Parading Season

The parades began in June with Lake Shore’s Homecoming celebration. Costumed by Mom’s creativity, my siblings and I strutted our stuff in the homecoming parade as an official entry; so we never had to join the hordes of children at the end of the parade jostling for position, riding streamer-festooned bicycles into each other, crying, and bleeding.

My family once paraded as a three-ring circus, which many deemed appropriate.

Two cousins, dressed as clowns, carried a banner announcing the Bray Family Circus. Carolyn followed as the ringmaster in a black jacket, top hat, and crayoned mustache. She also brandished a whip, more proof of Mom’s cleverness: when the rest of us saw Carolyn armed, we lost our fondness for tomfoolery.

Barbara, adorable in a tutu and a gap-toothed grin, led an ostrich, Bob, by a pink ribbon. Mom had created an ostrich upper body from paper-mache on a wire frame, which covered Bob to mid-thigh. She glued bird feet of orange felt to his shoes and threatened him with no dessert for a week if he made rude noises from inside.

I struggled down the street as a snake charmer with small snakes on each limb and an inner-tube snake twined around my stomach, its head peeking over my shoulder. The playful serpent had pink polka dots and no muscle control.

I employed a variety of sweaty grips to keep my snake anchored, but it slithered here and there, dropped to my ankles, and sent me reeling into Bob the ostrich, who—blind-sided—staggered into his trainer. Barbara managed to retaliate with several disciplinary kicks to her unruly bird’s ankles before Carolyn threatened us with her whip.

After the parade, Dad said it looked like the snake won.

In contrast, The 4th of July parade in Provo offered classy elegance with beauty queens whose smiles never wavered, marching bands whose majorettes never dropped their batons, and floats: dozens of floats with multi-colored tissue paper stuffed into chicken-wire structures to create arches and gazeboes, swans and ponies, rainbows and clouds—all adorned with attractive young women and dimpled children. Glitter hovered.

I never made it onto a float. But I did march with my junior high band through the droppings of the horseback entries. Aunt Lois made a home movie of the parade and captured a band sequence that lasted forever each of the 202 times she showed it. Frowning from my doomed effort to march and play at the same time, I wore a voluminous, purple uniform: size XL, so the pants, gathered and pinned at the waist, would reach my ankles.
which twin has toni

I happily returned to my mother’s jurisdiction for Spanish Fork’s 24th of July celebration commemorating the arrival of the Mormon pioneers in the Salt Lake valley. One year, my cousin Jimmy and I paraded behind Bob, who carried a sign with the slogan from a Toni Home Permanent advertisement: “Which Twin Has the Toni?” The ad featured twins with gently curling, blonde hair and explained that one twin had an expensive salon treatment while the other had a Toni Home Permanent. But which was which?

Mom dressed Jimmy and me in matching clothing and blonde wigs she made from mops. Our hair hung in ropes, thoroughly straight.

I spent my half of our $2.00 prize on twenty Snickers bars.





41 thoughts on “Parading Season

  1. Parade memories! Your stories are priceless! I still get choked up whenever the tuba section of the band marches by because my skinny brother learned to play the tuba. He mastered it’s cumbersome weight as well as the sound behind it simply on the advice of our dentist. He told my mom if my brother played the tuba it would straighten his buck teeth without braces. It worked. :). Have a good day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your comment contains such an incredible story: a dentist with an offbeat but successful treatment plan, a young, skinny boy determined to follow the advice and mastering both the bulk and the sound of a tuba, and a sister still tearing up when she thinks about it. I love it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This post kind of reminded me of the “Talent Show” that was religiously performed each family reunion 🙂 Oh the memories!! I will never forget Linda tap dancing performances or Grandma and Grandpas songs with implanted comments. Would have loved to see the “snake charmer”!! Excellent post, as always. BTW… mom still had that whip when I was younger, or was it the “look”. Can’t tell the difference. 🙂


    • Those talent shows were something, weren’t they? I, too, remember Linda tap-dancing. I wonder if she has any idea how much she impressed us. And, oh, Dawna, I know the look well. She didn’t really need a whip.


  3. Oh Janet. What a wonderful memory! Wasn’t your Mom the most clever person ever?! I remember how she created things with my children. To this day I see her influence, especially with Katie. Thanks for the laughter!


    • Looking at the two photographs I used and the costumes she sewed for both the snake charmer and the twins, I wondered how she found the time to bring her creations to completion.


  4. I was in tears by the time I finished this! What a lovely story 🙂

    As always, I love reading your blog. It’s always so full of insight and laughter and happiness and all things positive.

    I’m wondering if sometime I can talk to you about swapping guest posts. Maybe we can email specifics? It would be such an honor.
    As always, lovely!!


    • I’m so glad you enjoyed my parades. Sometimes I wander to the serious side, but usually in my newspaper columns rather than my blog. I’m not sure why; perhaps because I write longer pieces for my columns. Do email me about swapping guest posts.


  5. How lucky you have been to have this memory with siblings. I am an only child, and the only parades I remember having were the ones I performed with a group o neighborhood kids where I was the majorette and they played on combs and oatmeal boxes. The combs wee played by placing a sheet of waxed paper over the teeth and humming loudly. The 4th of July was always a big one with overly sweet lemonade and watermelon after the festivities.


    • Oh, Kayti, I’ve played many a comb, but since I couldn’t even hum on tune, I was never asked to join a band or march in a parade with a comb group. I also always wanted to be a majorette and was never so honored, so I think you have a fine parade-strutting background.


  6. Janet what a colourful childhood you must have had! I loved the twins at the end with their mop wigs. Your Mother must have been very creative. Your Father’s comment about the snake winning was so sweet too!


    • It was a fun childhood for the most part, Barbara, but it had its more trying, unhappy moments as well. In retrospect, I think I was fortunate in how and when and where and with whom I was raised.


  7. Oh what fun, Janet- parades up here now are all commercial and the Shriners are not allowed to throw candy. We had a stuffed wolf in our house, that my Grandpa had shot- every year it rode proudly on the Cub Scout Float, the only reason my brother was not thrown out of the pack. The elks’ hall borrowed our elk head. What was then a grassy hill, rolling down to the sea is now a four-lane. I envied the kids who’s horses behaved in the parade- our were too silly, two chaps in a Jalopy, calling themselves “The Hilliers Hillbillies”, one of them my Uncle Jack without his teeth, came along behind to clean up…what wonderful memories you share- always wanted a family like yours. Super post !


    • I don’t know, Sheila. I think your family gave you lots of rip-roaring material that you use brilliantly, even in your comments: Grandpa’s wolf on the cub scout float keeping your brother in the pack and Uncle Jack without his teeth are prime examples. Is it sweat-popping hot in Victoria? Is drought a problem there like it is in Seattle?


      • Good morning Janet- we are getting your dry desert air- it is so hot, I am tending my friends house, it is not even 6.00 am and just popped their X-Hose, I and the yard very wet. Drought in the rainforest, appalling fire hazard, 3 more days and home to my cool harbor cave. My mother could not abide majorettes, my other fond parade memory is the year a Safeway truck missed the detour and became part of the parade. We do have a wealth of stories, have not thought of that mangy wolf for years…Keep cool Janet, got to go buy a new X-Hose.


      • A cool harbor cave sounds wonderful, Sheila. Even Craig is hot, hot, hot, but usually not until the afternoon. We are still cooling off as soon as the sun goes down and the temperature drops to 45/50 degrees overnight, so our mornings are reasonable. I’m thinking the Safeway truck received laughter and applause; at least that’s how I would have greeted it.


    • I’d say a mostly happy childhood, Troy; there were a few bumps along the way as there are for most folks, but we often redeemed ourselves and each other with laughter. I remember getting quite a kick out of Dad declaring the snake the victor.


  8. Thanks Janet- The Safeway truck was all we kids talked of after the parade, until later in summer when another truck drove through The Holiday Cafe late at night and out the other side, no one was hurt, but my brother brought home a soup ladle he picked up off the highway, probably still has it…


  9. What a great reflection to bye gone days. It took me back to parades of my childhood where we were onlookers enjoying the fun of being part of a throng of excitement. Great reflection 🙂 Linda


  10. This made me nostalgic for the annual Santa Parade! My siblings and I were lucky enough to be dressed as playing cards inside a spinning teacup on the Alice In Wonderland float when we were younger. It was the one year that the teacup motor wasn’t working and we were so disappointed that the other actors on the float wouldn’t spin the cup on demand! Was a fantastic experience tho, I do love dressing up. Your snake sounds like a lot of work, must have looked hilarious!


    • In the spinning teacup on a float, how exciting; the cup won’t spin, how disappointing! Thanks for noticing the snake. I should have specified that it was made from a bicycle inner tube, so Mom just cut the circle, put a baby rattle on one end, narrowed the other to look like a head, and decorated it with polkadots. We all thought she could create anything.


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