The Rose Bowl

Childhood memories.  One of the most memorable events of my childhood was going to the Rose Bowl in 1971.  When I went at the tender age of 6, my parents’ alma mater Ohio State met Stanford in the bowl game that year.  We went  with the OSU alumni association, so there was a whole roster of events to attend aside from the game itself.  It was one big memory after the next….

It was my first airplane trip.  Back then, flight attendents were still called stewardesses, and men and women dressed up for the flight.  I remember wearing a dress, matching coat, and patent leather mary-janes with little white cotton socks to complete the ensemble.  I have pictures, and it’s scary.

It was the first time I saw a transvestite.   We were checking in to the Ambassador Hotel, and while my mother and I were waiting in the lobby for my dad to register, there was a very manly looking woman in a royal blue suit, black pumps, and a gold and blue pillbox on what was obviously a blond Marilyn Monroe style wig.  The “woman” walked around the lobby not really looking for anyone, or to do anything other than to be noticed.  I remember at one point, asking my mother (very loudly as innocent children are wont to do) why that man was dressed up as a woman.  I don’t remember her answer; I do remember her telling me to keep my voice down.  It made an impression on me, that’s for sure.  It wasn’t until I was 17 and visiting San Francisco that I saw another transgendered person.

The Ambassador Hotel itself.  Old Hollywood at its finest.  In fact, one of the things I love about the Tom Hanks movie That Thing You Do! is that part of it is filmed at the Ambassador.  Just a side note – another thing I love about that film is that a portion supposedly takes places at the Ohio State Fair, which, as a kid who lived 10 minutes away from the fairgrounds in Columbus, remembers the performances vividly.  I saw Johnny Carson there!  Oooh!  Aaah!  But… getting back to the Ambassador Hotel…  it was very grand and luxurious.  But what I most remember about it was standing in line at breakfast one morning, and all the adults were almost reverential.  In the line, we stood in the Embassy Room, where Sirhan Sirhan assasinated Robert Kennedy.  Remember, this was not even 2 years after the assasination.  It was hallowed ground.  I can still recall the burgundy surroundings.  Odd what one can remember…

It was my first experience with a Disney theme park.  I grew up in Orlando, so I had many, many more Disney experiences, but to a 6 year old, who watched The Wonderful World of Disney each Sunday on TV, it was if I had reached the Holy Grail of childhood.  It was fabulous, exciting, certainly more of an adventure than the Ohio State Fair…  Disney World wouldn’t open for another year, so it was all a 6 year old could ask for.  The Matterhorn, the Teacups, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, It’s a Small World…. incredible!

I had my first “international” excursion.  Wow – Tijuana, Mexico.  My dad rented a car and we drove to San Diego (also went to the great San Diego Zoo) and decided to drive to Mexico.  I remember sitting in the car in line at the border crossing, thinking it was going to be an entirely different world, Mexico.  But when we got there, it seemed seedy.  Touristy.  Rugs, sombreros, tequila bottles all packed into cramped shops on cramped streets.  It seemed to me to be as “made-up” as the Disney streets.  Bright colors and bright lights in seemingly unathentic Mexican buildings.

My favorite, favorite, favorite memory by far – and probably one of my best childhood memories EVER! – was behind the scenes at the Rose Parade.  The Rose Parade was great; seeing them build the floats was infinitely better.  In fact, one of my dreams is someday to volunteer attaching the petals to one of the floats.   Everything is always bigger to a young child (my childhood home in Columbus looks like a mere shack to me now…) but there were absolutely cavernous warehouses where the floats were constructed.  I think we visited the float “builds” one or two days before the actual parade, so in the interest of freshness, there was a lot to see of the float skeletons, and just enough

Tournament of Roses Parade 1971

Tournament of Roses Parade 1971

of some of the coverings like seeds, hay, etc… to begin to make out the final product.  My dad took a lot of pictures of the floats under construction, and then during the parade, took photos of the finished products.  To this day, I’m fascinated by the contrast of each of them.  But it was wonderful in another way – the colors and the smells were just amazing.  Everyone was friendly, and happy.  It just looked like so much fun, and such a beautiful thing to “work” on.  I was hooked, and still watch the parade every New Year’s day.

The Rose Bowl itself.  I had been to football games before at Ohio Stadium, but it is a very open, wide stadium.  You felt like you could see everything, because people weren’t stacked on top of you, rather, they were just “around” you.  I remember watching Rex Kern, the quarterback, throw the ball.  He visited my school and signed an 8 x 10 black and white glossy with “Christy – Best Wishes! Rex.”  I think I had a crush on him because that was almost movie-starrish to me.  I vividly recall the Ohio State Marching Band (The Best Damn Band in the Land) performing Script Ohio at halftime.  If you even know a little bit about Ohio State football lore, the band is almost as revered as the football team.  So it was undoubtedly a proud moment for us Buckeyes when the band performed.  However, the most memorable thing that happened at the game (Ohio State lost…) was that my dad shook hands with then-governor of California, Ronald Reagan.  He was cordial, genial, and not quite the Ronald Reagan that he would yet become.  I gave a speech about the Rose Parade in college, and used our slides, including the one of Reagan.  Since he was president at the time, it made an impression.  It was my first A in the class.

It was a great trip.  A great experience, and I’d love to do it all over again sometime.  Well, maybe except for the “woman” in blue.


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