Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Good Old-Fashioned Anaheim Halloween

1957 SQR Department Store float

With the sounding of the Anaheim city power plant whistle at 7:00 PM, heard all over town, 31 decorated store windows were unveiled along Center Street announcing the start of the first Anaheim Halloween Carnival and Festival on Thursday, October 30, 1924.  Then at 7:30, two blasts of the whistle set off the start of the parade. An estimated 20,000 residents and neighbors from nearby towns crowded onto the sidewalks on both sides of the street to watch the 45-minute procession led by baseball superstars Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson who served as Grand Marshals. 

It was the beginning of an annual feature on the life of the city that has continued for 88 years.

Creepy Country Folk, 1951 
Mr. Robot is wearing the prize ribbon he won earlier in the costume judging, 1951.

In the years that followed, new events were added, such as a Halloween costume breakfast served in City Park, a huge public dance along the main block of Center Street in 1927, and a kangaroo court and football game in 1938.  During the war year of 1942, the program was considerably curtailed with an energy-saving citywide blackout strictly observed. But by 1945 the parade was once again going strong, with 40 floats, 8 bands, 400 horses, all led by cowboy actor Wild Bill Elliot (radio’s famed Red Ryder).
Anaheim’s “Hallowe’en Festival” began as a device for discouraging neighborhood youngsters from mischievous pranks such as soaping windows, uprooting fences and damaging property. Local merchants conceived the idea of putting the energies of Anaheim children into “wholesome fun and frolic.”  Nevertheless, Halloween tricks by neighborhood kids continued, including turning on fire hydrants during the parade and splashing ink on passing cars.  In 1949, one old home along the parade route was flooded by a garden hose stuck in the front door mail slot!

 In 1953, as construction was about to begin on nearby Disneyland, the parade received a boost with several floats designed by the “Walt Disney Studios of Hollywood.”  It included “many of the famous and fanciful Disney characters woven into a theme of well-known fairytales.”  

1953 souvenir button
The infamous Flying Sasser of Anaheim, 1953
Other themes that same year were “Americana” representing  “our rich American heritage”, and “Out of This World” with young amateur float designers letting their imaginations go wild with floats based on space ships, rockets, and, our personal favorite, the “Flying Sasser!” (Incidentally, the Anaheim Historical Society is right now building a spectacular recreation of the “Flying Sasser” for this year’s 2012 Halloween parade.  You certainly won't want to miss it!)

1967 Grand Marshal, Buddy Ebsen, star of TV's Beverly Hillbillies

Many well-known stars of stage, screen, and radio have had the honor of being Anaheim Grand Marshal, including young actors Jodi Foster and Johnny Whitaker, comedian Buddy Hackett, and even “The Banana Splits!”  In 1969, the parade was televised for the first time, live on KTLA, Channel 5.

This year the tradition continues, and the Anaheim Historical Society will once again present the exciting “Autocade of Antique Cars”.  We’ll also have some special surprises along with several brave people pedaling old-timey bicycles!  We hope you’ll bring your family out to enjoy this wonderful community tradition.

1961 Anaheim Kiddie Parade on Center Street.

This year's Anaheim Halloween Parade is Saturday, October 27, 2012.  
The parade steps off at 6pm at West Street and will travel east down Broadway to Anaheim Blvd.  
For more info call 714-999-3456 or visit

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