I don't remember the first Thanksgiving parade I saw except that I know I watched it on Television in the late 1950s or early 1960s. Back then there were more retailers that had parades. I remember a parade in Detroit (can't remember the store), Marshall Field's in Chicago, and a West Coast parade to offset Macy's New York Parade. We had black and white TV, so I never knew what the parades looked like in color until I saw one in person.
That was the Second Parade in 1969. I was fourteen, watched the parade along Central Park West, just above Columbus Circle. I went to a boarding school in Connecticut in 1968 and had returned home for the Thanksgiving weekend. My mother had some friends visiting and they had a 14 year old daughter, Libby. This was their first time in New York City. I was as painfully shy as gawky 14 year old boy go, and I thought Libby was the most beautiful girl in the world. While I wished I could win her heart and she would hold my hand, she was as cold as the grey November day.The cold day dampened my enthusiasm as the floats passed by, and the rest of the day was lost to memory. I do remember that each holiday that passed, I grew more numb and over time I began to loathe the holidays.
The third parade was the one I appreciated most. My dad worked for a company whose offices were at 1633 Broadway along the parade route between Fiftieth and Fifty-first street. It was a windy, cold, raw, miserable day, and we rode the Long Island Railroad in from Queens where he lived. It was 1983 and my dad, three and a half year old daughter, went into the city to watch the parade from his twenty fourth floor office window. On Broadway the crowd was ten deep shivering and cold.
Inside the building, we looked down on the parade from the large plate glass windows eight feet high. We sipped hot chocolate from the small kitchenette down the hall from my Dad's office. We could watch up Broadway as the Macy's employees who were tethered to the balloons struggled to make their way down Broadway to Times Square.
Winds were gusting to thirty miles an hour and we watched as the parade moved by. The office building we were watching from is set back from the street and a plaza is infront of the building giving us some peripheral vision. We watched Snoopy and Garfield struggle down Broadway.
Then Superman, the man of steel, made his way down from Columbus Circle. In front of the Winter Garden Theatre, a strong gust of wind pushed America's strongest undocumented alien into the large CATS billboard above the Winter Garden Marquee. His tether lines became entangled in the light stanchions which lit up the CATS signs at night.
For a quarter of an hour or maybe more the Macy's staff fought to free him. Finally, a roar from the crowd rose from the street and Superman continued his journey toward Herald Square and Macy's on 34th street.
I haven't watched a parade in twenty eight years. My Dad still lives in Queens and my daughter lives in Central Florida. I won't see either this Thanksgiving. Dad is too old to want to be driven to Connecticut for dinner with us. I can't argue with a stubborn old man.
My Daughter and new grandson...we're estranged. But someday, maybe they'll be a fourth parade.