Just a few miles east of Umatilla and Altoona is the quiet town of Paisley. Walt Disney’s family connections here go all the way back to the 1880s. Walt’s parents, Flora Call and Elias Disney, were married here in Lake County in 1888 in the tiny Kismet church in the Paisley area. They moved on from Florida before Walt was born, but Walt retained his connection with the area.
His maternal grandparents, Charles and Henrietta Call, moved to what’s now Lake County and became Florida pioneers. Walt’s uncle Albert Perkins became the postmaster of Paisley in 1902 and served until 1935. His aunt, Jessie Call Perkins, taught in several Lake County schools and eventually served as principal of Eustis High School.
The story goes that Walt and his brother Roy often visited Jessie and Albert in Florida during their summer vacations from school. Walt probably saw a lot of this area: its springs, rivers, forests and natural beauty. It must have made quite an impression on him.
As it turns out, Walt had originally thought of building Disney World in the area between Paisley and Umatilla. Strange to think how things would have turned out differently had he followed through on that. The Ocala National Forest would have butted right up to Fantasy Land. This byway might have been named after a mouse instead of a bear. As it is, the natural glories of the Florida Black Bear Scenic byway are all at the very least an hour away from Mickey’s domain.