It had been a long night – and a cold one. A lightweight, white suit offers little protection from a long winter night outdoors, even in Southern California. It was now 9 a.m. and the sun had risen on a new day – in fact, on a new year. It was January 1, 1986.
I’d been standing on a street corner since the previous evening. You see, I was one of several hundred members of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association, which produces the world-famous Tournament of Roses Parade and Rose Bowl football game nearly every January 1 (except on Sundays, when the events are held the next day).
All members are volunteers, who pay dues for the privilege of belonging, and who donate countless hours all year preparing for “The Granddaddy of Them All.” For ease of identification, white suits are worn on the big day, giving rise to the nickname “White Suiters.” I was a lowly aide that year, assigned to direct traffic on the street where the floats line up to await the start of the parade.
The parade was now underway and the floats were on the move. As the Elks Club float neared my spot, it was having difficulty keeping up the pace. All floats are carefully road tested weeks before the parade but, in this case, four young people were now on board, near the front. That had left the float’s rear (drive) wheels with inadequate traction. The options were: a) a tow truck; or b) a couple of white suiters perched over the rear wheels. As the nearest member, I soon found myself riding in the parade, a thrilling once-in-a-lifetime experience, despite the humbling awareness that I was simply – ballast!
However, the ride wasn’t all rosy. While the float was completely covered with roses, each in a small glass vial, the only place for me to sit was right on top of them. So, in one way at least, it was a rather vial experience.