Walt Disney World is many things to many people; for Colleen Myrhol, it's her muse, her inspiration to capture the magic in lines of verse, with journalist Chuck Schmidt adding historical context to each poem. The result: a Disney book like no other!
At Disney World, Colleen's multiple sclerosis presents an obstacle to full immersion in the parks, but her imagination has no limits, and so she "captures" each ride, each show, even some of the shops and restaurants, in beautiful rhyming poetry.
With his decades of experience as a newspaperman covering the "Disney beat," Chuck Schmidt provides the reason to Colleen's rhyme, enhancing each poem with a meticulously researched article about that aspect of Disney history.
Together, Colleen and Chuck deliver a unique right-brain/left-brain look at Walt Disney World, equal parts fact and fancy, and 100% magical.
Chapter 1: The Magic Kingdom
Chapter 2: Epcot
Chapter 3: Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Chapter 4: Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Chapter 5: Disney Springs
Chapter 6: Disney Resorts
Chapter 7: Mouselanious
Colleen Ann Myrhol and I attended the same high school, Port Richmond, located on the north shore of the New York City borough of Staten Island. She graduated in 1965, while I received my diploma in 1968. Although our paths surely crossed while walking the halls of the school, I never formally met Colleen during that time. The honor of meeting her wouldn’t take place until 2010 on, of all places, the Disney Magic ocean liner, which was plying the waters of the Mediterranean Sea during an 11-night cruise to Tunisia, Malta, Italy, Corsica, and the south of France.
It turns out Colleen and her husband, Lenny—whom she met during their freshman year at Port Richmond High—were sailing with their friends Hank and Ginny Osborne. My wife Janet and I decided to attend a Disney Vacation Club presentation during the first of two “sea days” on board the Magic. We walked in late and sat down in the two remaining seats in the lounge where the presentation was taking place. In front of us were the Myrhols and the Osbornes, who quickly turned and introduced themselves and began asking us questions, things like “How long have you been DVC members?” and “Where are you from?” We told them that we live in New Jersey, but apparently our New York City accents gave us away. We quickly learned that all six of us were originally from Staten Island and that I was a bit of a celebrity in their eyes, being the author of the Goofy About Disney blog for SILive.com.
We bumped into the Myrhols and Osbornes several times during the cruise and even did a memorable shore excursion with them to the town of Pisa in Italy. Over the years, Janet and Colleen have kept in touch via email. It was during these correspondences that Janet learned of Colleen’s penchant for writing poetry. She’s so prolific, in fact, that she is known to write a poem just about each and every day. It’s no surprise that the subject of many of her poems is Disney.
Colleen has been a poet since she was a youngster. She was inspired to write poetry by her grammar school English teacher. In fact, she even wrote a poem about him in honor of World Teachers’ Day, which is held each year on Oct. 5.
Colleen’s love of writing poems has continued unabated during her life, but never more so than during the last few years: Colleen has turned her gift of writing poetry into a tool to help in her fight against multiple sclerosis.
“‘What a strange idea,’ I thought, when friends suggested that I write poetry as a way to overcome brain damage caused by MS. I can’t believe all those old memories that have been tucked away inside of me for so many years. Just goes to prove God never closes a window without opening a door,” she wrote me recently. Colleen has been a strong advocate for people dealing with MS and hopes, in some small way, this book will serve as an inspiration to them.
During the summer of 2017, as I was finishing my Disney’s Animal Kingdom: An Unofficial History book, I decided to open up the final chapter of the book to fans of the park, allowing them to express their thoughts and deep feelings about perhaps the most unique theme park experience ever conceived. It was Janet who suggested that it might be a nice touch to mix in a few of Colleen’s poems in the chapter. I wholeheartedly agreed.
During our correspondences, it was clear that Colleen had amassed a treasure trove of poems about Disney, everything from poems about the theme parks in general, to individual shows and attractions, to the Disney Vacation Club, the Disney Cruise Line, and the Disney Springs shopping and entertainment district. Again, it was Janet who knew of Colleen’s desire to have her poems published and floated the idea of submitting a book proposal to Bob McLain at Theme Park Press, using Colleen’s Disney-themed poems as the backbone of the book. I would add a few paragraphs following each poem to give her subject matter some historical perspective and context. Bob loved the idea…and you’re holding the result in your hands.
Imagine that: two people who attended the same high school, but never knew each other, meeting for the first time on a Disney cruise on the Mediterranean Sea decades later, then collaborating on a book about a subject they’ve loved since they were youngsters. Talk about the magic of Disney!
One last thing: We’d like to dedicate this book to the late Marty Sklar, the former head of Walt Disney Imagineering, who passed away in July of 2017. Marty had a profound effect on so many people, both Disney cast members and Disney geeks like us. He was a giant in his field, yet was always a humble, caring, and generous soul. He is sorely missed.
After Colleen Ann Myrhol married her high school sweetheart, Lenny, they dove into a life-long love affair…with Disney.
They are retired airline employees and together they have traveled to 48 states, 91 countries, six continents, and one truly Magical Kingdom. In fact, they went to Disneyland on their honeymoon and Disneyland Paris to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.
Now that Colleen uses a wheelchair, it is easier for her to travel the world on the Disney Cruise Line (DCL). Colleen and Lenny, along with their friends and fellow Disney Vacation Club members and native Staten Islanders Hank and Ginny Osborne, have sailed with DCL to North and South America, Europe, and Africa.
Colleen started writing poetry at age 11 when her grammar school English teacher urged his students to enter a public-television poetry contest. Colleen won the contest, and was hooked. It became a wonderful way for her to make a journal of her worldwide travels. After she began her second career, she all but stopped writing poetry until years later. Colleen has multiple sclerosis (MS) and her doctors and fellow poets at the Staten Island MS Center suggested she resume her poetry as a way to help her cognitive ability and to overcome the brain damage caused by MS. She hopes to encourage others with MS, low vision, and cognitive issues to pick up a pen and spread their wings with poetry.
Chuck Schmidt was bitten by the Disney bug at an early age. He remembers watching The Mickey Mouse Club on TV after school in the mid-1950s and Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color on Sunday nights. During his 48-year career in the newspaper business, he channeled that love of Disney as the Sunday News and Travel editor for the Staten Island Advance, writing features and covering a variety of events involving the expansive world created by Walt Disney.
Disney in Verse is his fifth book published by Theme Park Press. The others are Disney’s Animal Kingdom: An Unofficial History, On the Disney Beat, An American in Disneyland Paris, and Disney’s Dream Weavers. He also collaborated with former Disney cast member Ted Kellogg on his book, Passport to Pixie Dust.
Since 2009, Chuck has shared his passion for all things Disney in his Goofy About Disney blog on SILive.com. He also writes a blog for AllEars.net called Still Goofy About Disney.
Chuck resides in Beachwood, New Jersey, with his wife, Janet. They have three adult children and six grandchildren.