

    Love Disney Land and Universal Studios. Epcot is my favorite! Thanks for bringing the memories back!

  • catherinemaria

    Catherine Maria Charalambous from BouncyTree said 7 years ago

    The disney gang will outlive us all! Would LOVE LOVE LOVE to go

  • FancifulRelics

    Michelle and Marguerite from OffbeatAvenue said 7 years ago

    I couldn't agree more!! My memories are of Disney World, and even as I near the half century mark, I cannot wait to go back in Oct. Thanks for the great post and the wonderful finds!

  • cberez

    CB DESIGN'S from CBDesignsPR said 7 years ago

    what a great theme!!!!!

  • EdelweissPost

    Patrick from EdelweissPost said 7 years ago

    'And never loose sight of one thing... It all started with a mouse.' ~ Walt Disney


    Kerime Sevilen Mustafaoglu from ASHYL said 7 years ago

    Looks fun.

  • DreamerNoni

    Noni from ThisnThatCuriosity said 7 years ago

    We turned our lives upside down and relocated to FL several years ago so we could be closer to Disney. I go several times a week but my first Disney memories are of Disneyland with my grandparents. There is nothing else in the world to compare with the magic that awaits you when you pass through those gates. "To all who come to this happy place; Welcome!" ~ Walt

  • ethelus

    Carly from EthelusVintage said 7 years ago

    Love this article! It brings up so many of my own childhood memories! Thank you for including my vintage Disneyland publicity glossy!

  • piccadillypastimes

    Ginger and Tim from PiccadillyPastimes said 7 years ago

    Love this article! Brings back great memories. Wonderful vintage Disney finds!

  • Parachute425

    Terry from Parachute425 said 7 years ago

    My aunt purchased two production cells during her visit to Disneyland in the 60s and gave them to me. I think one was from Lady and the Tramp and one was from Sleeping Beauty. They were discarded with all my other childhood books and games and such. Sure wish I still had them.

  • ThreeBarDGifts

    Monica from ThreeBarDGifts said 7 years ago

    Enjoyed reading this article. Although I've never been, it sounds like a wonderful place to see! My girls are all college age now, but Disney movies are still their favorites!

  • LetterKay

    Kayla from LetterKay said 7 years ago

    Wonderful idea!

  • bedouin

    Nicole from Crackerjackarma said 7 years ago

    Growing up in Southern California in the 1960s Disneyland was a summer staple ~ I loved the glass shop Ruggles China and Gift Shop on Main street. Terrific vintage finds ~ Fun feature!

  • wornwires

    Ashlee Moore from WornWiresJewelry said 7 years ago

    Wow, this post really brought me back to my childhood. I also grew up in Southern California, and your descriptions of your "yearly trip to disneyland" really hit home. Oh, the childhood squirms of anticipation!

  • aressa

    aressa from OriginalBridalHanger said 7 years ago

    Love Mickey! I had a necklace with a glass head of Mickey which I bought on vacation from Disney World...Of course I was a little kid...While still on vacation the necklace fell off and broke...I was heart broken and cried and cried.....Unfortunately, I never was able to get a replacement.....My mom asked someone who was going to make a trip there to see if they could get me a new one...What they brought home was not even close... Oh well...Good memories!

  • clsummerbear

    Crystal Bear from CrystalsIngenuity said 7 years ago

    It had been 7 years since I had been to Disneyland as of March 2013. Not sure why I didn't make it down there sooner as it's only a 7 hour drive for me, but for my 30 birthday, I decided it was time to unearth the little girl inside and take a trip to the "Happiest Place on Earth"! It was, so far, one of my best birthday's ever!

  • WiseLines

    Connie Caldwell from WiseLines said 7 years ago

    One of my alltime favorite photos is of Pluto and me, taken at WD World during a spring break in college. We made such a cute couple!

  • pugh33

    Cathy Pugh from CherieCoquette said 7 years ago

    A few years ago we took our three children to Disney World. Being from Ontario, Canada Disney World is closer for us, The most memorable part of the trip was walking behind my children with my husband and watching them actually skip down main street! Thanks for bringing back that amazing feeling.

  • SHM2013

    Silvia from MarinaBosettiDesigns said 7 years ago

    Even as an adult these parks are such an adventure!!

  • teamriggi

    Gina Riggins from allforLOVEbyGina said 7 years ago

    as a Disney-CA girl, this was a great read :)

  • selkielassie

    Jennie from SelkieMum said 7 years ago

    I still have some of the Tinkerbell cosmetics I got when I was five. It's sounds gross, but the smell of that powder takes me right back to our trip to Disney and I remember everything about it.

  • VintageStarrBeads

    VintageStarrBeads from VintageStarrBeads said 7 years ago

    one of the first things I sold here on Etsy were my mouse ears! I remember watching Annette Funicello on T.V. and singing M-I-C-K-E-Y-M-O-U-S-E wearing my ears, of course!!!! -rachelle

  • michele325

    Michele from MichelesAManoDesigns said 7 years ago

    I will never forget the first and only time I've ever been to Disney...6 or 7 years old (about 34 years ago!!) on a boat ride with my brother and Nonna... Going through the "It's a Small World" ride I guess you would call it and all of a sudden....this mechanical something or other grabbed (probably really knocked off, but in my mind - GRABBED) my mickey mouse ears hat. I was SOOOOO upset, crying, scared...Don't really remember if I got it back, but I do remember that moment!!! I wanted SOOO badly to have my mickey ears!!!

  • mouserrano

    Lisa Serrano Diaz from PrincessMouseyCards said 7 years ago

    I loved our vacation & trip to Disneyland! I will never forget Minnie's House, all the beautiful Princesses and my monogrammed Mouse Ears will always be treasured!

  • Pixie2428

    Doris C. from SewBeautifulbyDC said 7 years ago

    Everyone loves Disney ! We all have great memories from Disney vacations. These are great finds.

  • rnaryn

    Mary Nguyen from FoxandWit said 7 years ago

    I lived only an hour and a half from Orlando so I went to Disney world quite a bit, It really is fantastic and a happy place to be.

  • Fimigal

    Voneen Pryce from Woolby said 7 years ago

    Awesome. Thanks for sharing!

  • doubleRstudio

    Paulina Rakowska from RakusiaCreations said 7 years ago

    amazing I love Disney ;D

  • topvistama

    topvistama from KleponDesign said 7 years ago

    I love Disney. Bringing back memories... Thank you for sharing.

  • candyloves

    Candace Love from GlassCandyStudio said 7 years ago

    I was born the same year Disneyland opened and my parents took me as an infant in 1955. I have been many times since and LOVE Disneyland like a brother or sister!? I introduced my Canadian husband of almost 40 years to Disneyland very soon after we met and we have taken our six children there too many times to count. We lived on the Monterey Peninsula until we moved to Texas almost six years ago and I have only gotten to Disneyland once since then. I'm seriously overdue a trip to Disneyland!!

  • dominna

    Katrina Dzerkale from Dominna said 7 years ago

    As i was growing up in Soviet Union, i found out about Mickey mouse only when i was around 13 or something. Loved it anyway :)

  • disneymama119

    Shannon from TwoLilOwlsBowtique said 6 years ago

    My favorite place! I treasure the memories of family vacations to Disneyland and Disney World, even more than the tangible souvenirs that I brought home with me. One of the most special items that I still have is a booklet of original Disneyland admission ticket stubs from the 1960s that my dad kept from his childhood visits to the park. It's truly amazing to think about how much has changed at both Disneyland and Disney World over the years! :)

  • EllieChase

    Ellie Chase from JolanDesigns said 6 years ago

    I love going there as a child and now as an adult!!!!!

  • korenkwan

    Koren Kwan from GarasuWonderland said 5 years ago


  • msaet02

    Sherri Tatum from DesignsByOhana said 3 years ago

    I love Disney!! I've never been to Disneyland, though I hope to visit one day. Our family goes to Disney World every year!! I remember my 1st visit, and of course, I had to purchase some Mickey Ears!!! Did I mention I'm a big Mickey Fan?!! :)

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