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One Macy’s Parade Memory

by Leonard Maltin
November 28, 2013 12:00 AM
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Photo by Leonard Maltin That’s my photo of the Popeye balloon in 1960.

I recently stumbled across my earliest photograph: a black & white snapshot I took with my Brownie box camera at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1960. I was 9 years old, going on 10, and I thought it turned out pretty well. (Actually, I still think so. It’s sharp and clear, which is more than I can say for some of the shots I get with my modern, high-tech camera.) My grandmother lived on West 71st Street in Manhattan, so I slept in her apartment the night before, so we could get up in time to walk to Central Park West and watch the parade go by.

Here’s where it gets tricky: in the haze of my memory, I seem to recall shaking hands with Hopalong Cassidy (William Boyd, that is) as he rode by on his horse Topper. Did that actually happen or did I just imagine it? Boyd rode in a number of Macy’s parades over the years.

Decades later, my wife and I moved to the Upper West Side of Manhattan but we were too lazy to stroll to Central Park West and fight the crowds; preferring to watch the event on television. 

Photo by Leonard Maltin I miss seeing Bullwinkle in the Macy’s parade but I cherish this 31-year-old photo; that’s the Museum of Natural History on the right

The last year we lived there, however, we finally did what friends of ours had encouraged us to do all along: the night before Thanksgiving we went to 77th Street, alongside the Museum of Natural History, to take in the spectacle of the giant balloons being inflated. This process takes many hours, so they have to be lined up in exact order, and seeing them s-l-o-w-l-y come to life is an eye-filling experience. I was especially pleased to see Bullwinkle on display. That was 32 years ago.

Popeye, I’m sorry to say, is long gone from the Macy’s lineup, but I cherish my old black & white snapshot. And if I didn’t really get to meet Hoppy, I’m content to dream about it as if it really did occur.

Photo by Leonard Maltin Snoopy lines up on West 77th Street to take his place in the 1982 parade. He’s been refabricated seven times over the years.

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More: Journal, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

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  • Karen Snow | November 28, 2013 9:47 PMReply

    Lovely memory Leonard. We lived on 80th and West End Ave and my parents took us to the parade for many years. One year I remember watching the parade from the rooftop of a building along Broadway, about 6 stories up -- just the right height for the balloons to be parallel with our eyes -- and my Dad was holding me tight across the waist as I tried to reach out for them. Underdog was the favorite character for my brother and I !

  • DBenson | November 28, 2013 4:51 PMReply

    Out west television was the only option for the Macy's parade. I remember a comparatively tiny truck bearing a big MAD Magazine cover. I like to think the cheapness was an intentional gag by the Usual Gang of Idiots.

    Sort of miss when the parade was also a major preview for big holiday movies and specials. "Sound of Music" had a float themed to "The Lonely Goatherd", with the Baird Marionettes performing on a build-in stage. The ship from "Doctor Dolittle" became a float. Even "Heidi's Song" merited a miniature Alp.

  • Norm | November 28, 2013 4:45 PMReply

    A Salvador Dali Thanksgiving photo album...almost met Mrs. Boyd, best I could do....

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