Individual Record 285

Name}   Kimball, Ward Walrath Family History} Olson                 
  Title}   Race} White Sex} Male
Birth:   Date} Exa  4 Mar 1914 Place} Minneapolis, Hennepin, Minnesota
Marr.: Date} Exa 18 Aug 1936 Place} Alhambra, Los Angeles, California     (Link)
Death: Date} Exa  8 Jul 2002 Place} Arcadia Methodist Hospital, Arcadia, Los Angeles, California
Burial: Date} Aft   8 Jul 2002 Place}  
  Grave Marker}  
Source 1}   73 = Interview
Source 2} 257 = Interview
Source 3} 1103=1920 USA cen
Source 4} 1104=1930 USA cen
Source 5} 1430=Marriage rec
Source 6} 325 = Business dir
Source 7} 1446=1940 USA cen
Source 8} 1245=Newspaper
Source 9} 127 = Newspaper
Source 10}501 = Newspaper
Source 11}502 = Newspaper
Source 12}367 = Newspaper
Source 13}503 = Newspaper
Source 14}862 = Photograph
Source 15}387 = Magazine
Source 16}729 = Biography
Source 17}730 = Biography
Source 18}1106=Biography
Source 19}687 = Obituary
Source 20}680 = S.S. record
Parents: } Bruce P. Kimball & Mary Nancy Walrath
   Relationship No.} None
1st Household No.} 308 = Parsons, Labette, Kansas
      Occupation 1} Artist/cartoonist
       Occupation 2} Musician
Spouses:   Prime} Lawyer, Mary Elizabeth (Betty)
 Total Number of} 1
Notes:  Ward Walrath Kimball was born 4 Mar 1914 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  His parents were Bruce P. Kimball and Mary Nancy Walrath.  Mary was a graduate of the University of Minnesota, an accomplished pianist, and had a quirky sense of humor.  Bruce, the son of a lawyer, attended Kansas University, playing on the football team.  He did not go into the family investment business, but instead was always on the move, and never very successful.  Bruce tried farming, ran a public swimming pool, had a pastry shop, and finally became a traveling salesman for the National Cash Register Company.  With the family always on the move, Ward attended twenty-two different schools all over the country before he reached college age.
Notes:  Ward had a younger sister, Mary Eleanor (Eleanor), born in 1917 in Minnesota, and a younger brother, Webster, born about 1918 in Kansas.  In the 1920 USA census, the family was living in Parsons, Kansas, where Bruce was a salesman of cash registers.  In 1923, the family traveled west by railroad on the Overland Limited, and south on the Coast Route to sunny Southern California.  Always on the move, the family lived in the Ocean Park section of Los Angeles, Glendale, and West Covina.  In the 1930 USA census, the family was living in Ventura, where Bruce was a salesman of electrical appliances.  In the fall of 1932, Ward entered the Santa Barbara School of the Arts.

In April 1934, Ward began work at the Walt Disney Studio in Los Angeles.  He quickly rose through the ranks to become a supervising or directing animator, remaining their until he retired in 1973.  He was one of Disney's original "Nine Old Men".  In addition to his work on the classic features "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", "Pinocchio", "Fantasia", "Dumbo", "The Three Caballeros", "Melody Time", "Cinderella", "Alice in Wonderland", and "Mary Poppins", Ward directed the Oscar-winning shorts "Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom" (1953), and "It's Tough To Be A Bird" (1969).  Ward also did three one-hour programs for the Disneyland" TV series, worked on the live-action musical "Babes in Toyland", and directed 43 episodes of "The Mouse Factory".

In 1935, a young woman named Betty Lawyer was hired by Disney to work in the ink and paint department.  Here she met Ward, and they were married 18 Aug 1936 in Alhambra, California by the Rev. S.J. Kennedy, a Presbyterian Minister.

In 1939, they are listed in the Alhambra Directory as living with her parents at 30 N. Third Street, Alhambra.  The home that was to become their lifelong family residence, located at 1616* Ardendale Avenue, in the unincorporated area of San Gabriel, was built in 1939.  It cost $10,000, and they were helped by a $1,000 inheritance from Etta Ward, the woman Ward had been named after.

In the 1940 USA census, Ward and Betty had their first daughter, just one month old.  Ward was an artist in the movie industry, and had earned $5,000. in the prior year.  Their house was valued at $13,000.  Ward had completed one year of college.

Ward was an avid collector of model railroad engines and cars, and of full sized trains.  In 1938, they bought a vintage 1881 coal burning steam locomotive for $400 from the defunct Nevada Central Railroad.  With the help of relatives and friends, including Don Olson, it was unloaded from a truck onto the 900 feet of narrow-gauge rails in the side yard of a their lot at 1616* Ardendale.  He spent several years restoring it and named it the "Emma Nevada".  Over the years he and Betty bought other rolling stock, including a 1907 steam engine named Chloe after one of his daughters.  The collection eventually included a 1881 Passenger coach, a 1906 box car, and a caboose.  It was complimented by a Victorian-era depot, a windmill, a water tower, and an engine house.  "The Kimballs," writes Michael Broggie in Walt Disney's Railroad Story, "became the nation's first private owners and operators of full-sized steam railroad equipment in a residential backyard."

Ward would occasionally fire-up and run the trains on the short strip of track, to the delight of friends, neighbors, and relatives.  In later years he had to get the permission of the AQMD to fire them up, as not to add to the pollution in the San Gabriel basin.  In addition to the full size trains in their backyard, Ward and Betty built an addition onto their house to hold his collection of model trains and his model train layout.  In 1992, after more than 50 years of running the Grizzly Flats Railroad, Ward donated it to the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Riverside County, California.  He also donated the funds to build an engine house.  To see photographs of the Ward's railroad collection go to

In 1948, Ward traveled with Walt Disney to the Chicago Railroad Fair, taking the Santa Fe Railway's east-bound Super Chief from the Pasadena train station.  Ward's backyard trains were an inspiration for Disney, who developed a small train in his own backyard.  This was also the inspiration for the trains at Disneyland.  In 1978, Ward served as the conductor on the "Birthday Special", a whitle-stop train tour from Union Station in Los Angeles to New York City in celebration of Mickey Mouse's 50th birthday.

Ward also had musical talent.  In 1948, Ward formed a Dixieland Jazz band, "The Firehouse Five, plus Two." The band was made up of Disney personnel, and performed for more than twenty years.  Ward led and played the trombone.  On 23 Jan 1988, two light planes collided over the San Gabriel Valley, sending one plummeting onto the front yard of the Kimball's home.  Ward, Betty, and Kelly were inside the home, but not injured.  Two in the plane died.

Ward died 8 Jul 2002 at Arcadia Methodist Hospital.  Services were private, and it is not known where he is buried.

*The 1940 USA census and a 1946 newspaper article identified the address as 1616 Ardendale Road.  The houses were renumbered at some point in time, and the present address is 8910 Ardendale.
Time of Birth}   Time of Death}   Fraternal/Social}  
Baptism Date}   Place}   Ward Kimball
Confirm. Date}   Photos} Ward Kimball in 1994
Immigr'n Date} N/A Port} N/A
Education: Grade} Trade school           or Top 2 Degrees}  
Military: Service}                                    for the State of}  
Health Condition}  
  Cause of Death} Old age
Last Updated
by} Karen Hancock
Date Updated}   6 Dec 2015
Date Created}    6 Sep 1993
Copyright © 2010 - 2015 by Karen L. Hancock.  All Rights Reserved.

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