1946 was less than a fair year for this Pearson family. Milt was recuperating from herniated disc surgery in Rochester back when that operation was still in its infancy, almost experimental. Two of our three kids were down with scarlet fever the same time and I had a sprained wrist that didn't mend because I couldn't quit using it. After three months, the doctor said Milt could work if he found a sitting down job.
The last job he had had in California for North American Aircraft was mostly sitting down in the final inspection department. He called, they said he left a good record and there was a place for him, if he could start work right after New Year's.
Well, hmmm, we said. This was the week before Christmas. The barn was full of cows. Several pens held feeder pigs. Could we dispose of livestock in time?
On the other hand, with taxes and insurance coming due, and Milt not able to do any job that was available in these parts, money had to come from somewhere, and aircraft work was good pay.
A penful of pigs he had planned to pay for these expenses was not ready to sell. I may as well admit right now that I was less than the ideal proverbial farmer's wife who could run all the machines, feed all the critters to the point she could see 'em grow, and keep all the gutters clean enough to eat in, or almost
Nope, friends, that wasn't me. Not by a long shot it wasn't me. I have never been able to lift a lot and a whiff of frigid air turns into pneumonia over night. I liked animals but they obviously didn't like me. Cows started holding their milk when they saw me coming with a milk bucket. I don't know what the pigs did with all I fed them but it sure didn't turn into fat.
The day after the phone call Milt stood looking at what he now considered a scrubby herd, the same cows he called Beauty and Buttercup, that he curried regularly only a few months ago. I hadn't worked with them long before most of them got renamed something I considered more fitting. He said, glum-like, "Better call a truck, ma, while they're still warm and can walk."
And that explains why we were taking a trip to California between Christmas and New Year's Day.
We loaded down our 1941 Ford to the gunwales. Since our kids, ages 3, 6 and 9 had to leave all but a few small Christmas gifts behind, when they begged to take Skipper, a first rate Border Collie cattle dog along, we caved in. Their dad sort of liked her, too.
All went well, other than the car was a dusty mess. Winter gear filled any extra space. Unusual signs, like ALL THE ORANGE JUICE YOU CAN DRINK 10 cents, or the one over a motel that claimed FREE RENT ANY DAY THE SUN DOESN'T SHINE! The one offering STERILIZED STEER MANURE nearly did we farmers in. Larry couldn't wait to tell his Future Farmers of America group about it, hoping his dad's back got strong enough to go back home before long.
We came down out of the mountains and into Pasadena on Orange Grove Boulevard. What a glorious Saturday, we said, but where did all of the people come from? People, people everywhere, and we had never seen so many flowers.
Orange Grove Boulevard wound its way into Colorado Boulevard, aimed the right direction to get to my sister's house in the next town, so we took it.
It was bumper-to-bumper traffic now, going extremely slow. Everything was gussied up with flags, a million balloons, and acres of flowers. Bands blasted away both ahead and behind us. Skipper hung halfway out of a window, barking her head off.
A load of burly football players in uniform leered back at us from the float ahead. The float behind touting California sunshine, loaded with beauties wearing little other than sunshine. Our oldest son, looking out the back window, was fascinated. A meaningful "WOW!" escaped him, then "Hey, dad, c'mere!"
By this time it had dawned on us that somehow, some way, we had gotten ourselves in the Rose Bowl Parade! Our dirty old car, three kids and a dog hanging out the windows, was a unit in the Parade of Roses.
What with the dog barking, the kids yelling, bands in several directions playing, and at least two red-faced officers in front of our car motioning we were in the wrong spot, pandemonium reigned supreme. Folks on the sidelines cheered wildly when we went by. We got more applause than the load of naked ladies in the float behind us.
Well, we could have told those irate officers they didn't want us out of that parade any more than WE wanted out of their parade, but all side streets, even alleys, were cordoned off with miles of yellow police tape.
Milt looked straight ahead, white knuckles gripping the wheel. Rivulets of perspiration were making their way down his face out from under his ear-lapped cap. A clown was making merry from astride our radiator as another one staggered behind, pretended he was being asphyxiated from the clouds of blue smoke our old Ford emitting from going so slow.
Never, ever, have I wanted to laugh more than then, yet some inner sense cautioned it wouldn't be a smart thing to do so. There are times a husband can be laughed at and times he can't. The set of his jaw told me this was one of the latter.
Finally, with no sign of escape ahead, Milt aimed for a barricaded side street, closed his eyes, and at a reckless 15 miles an hour we shot through it.
After a few peaceful minutes and taking a strip of orange tape off our car, we ventured on, but not before cautioning "Now you kids keep quiet! Everybody makes a little mistake once in a while." ("Like getting in the Rose Bowl parade?" a small voice from the back seat asked).
My sister's family tumbled out of the house still in stitches. It seems stations ABC, CBS and NBC television cameras had been zeroed on our contribution to the parade from the first mile. Ratings reported we beat out the Golden Bears float and even the naked ladies.
And, yes, with all that close-up filming our Minnesota plates, car and even our dog had been recognized by some of the folks back home.
To his dying day, how dad got stuck in the Rose Bowl Parade was one of the things not discussed at our house.