Columbus Day Parade, San Francisco, California, October, 1975



From "The Memoirs, Chapter Ten":



            ... Then, of course, Columbus Day was approaching as it does each year, and we remembered our spectacular third place winner, “Queen Isabela Gives Her Jewels to Columbus” parade float from the year before.  We had to do something even bigger this year!  We decided to build a replica of the Santa María itself, the grand ship which brought Columbus to America.  I sketched it up.




            After the whole big rocket ship interior, of course we could build the Santa María!  This year, instead of a grape trailer, which needed a car to pull it, we wanted to look like a professional moving float, gliding down the street on its own power.  We rented a large flat bed truck and parked it in front of Vicksburg Street and began our cardboard construction.  Over the cab we built a sharply raked fore deck and out the back another raised aft deck, with the truck bed itself as the main deck of the ship.  Covered in cardboard paneling, with small port holes for the driver to see, towering masts and sails




            We wanted a float this year that would hold everybody!  We could all ride on the float and nobody had to walk all that way along side.  Our trusty crew dressed in their finest pirate drag and had a ball!









Even Dale's kids, below, got to ride on the float.  (Juvenile pirates?)




            That year it was decide that I would play Columbus (Gee!  I wonder who thought of THAT?)




We all climbed aboard and got ready to sail.




            And strapped precariously under the protruding prow was our own Bermuda Schwartz as the noble masthead in flowing drapes, hands clasped in front of her, gazing toward the Heavens and a New World!  It was the first of many uncomfortable positions she would fill on our many floats to come.




            That year Russell would portray Columbus' personal Bishop, kneeling in prayer at my side.




            It was a real crowd pleaser again and, again, we won THIRD PLACE in the parade.  I was beginning to suspect that with enough extras and costumes and team spirit and enthusiasm, we could get us a third place with anything.




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            One of the requirements of the floats and other entries in the parade was a strict height limit which permitted the parade to pass safely under the electric trolley lines which ran throughout the city.  It was something like 16 feet.  Well, of course, we wanted our masts and sails to be much taller than 16 feet and so devised a clever system of pulleys and hinges which permitted our masts to lower at each approach to the electric wires overhead and then to rise up again after.  The ship was covered with lots of extras in various pirate costumes and so there were plenty of hands on deck to do the heavy raising and lowering.  Unfortunately, we soon discovered these electrical wires crossed the street sometimes three to five times PER BLOCK!  The sails were going up and down constantly, and though it all made quite an impression on the crowd, it gave our big old cardboard ship the look of slowing leaping and plunging down the street.  There were some pretty tired looking pirates by the end, I tell you.


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            At the end of the parade route, the "Santa María" pulled up to the first bar we came to and we all went inside to refresh the poor, worn-out pirates and generally celebrated our big win.  At some point, some traffic necessity outside required that the float to be moved slightly forward.  While we all continued our beers, Kevin jumped in the cab and pulled forward about half a block.  Unfortunately, no one remembered that our masts and sails were left fully extended and the proud, old ship went ripping down the street!  Well, the "Santa María" may have looked like a heap of cardboard and masking tape, but in reality it was built strong!  The masts held and the overhead electrical and telephone wires came popping out of the adjoining walls and buildings.  Kevin came rushing back to the bar, shouted “Drink up, guys!” and we sneaked back to Vicksburg Street with the masts lowered, quickly dismantled the float and never knew how many homes had lost their services on that quiet Sunday afternoon in October of 1975.   




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