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  1. #1

    Default My Favorite Memory?? Yes, THE Parade! tponetom

     The Last Parade,,,,,,or Hurrah?


    I had never finished this story. It needed a Christmas Holiday addendum.

    The Parade is faltering, thinning out, if you will. Attrition has diminished the number of
    participants. Like an old automobile tire, time has worn down our tread to a bald spot that can
    blow out at any time.
    For us, the Parade began in the summer of 1935. I was seven years old. My family and I,
    along with all of our neighbors had front and center seats for the Parade. More often than not,
    we became part of the Parade, trading our seats for the thrill of just being in the Parade.
    McClellan Avenue was the main artery of the Parade. There was no starting point. It
    had no single origin and it had a thousand, trickling, exit terminals.
    It was a 24/7/52 event, in the short hand vernacular of today.
    There were a few consistent performers doing their acts every day. However, the majority
    of performers were of a more spontaneous ilk. Those performers and their acts would vary. They
    were predictable, but only up to a point.
    Because I was so young, I was not privy to the more intriguing things that might have
    been going on in the wee small hours of the morning.
    My first remembrance of the Parade was the strange cacophony that awakened me that
    first morning. It was a slow drum beat of sorts but it was a very unusual sound. I looked out
    the window and was amazed to see a horse, pulling a wagon, creating that rhythmic, clip clop!
    As I watched, the horse would stop and the driver stepped out of the wagon carrying a metal rack
    full of bottles of milk. His choreography never changed. He would hustle to the back of a house
    and then another and still another. The horse would move, ever so slowly from one house to the
    next until the milkman, now carrying an empty rack, returned to the wagon. Their performance
    and timing were impeccable.
    A more reverent act followed the milkman. A group of ladies, most of them dressed in
    black, with heads slightly bowed while fingering their rosary beads, trudged wearily but
    devotedly
    down the street to Nativity Church to pray for the souls of their dearly departed. They had to
    share the sidewalk at times with the less devout Free Press newsboy as he delivered his wares.
    In those depression racked middle years of the thirties, a constant survey was underway
    by grade school boys, teenagers, young men and old men alike, as they cast their glance’s on the
    gutters of the street, looking for cigarette butts that might have two or three puffs of nicotine
    energy left in them.
    By seven o’clock in the morning a few fortunate denizens were hustling their way to their
    jobs that were so precious to have and trying to arrive early to show the boss how much they
    appreciated having those jobs.
    The tempo of the parade would increase when the Catholic children began their reluctant
    march to morning mass and then, to school. Some of them were carrying their breakfast in a
    brown paper bag. They intended to receive Holy Communion during Mass and thus enjoy the
    privilege of having an extra ten minutes or so to consume their meal while the rest of the class
    was involved in academic pursuits.
    The iceman cometh with his wares after the children and employed parents had exited the
    Parade route. He was the first costumed performer and arguably, one of the best. His blue denim
    garb was enhanced with a leather belt that supported a tool pouch on the right side of his waist
    and a steel hook on the other. A heavy leather saddle adorned his left shoulder.
    His choreography was consistent. He used his iron tongs like a lasso, hauling a 100 pound
    chunk of ice from the front of the truck bed and dragging it to the rear and then dissecting it with
    his large ice pick. He had read the customers order for 50 pounds as per the cardboard order
    form that was always placed in the front window of his home. The card could be rotated in 90
    degree increments to order 25, 50, 75 or 100 pounds.
    Stooping, in one swift move, he threw the open jaw of the tongs at the obliging 50 pound
    chunk and slid it off the truck onto his padded left shoulder. As he made his delivery, the
    adolescent scavengers would raid the truck for any maverick ice shards or chips.
    When the iceman returned with his tongs dangling from the hook on his left side, he
    would pull out the large ice pick from his pouch and menace the children. They would just laugh
    and follow him down the road. He was the Pied Piper of McClellan Ave.
    In the middle of the morning more personal performers made their furtive way up or
    down the street. The Scarlet Lady looked to be about 30 years old or so. She was slim with an
    extremely small, but still noticeable mound protruding from her stomach. Yes, she was pregnant
    but not married. The insidious whispers seemed magnified. There she is. Yes, she is. I wonder
    who is,,,,?
    Then there came the obvious truant. Old enough to be in school, too young to be out of
    school, trying to look blase and above it all.
    Then came the old trouper, a polished performer. That would be Mr. S. toddling and
    tippling his way down to Chuck’s Bar on the southwest corner of McClellan and E. Warren.
    This was just his first entrance. In a half hour or so, his determined wife, dressed in black,
    wielding an umbrella that will never open, will corner him in the bar and persuade Mr. S. to
    return home with a few whacks of her umbrella. However, just like the mysterious birthday cake
    candle that would keep re-igniting, Mr. S. would be hustling his way back to the bar an hour or
    so later. And so would she.
    The Addendum.
    The Parade’s musical accompaniment was supplied by the roar of the DSR buses on E.
    Warren, staunchly supported by any number of worn out automobile mufflers. (No stainless steel
    exhaust systems in those days.) Vocal arrangements were delivered by the neighborhood dogs,
    screaming babies, and mothers and fathers screeching at one another for a million and one
    different reasons.


    Saturday was always a good day for the Parade. Shoppers heading for the Eastern
    Market were up and gone quite early in the morning. Their return was always noticed. Home
    made “carry all” bags, made of denim, was the absolute ‘accessory’ du jour for shopping at the
    market. The racket made by the ‘live’ chickens, being carried in those bags, would soon cease
    when the chickens lost their heads.


    Bedlam was normal on Saturday with what would appear to be, ten children to each
    square foot of pavement, all screaming at the top of their lungs,,,,,in ordinary conversation. I
    never, never, recalled a mother sticking her head out of the door and screaming for the children
    to SHUT UP! (Inside of a house, a child better not scream, about anything!)


    Now, fast forward to December 10th or so. With luck, there would be a little snow on the
    ground. This would soften or absorb much of the noise. The clip clop of the horses, the infernal
    ‘clicking’ of one’s heel plates on the sidewalks, and the silence of the wind as it tried to push
    through the snow covered branches of the trees.


    If the streets and sidewalks were paved with a thin layer of ice, more exciting acts would
    take front and center stage. Pedestrians, by the dozens, taking ‘pratfalls and each one was
    different from the other one. The Cirque du Soleil may have been there, taking notes.


    Easily, on an icy day, there was one and only one, spectator sport. That being, sitting near
    the corner (but not too close) of McClellan and E. Warren, betting on the next “fender bender”
    that would inevitably take place at any time. The curtain was raised at ‘rush’ hour time. Four in
    one hour was the record .


    Church activities were booked full, day and night. A lot of Bingo and pot luck dinners
    were going on. The Church basement was the Venue. Kids, like me, loved Bingo night. Mothers
    took their children and then turned them loose in the playground, in the dark of night. No one got
    raped, killed or stolen. No one ever thought about it.


    There was a cumulative anticipation in us children as Christmas Day drew near. Not
    solely because of the prospect of Christmas Gifts (there were never that many) but the reverence
    and spirituality of the season permeated our thoughts.


    The best presents we could hope for would be one big one that might cost between five
    and ten dollars, a smaller one that might cost two dollars and at about four to six other presents
    like stockings, underwear, mittens, a sweat shirt and maybe a nice shirt.


    My Uncle Vivian worked for the Firestone Company in Akron, Ohio. He would visit us
    at Christmas time. He gave each of us children an envelope. One of those money envelopes with
    a card that had a cut-out in the middle, showing the picture of George Washington. A ONE
    DOLLAR BILL!!!!! It always took my breath away.


    That PARADE is sadly missed. Simply because of the humanity of it.









    `

  2. #2

    Default

    Tom, you've outdone yourself. This is the best yet. I swear I was there with you the whole time! Perfect.

  3. #3

    Default

    The pen is mightier than....just about anything. Write on.
    Peace.

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