The first parade was held in 1946, and I was there, although not too cognizant at 11 months of age. As a result of that happenstance, I have always been involved and even presided as Commodore a few times. The parade began in the canals and expanded to include all of Alamitos Bay.
Although it appears to run smoothly, there have been a few mishaps, such as the time a Polish training ship entered the large boat parade and sailed right up the jetty from the ocean. It got stuck in the entrance, thus blocking the entry of all other large boats. Apparently, they don’t read the tide charts in Poland.
On one occasion, the parade was underway when the fellow portraying Santa Claus had to make an unscheduled “pit stop” at one of the homes on the bay. As he ran to the bathroom,
one of the little children followed him in and moments later ran out yelling, “He is real! He is!” Sometimes, proof is presented in strange ways.
The traffic on the night of the parade once delayed Mayor Beverly O’Neill from getting to the dock on time for loading. Ever true to her commitments, the mayor made a mid-bay transfer from motorboat to a wobbly gondola, then continued her parade appearance with no spectators the wiser.
We always enjoyed a great effort from Gondola Getaway, but on one occasion when my wife was president, we got aboard the gondola and the novice gondolier asked whether anyone was in front of him as he had dropped his glasses overboard. He then wondered whether we knew the route because he didn’t. After the trip around the canal, he began to row us back to LBYC when he dropped one of his oars into the bay. The large boats didn’t recognize our SOS with a flashlight, so they honked and wished us a Merry Christmas as we sat grounded on a sandy spit. Luckily, Officer Marcia Rhone got worried when we didn’t return to the club and sent a motorboat out for us. Since we both could swim, we considered abandoning ship, but were rescued in time to keep our clothes dry.
An enormously popular entry was the Wilson High School band with drummers. As I was responsible for the safety of all the entrants, I panicked when the parade ended and we couldn’t locate the band. They finally turned up across the bay by one of the restaurants, not having contacted anyone in our committee. They had jettisoned a rented generator which was never found.
Each year presents a different challenge, but the parade must be blessed by sanction from a higher power, because even when it would sprinkle every year up until parade time, we have never been rained upon in almost 70 years.