As Brighton’s Meadowbrook Parade last Saturday marched along Avalon Drive with Airplay’s juggler and stilt walker Jeff Peden watching on high, my mother looked at a photograph of the June 1969 Parade. Carol vaguely remembers making the costumes, dyeing black my Charlie Chaplin size 6 jacket — and sneakers. And penning the First U.S. Girl On The Moon sign.
And about a month later, we were in Cape Cod when the first U.S. man was on the moon. And two days earlier in nearby Chappaquiddick, Mary Joe Kopechne had drowned and Ted Kennedy never became President.
Back then, Parade costumes and floats were more elaborate. Carol recalls 5 or 6 neighborhood kids carrying a cardboard table representing the Knights of the Round Table: King Arthur, Lancelot, Gawain with one girl as Guinevere. One Knight carried a tape recorder playing appropriate Arthurian chamber musicIn the 1973 parade, I was Mustachio the Great, a Strong Man with paper mache barbells and a leopard skin outfit. My sister Leslie and next door neighbor Sarah were knife thrower and assistant/target: Hernando and Rosetta. Leslie was Hernando, wearing a moustache with toy knife aimed at Rosetta who was holding a cardboard backdrop decorated with roses and balloons. When Rosario pretended to throw the knife, Sarah popped a balloon.
Fitting with the anti-litter campaign of the 70’s, in Starve a Rat Today, Leslie and myself — me dressed as a rat with a paper mache rat’s head — pulled a wagon containing a garbage can while holding signs with the slogan, Starve a Rat Today.Back then, Halloween costumes too were often hand made. In keeping with 70’s sci fi, I was I Robot. Billy Swift was some kind of outdoorsman, perhaps foreshadowing that Bill now makes, sells and rents kayaks in Algonquin National Park.
Today’s parade was not as big as back then. Demographics have changed; there just aren’t as many children in the neighborhood.But we still had a lot of fun. Jeff took an aerial photo of the march. At the after parade gathering on Newton, the theme was the Olympics. Some kids were dressed as athletes, Greek and modern, even an Olympic photo booth. Jeff juggled and Spider Girl and Ninja ate ice cream sandwiches.
I showed the 1969 photo a few people, including Matthew D’Augustine, Vice President of the Meadowbrook Neighborhood Association and a Social Studies teacher at Hilton High School. Matt offered some thoughtful commentary on what he thinks is the current emphasis of the parade: more “little kid” focused and less a competitive broader age range activity.
You’re certainly right [looking at the photo and hearing about some of the bygone Parades.] There has been a big change in our neighborhood’s children’s parade over the years. I was talking to another neighbor who told me that years ago the parade was part of a larger celebratory weekend that involved a neighborhood picnic at Brighton Town Hall. I can’t speak to why the neighborhood shifted away from that to merely a parade, but I can speak to why the parade has shifted from a competitive broader age range activity to one that is now more “little kid” focused.Kids’ activities are far more scheduled now. Children frequently begin scheduled activities at the age of 3. By the ages of 8 or 9, many children’s weekends are filled with various sports-, arts-, and/or science-related activities. When I was growing up, this was certainly not the case. While I took part in scheduled activities, they generally didn’t begin until age 7 or 8 and didn’t really intensify until high school. Families are busier than ever with activities that they clearly value. Besides the value of the activity itself, an added bonus is that kids meet far more people from “outside the neighborhood” than they ever had in the past. Our children (and by extension, their families) have a far wider social circle these days, in a geographic sense. I do think, as a result, the Directors of the Association want the parade to be an activity that’s both low key and fun. Given the various pressures of scheduling, I think we all find value in having an event that, while taking a good deal of work to plan and execute, doesn’t have the same level of intensity as the competitive parades of the past.
All that being said, I know we all welcome anyone who would want to take the initiative to make changes or add to our events. I certainly value people’s nostalgia and would love to see those who long for a slice of the past to be here in the present to work actively to fulfill that vision.
Matt’s point about the digital natives in the Parade is well considered. In the digital era, Matt says children have a “far wider social circle these days, in a geographic sense,” and meet far more people from “outside the neighborhood.”
Matt’s right. Back in the 70s, Meadowbrook kids tended to stay closely within the neighborhood — no social media to connect beyond. Matt’s children today do have a more enlarged social perspective than we did.
Matt mentioned the goal of the parade was to be both low key and fun. And it was.
First U.S. Girl on the Moon now lives in California and missed the Parade. However, on her last visit, Leslie wrote two stories on Brighton you will enjoy: Visiting a Talker haunt: the Brickyard Trail with Leslie Frances and Audrey and Audrey’s excellent adventure in Rochester