Western History & Genealogy Blog

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Pasadena's Rose Parade

Pasadena's Rose Parade

Roses, Football, and Fantasy ease the Depression


The Western History Department continues to yield surprises as we sift through its treasures. This Rose Parade program was an insert in the Pasadena Star News, one of several we have. The colorful cover promises more excitement than what's within, a dutiful documentation of numerous flower-covered parade entries in tedious, tiny, black and white halftones.

The annual festival of flowery floats, marching bands, and equestrians on New Year's Day was first held January 1, 1890. [The Rose Bowl college football game was added in 1902 to help fund the cost of staging the parade.] These parades were popular around the country, and the Western History Collection holds several hundred Horace Poley photos of flower-bedecked horses and buggies in Colorado Springs from the same era. Hints of the Rockies show in the fact that the Tournament of Roses Parade follows Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena's main thoroughfare and a segment of the former US Route 66.

1935, the year of the cover shown here, was one of the darkest years of the Great Depression. It was the 45th year of Pasadena, California's Tournament of Roses Parade, but it wasn't dark enough restrain the splendor of "America's New Year Celebration." Muriel Cowan, the 1935 Parade Queen, recalls:

"I can still inhale the fragrance of the roses. One of my fond memories is receiving a letter from two boys in Shanghai. It seemed almose unbelievable that people so far away could hear about our parade. At the game I recall Dixie Howell of Alabama thumbing his nose at the Stanford team as he ran down the field for a touchdown."

The winning float for 1935 was "The Jay and the Peacock" from Santa Barbara, a floral depiction of seven peacocks which turned from side to side. Seven men inside the sixty-five-foot-long float manipulated the moving birds and were in continual communication by built-in telephones.

1935 was the first year that commercial floats were allowed, and the end of the "younger days" of the Parade. In 1936, there was a huge influx of Texans for the Stanford-Texas football match, and from then on, the entire event moved up a level in crowd size and intensity.

In that year, Amelia Earhart became the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to California, the Dust Bowl swept over the Southwest, Fibber McGee and Molly debuted on NBC Radio, Executive Order 7034 created the Works Progress Administration (WPA), Humorist Will Rogers and aviator Wiley Post were killed in a plane crash near Barrow, Alaska, and the Nuremberg Laws went into effect in Germany.

1935 was the peak of the Marathon Dance fad, where people desperate for food and possible prize money would endure as much as 1,638 hours (about two months) of near nonstop dancing as they did in a Spokane show. From the depths of the Depression, colorful glimpses of the excitement and fantasy of the Rose Parade in the Sunday paper provided a much needed escape.



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