In 1955, twelve-year-old Tom Nabbe was selling newspapers at Disneyland when he began trying to convince Walt to give him a role as Tom Sawyer on Tom Sawyer Island. Tom pestered Walt until he got the job. Nearly fifty years later Tom retired, a Disney Legend.
You can’t be Tom Sawyer forever. Eventually, you grow up. When Tom Nabbe became a little too tall, a little too deep-voiced, to continue his childhood on Tom Sawyer Island, Disney made him a ride operator. No more magazine covers for Tom. No more photos with celebrities. But it wasn’t the end of Tom Nabbe’s career; it was just the beginning.
In true American fashion, Tom pulled himself up by his bootstraps and rose through the Disney ranks. He became a manager at Disneyland, was instrumental in the opening of both the Magic Kingdom and Epcot in Florida, and was tapped as part of the Disney team sent to Paris to open the theme park there.
Tom retired from Disney in 2003 after nearly 48 years with the company. He still lives in Orlando, Florida with his wife Janice, whom he married in 1968 after meeting her at Disneyland.