Friday, January 18, 2013

Sepia Saturday: Parade of Floats

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.





The most obvious bit of inspiration in this week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is the truck.  As a teenager, I viewed trucks as a necessity only for people like farmers, carpenters, plumbers, and delivery people. 

But for Homecoming at Cradock High School in the 1960s, a truck was golden.  After all, every club needed one to pull its Homecoming float.  Competition was fierce among the clubs to produce The Most Original, The Most Spirited, or Best Theme.  Anyone who had access to a flatbed truck was sure to be able to produce a worthy welcome for the honored alumni.


The parade route began at the school parking lot on George Washington Highway and then processed onto Gillis Road passing right in front of my house.  Our excitement began to build with the first “rrrrrrr” of the policeman’s siren signaling the parade had started.  Young and old craned their necks to catch the first glimpse of the motorcycle escort followed by cars of dignitaries: the principal, school superintendent, sometimes even the mayor. 


Cradock High School Homecoming 1968  http://jollettetc.blogspot.com

In the near distance we caught flashes of silver sparkle as batons twirled up into the air and down.  The familiar notes of the Cradock Fight song or “Stars and Stripes Forever” wafted through the air as drums, brass, and woodwinds grew louder and stronger with every approaching step of the Marching Admirals.






Cradock High School Future Teachers of America 1967
Future Teachers of America
Riding on top: MOI secretary, Pat Dumire treasurer,
Barbara Wright reporter
Back seat: Becky Ditter chaplain (and I bet Mary Martin
was sitting there also)
Front seat: Linda Wright president



Convertibles of smiling class or club officers waving offered a momentary sensory break as the crowd anticipated the jewels of the parade:  the floats.  


















Flatbeds and pickups inched along Gillis Road, almost completely obscured by colorful paper honoring the 10-year reunion of a previous class and promising to Crush the Cavaliers or Tame the Tigers or do WHATever to WHOever dared take on the Admirals on Homecoming.   

Cradock High School Queens' Float 1966
Queens' Float 1966























Cradock High School Bible Club Float 1967
In 1967, the Bible Club showed us things that
should NOT change "In These Changing Times"


Cradock High School FBLA Float 1966
FBLA 1966 - "Business A-Go-Go"
was their take on "Where the Action Is in '66"






















Too soon the hollow clip clop of horses' hooves meant the parade was over for those of us on my block.  But children often ran alongside the parade for a 60s-version of “instant replay.”  I wonder how many actually followed the entire parade route, turning left onto Afton Parkway, completing the circle back at the football field in preparation for the big game.


Without doubt, the Homecoming Parade was one of the most anticipated events of the year.


Cradock High School Kappa Float 1966
Jean Laxton made a spectacular cave woman
for Kappa's entry in the parade.


Probably the only thing better than a parade passing in front of our house was the honor of having a float constructed in our garage.  I was a member of Kappa, one of three service clubs open to the girls in school.  My house was the designated “float” house for our club.  

Each year, I cleaned out the garage, rearranging the lawnmower and paint cans and old screens to make room for our creation.  I’m not sure if my parents were glad for the annual cleaning or annoyed at hosting a gaggle of giggling girls night after night, but they managed to endure three homecoming floats.  

For weeks, the living room filled with chatter and laughter as we folded, tied, and separated the layers of tissue to form carnations. Yes, we made tissue flowers from either Kleenex or toilet paper.  Apparently other types of materials for floats had not been invented, were not available, or were too costly for our club.   A tissue-covered truck was the only “look” I ever knew when it came to Homecoming float d├ęcor.  


Cradock High School 1967 Kappa Float http://jollettetc.blogspot.com
1967 Homecoming Theme: These Changing Times
Kappa's entry in the 1967 Homecoming Parade
celebrates the arrival of the Slurpee in Portsmouth
with the observation that "Time slurps on."
How could we not win with that??
Who arranged for the truck I don’t know.  Looking at these photos, I suspect most were "donated" by locally owned businesses that saw it as a way to build goodwill with the community. It was always exciting when the truck showed up in my driveway for the girls of Kappa to decorate. 
















As for the club competition for outstanding floats, Kappa was never a winner.  Get your camera ready because here comes the parade of winning floats: 

Homecoming 1967 Admiralettes Float: http://jollettetc.blogspot.com

"We're buzzing to the tune of '66."  In 1966 the theme for Homecoming was "Where the Action Is."  The Admiralettes won "Most Original" for a bumble bee playing a record player to welcome back the class of 1956. 

(I wonder how many boxes of Kleenex they went through because that's a LOT of tissue paper flowers.)
Homecoming 1966 Art Club Float  http://jollettetc.blogspot.com

"College I-A-Go-Go:  Tomorrow's Future Depends on Where the Action Is In '66."  
It was always hard to outshine the Art Club who won "Best Theme" for creating a paper Cousin Itt to promote going to college.  












Homecoming 1967 Art Club Float http://jollettetc.blogspot.com


The Art Club did it again in 1967 winning "Most Spirited" with the White Rabbit hurrying to welcome back the class of 1957. The Homecoming theme was "These Changing Times."

(Did you notice the Art Club didn't use tissue paper flowers?  They had access to materials and skills the rest of us lacked.)
Homecoming 1967 YMCA Club Float http://jollettetc.blogspot.com

"We're Changing Time."  That same year, the YMCA's creativity was rewarded by the float's being named "Most Original."  


Truck on over to Sepia Saturday to see the parade of lovely blogs.




© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

49 comments:

  1. Wendy, this is a wonderful post and I thoroughly enjoyed the parade. It reminded me of my college days (we had 'Rag Day' processions). These days I get to watch the colourful carnival floats and dancers here in Lanzarote. You must have worked as hard on this post as you did on the floats! I'm so glad it didn't rain - imagine all those soggy Kleenex flowers. ('Gaggle of giggling girls' is gorgeous !)

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    1. I don't recall rain at any of my Homecomings in high school. How did we get so lucky to dodge that bullet?

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  2. A very nice post, Wendy about a tradition that's wholly unknown here. However, we do have the annual "bloemencorso's" or flower parades here and there.

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    1. The Netherlands would have to hang its head in shame if ever it resorted to tissue flowers!

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  3. Wow! I so much enjoyed looking at these floats. They are all so creative. I also enjoyed seeing the vintage vehicles. Being in parades was a part of my youth. My favorite was for Spanish club in high school. We put an antique sled on a flat bed truck and had all sorts of trees around it. (One guy's dad owned a nursery.) I was the mom on the float and wore a long red cape. The dad had a top hat and we had a little girl with it. Thanks for the memories!

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    1. Oh Paula, I can't tell you how much it hurts to hear the word "vintage" associated with my past. HA. But I'm glad my club didn't have to compete with your Spanish Club float.

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  4. I remember working on a float one year in the 1960s. I think we used paper napkins, but maybe it was Kleenex.

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    1. Napkins probably made larger flowers, probably filling more space and requiring fewer to be made.

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  5. So many great pictures—and so much creativity!

    I used to love parades as a kid, and I marched in my fair share of them when I was in the high school band.

    All that flower-making reminds me of the flowers we had to make for prom. That's was quite the tedious task...

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    1. It was a tedious task, you're right. I liked making them and never considered that others might have hated it. If you didn't enjoy little crafts, making a float was probably torture.

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  6. Great pictures and such pride taken to make each float the best it could possibly be. Does this still happen nowadays?

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    1. Oh yes! The Homecoming parade is a big deal in the high school located just outside my neighborhood. Even people without kids in school turn out to watch.

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  7. It's like browsing through a photograph album and having you alongside to tell me where all the photographs are. This is the pleasure of Sepia Saturday, we can invite all our friends from around the world into our digital sitting rooms, gather around a warm fire and say "look at these"

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  8. This brought back so many memories of making those kleenex flowers, mostly to decorate cars for weddings and proms. We thought they were the cat's meow. I've always loved parades too and you did such a fine job of recreating the anticipation and thrill of watching the floats go by. As far as decorating floats goes, I had a high point for a couple of years when I got to work on a Rose Parade float for New Year's Eve...no kleenex.

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    1. The Rose Parade! How thrilling that had to be. I'm always blown away by all the flowers and marvel that they hold up.

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  9. I felt as though I was walking alongside those floats. It must have been fun dressing one.

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  10. That was such a fun post. Great photos and so well written. I love the Business Club float with the desks and other office equipment. How clever. I think the art club cheated by not using the paper flowers.
    Yes, Sally, these school parades and floats are still happening. The high school here in Fallbrook, Ca goes all out making 4 floats (1 from each class) every year. They're usually quite spectacular, maybe not as good as a Rose Bowl float, but for high schoolers they're great.
    Nancy

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    1. When we saw the Art Club floats, we knew why THEY were the Art Club.

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  11. These photos are fantastic, they must hold so many great memories. We don't have anything quite homecoming in Australia - not in my local area anyway.

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    1. Sorry, that should read 'anything quite like homecoming in Australia'

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  12. The third set of parade floats this week - I can see a trend developing.

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    1. Right! And I thought my contribution had almost gone astray of the theme.

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  13. Wendy, your post brought back memories of homecoming parades when I was in high school, and now in our small southern Oregon town where football is king in the fall -- and they take their floats seriously.

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    1. Oh, I know about being serious about floats. When my girls were in high school, all the organizations were very secretive about what they would be presenting in the parade.

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  14. Someone in your family liked to record everything for posterity! Lucky you.

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    1. Sometimes I think we didn't record ENOUGH. Thanks!

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  15. Wonderful decorated floats, Wendy! I’m glad to see you were using as much as Kleenex and toilet papers as we did at similar celebrations. I remember the making of major projects gave as much (or more) fun as the show. Great post, thank you.

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    1. You're right. It's not the destination but the journey that's important.

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  16. Oh, Wendy, this is wonderful! How neat that you have all these pictures. I can just imagine you and your friends working on your tissue flowers. Homecoming must have been a boon to the local grocery stores in the way of Kleenex and TP sales. I wonder if anybody still has homecoming parades any more?

    Kathy M.

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    1. Now that you mention it, I remember the club members making multiple trips to various stores in search of the RIGHT COLOR of kleenex. "Oh no! I can't find any pink."

      I had never considered whether schools had done away with the Homecoming parade since they're still a big deal where I live. But I can see how getting a permit and dealing with closing a road or two could be too problematic. I've heard of schools holding their parade during halftime, parading around the track.

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  17. My laptop ran out of juice, so not sure you got my comment. I'll repost it. I've always been a fan of floats, where I lived we didn't have many. What awesome photos you have, especially the one where he's holding up the yeah 56! Really cute. We never had home coming floats ever. We did have brand new Olds cars being in Michigan and having my driver's training in the 70's so that was awesome!

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    1. Nope, this is the first I'm seeing your comment, so I'm glad you took the time to come back.

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  18. What fun Wendy! Now I have to ask...did you ever ride on top of the Kappa float?

    And Cousin Itt? Oh, I do remember him. Did you ever pull your hair in front of your face and try to imitate him? Or was I the only silly girl who did that?

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    1. No, I never rode on a float. It's ironic - having real people on a float actually worked against you in competition. But when my girls were in school, the more people you could cram on a flatbed, the better.

      I never did the Cousin Itt thing because I never had enough hair. I have been a short-hair girl all my life.

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  19. What an impressive set of photographs of some wonderful floats. The images were matched by the your colourful and evocative descriptions that conveyed the excitement of the Homecoming Event.

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  20. Thank you for taking me to see your parade. I loved to see and read your memories. I almost felt like I was there watching on the sidelines, cheering on your float and boo-ing when you didn't win.

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    1. On behalf of all those girls in Kappa, I appreciate your support! LOL

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  21. You have made me feel we really missed out in Australia - nothing like homecoming and hardly any parades. Some towns would have a festival but often the same old floats would get wheeled out and just prettied up a bit. There was Moomba in Melbourne that used to be a fancy parade but I live in Sydney now and don't even know if there is a parade anymore.

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    1. Come to Virginia in October - you will find lots of parades!

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  22. A fun and unusual spin on the theme, Wendy. Parades today have gotten too professional and often lack that home-made look. I had forgotten that Cradock HS were the Admirals. Was there a HS with Generals?

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    1. No Generals that I recall, but we had Commodores (Maury HS) and Presidents (Wilson HS).

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  23. That sure was a lot of tissue paper!! Was it recycled or just flushed down the toilet?
    The hit for me here was the cave woman!!!!
    :)~
    HUGZ

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    1. Yeah, Jean was pretty convincing as a cave woman with that long hair. I wonder where she got that animal skin sarong or whatever she was wearing.

      As for the tissue paper, it probably went straight to the trash. I'm pretty sure we predated the recycling movement.

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  24. Parade floats. A whole category by itself.

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