I attended a small liberal arts college in Pasadena that was bordered on one side by Orange Grove Boulevard, right along the Rose Bowl Parade route. Each fall, the student leadership would gear up to capitalize on the good fortune of our prime location: they’d plan the annual fund raising blitz that involved selling parade programs, concessions, seats in bleachers erected next to the boulevard, and premium parking on campus. It was a major undertaking — I didn’t imagine preparations for the Normandy invasion being much more elaborate.
Because proceeds went to fund several annual trips for the entire student body, everyone was expected to pitch in. I don’t actually remember the duties assigned me that first year, although I do recall being excited about the prospect of working through the night that New Year’s Eve, then heading to the bleacher seats reserved for us — only a block from where the parade turns the corner onto Colorado Boulevard. I was going to get to watch the Rose Parade in person!
Some were assigned to cook (mainly hot dogs, I think) in the student center kitchen, others to shuttle food to the concession stands. Some were to hustle programs to the throngs camped out on the parade route overnight; others to deliver addition programs from the main distribution point to the sellers. There were parking crews with neon orange vests and flashlights, ticket sellers, and money runners. Whatever my lackluster assignment, I understood my role: a tiny cog in a big machine.
Until about three A.M.
When this fellow band member — an upperclassman with a walkie talkie — bumped into me and asked me what I was up to. He was assigned to assist the study body officer overseeing the entire food delivery operation. Apparently he didn’t think what I reported doing was all that important: he asked my supervisor if he could “borrow” me. This meant I could ride shotgun as he tooled up and down sidewalks and driveways in a golf cart, answering his walkie talkie, then racing to extinguish the “brush fires” of the concession business. It didn’t take long to see that this guy had everything under control and didn’t really need my help. I felt a little guilty about ditching my crew, but not too much. I was having a blast.
We kept it up until 7 or 8 a.m., when parade goers’ attention shifted to the commencement of the parade and our work was done. When we returned for the last time to the kitchen and parked the cart in its designated spot, the mood among the students we encountered was high — our collective efforts had raked in some hefty proceeds, according to preliminary reports. I was pleased to have been one of the troops who had proverbially “stormed the beaches” and pulled off a successful fundraiser.
Then I made a big mistake.
I sat down on a student center sofa. And died. All interest in grabbing a parade program from one of boxes of leftovers and heading up the hill to watch those floats vanished instantly. At that point my sole focus was making a beeline to the dorm, wherein was my bed. I had my first and last opportunity to view the iconic Rose Parade first hand — and I slept right through it!
I just checked on those 1970 parade programs: still available online, for a mere $8.00, plus shipping. Despite missing out on the main media event that day, though, I didn’t miss out on a couple of other valuable objectives:
- I experienced being part of a large, successful campaign and felt the satisfaction of knowing I was a contributor (at least until I hopped on the golf cart..)
- I demonstrated to that guy I could provide good companionship (a more worthwhile endeavor than you might suspect, at first glance…)
He and I ended up riding off into the sunset together on the Grand Golf Cart of Life.