Rose Parade Floats

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Pasadena Rose Parade Floats... yes, I worked on them. I think I began working on them in '51. In those days any kid over 12 could work the floats if they had a note from their parents....sure brings back memories. I worked for Mrs. Coleman (she owned a flower shop on Colorado and Fair Oaks) and "Old man Stanley," (another major player in float construction. I worked on the San Francisco, Disney, Long Beach, Glendale...wow, the mind reels. The first couple of years we could only work the last 2 days...and that was 48 hours straight through. We could go outside and smoke, and they had portapotties by the boatload....I don't remember how we ate, but we did....we'd get visitors like Korla Pandit, Harry Owens...who were going to ride the floats, so they'd usually play a LOAD of music for us, then look over their "ride."

I think the early floats more beautiful than those they put together today. It seems like the floats have evolved from beauty and sleekness to massive and mechanical. I remember our crew having to put 12,000 roses on the Disney float..they'd used chicken wire of some kind, covered it with a thin plastic...and we'd punch each vial/rose into a hole on and on.....yes. vials with water....I recall them putting about $50,000 into Disney's float...so, in inflated turns, that'd be what, tens of millions....This was Disney...I think Stanley had the contract...the roses are hard to see, tho...I worked all over it....

 

Anyway....I'd lie down on a scaffold on my back or front and glue mums to the surface, one by one. They had some kind of glue that had to be melted, and it smelled HORRIBLE...when we got really tired, you'd see people running for fresh air, and as often as not, hurling......it was comical really....I poked around for the Glendale, Disney, Long Beach and SFO...no luck, but found this picture of the Burbank, which I worked on...it was an easy one...

After a couple of years of work, we'd get to work for a week, 12 hours a day, ending with the 48 hour fire-drill....the money was great, though...100, 150 bucks would buy a LOT of burger/coke/drive-in dates and gas for the car....finally when I got 16 years, I was offered a job by Mrs. Coleman or someone, driving a float...the pay was 2 Rose Bowl tickets which were really easy to sell...I turned it down....I'd heard all about real skinny...when the floats stopped, which they constantly did, you COULDN'T turn them off, so you'd lay on the pavement and roll over to the skirt to get some fresh air...when stopped they'd stink up...they used the same frames and old tractor engines (Ford, McCormick Deering) and the damned things would exhude oil smoke because they were in such ratty condition....they'd use the same float frame for 10 years and more. I'd recognize a frame many years later, and just shake my head..

When we had the one and two week jobs, we'd put chicken-wire over the frames and tie it down with bialing wire. Then we'd cover that with styrofoam in places, or the specialists would paint a layer of plastic over the webbing...that is where the flowers would be glued.

I worked the San Gabriel float in '53 or so...this is their '58 float... same frame, and you can see how sweeping and simple the lines were...I wish it were color...Looks like Mrs. Coleman's typical design...

The Glendale float had a front island "outrigger" for a Loooooooooong time. The ones I worked on were truly beautiful. One year it was a Japanese style bridge out to the island...here's the same damned frame in '68...I'm bettin' that engine stunk to high heaven by then, and ran hotter than hell to boot...I heard they finally put systsems in for the driver's comfort, but not in my day....

That's why I could care less for many years about watching the parade. I was sick of the flower smell and glue smell for years and years.... All the old frames are gone (I guess...*grin*)...and the new rigs are preposterous....so, again, other than a few, I really don't care if I miss the parade....

That's probably more than you ever wanted to hear....sorry....haha....

When I started dating, I was taking my date to the Rose Parade ball...I always had enough to rent a dinner jacket...turquoise cummerbun....and my High School compatriots would just be furious 'cause I was taking a girl from a private school...I loved it...heh....anyway, Coleman and/or Stanley (and an oriental fellow whose name I've forgotten) would let me go early to get ready for the ball....ergo...ain' NO way I'm going to come back after the Ball to drive the floats down at 2 am....

Come winter of '56, instead of working on the floats, I got a job selling Christmas trees for Hawkins Florist in Altadena. After that I found I could earn far more money as a Christmas substitute with the Post Office, so that was the end of my tenure in the float business. The PO money helped me pay my horrendous $250 a quarter tuition, with my dad's help...

mp/gruffy

12/2012