In the fall of my senior year of high school, I was 17, thought I was in love, and was absolutely as stupid as dirt. Hope this helps explain a lot of what you’re about to read.
Most residents of Winston County have long forgotten about the 1975 Christmas Parade; I am not one of them.
Months earlier, my best friend introduced me to a young woman he thought was the cutest girl he had ever seen. Very soon he convinced me of this fact, so I began to court her myself. Believe me, it’s not very healthy for a friendship.
There was quite a battle for his attention that it was obvious I was losing, which led me to take some desperate action. While I was never what you would call good looking or uncool, and I didn’t have an athletic bone in my body, I would do absolutely “just about anything” to get attention. That deadly trait certainly raised its head in October of that year.
I noticed that organizations and businesses were starting to register to participate in the upcoming Christmas Parade. I’m not sure exactly what kind of concussion protocol I ended up in when I made the decision that the best way for this young woman’s heart was to walk into the parade myself and show her up. ‘where I would go to have him pay attention.
My mom happened to own a fabric store in town, so I convinced her to be one of my co-sponsors. It would have been harmless enough until I convinced the owner of the store next to her to sponsor me as well. The problem was, it was a maternity store.
My big project was therefore to enter the parade dressed as a pregnant woman, thus representing both the fabric store and the maternity store.
At this point, it would have been really nice if someone had told me off about this, but alas, that didn’t happen.
It soon became very clear that even though the parade directors could not ban my entry into the event, they could show their disfavour.
When the fateful day arrived and we started lining up on East Main Street to begin our walk through downtown, I arrived to find my assigned seat in the parade. Would I be placed right in front of Santa Claus? How about right behind the tank at Taylor Machine Works or Georgia Pacific, two of the city’s biggest companies? Maybe I would lead the marching band up the hill, past the monument, and among the hundreds of people who gathered every year to watch the parade.
Before I reveal where I was placed in the parade, there are a few things worth highlighting. One, while I was in a maternity gown with the baby (pillow, of course) firmly tucked into its place, there was no way I was going to fit my then 13-foot-tall in shoes. for women. So my only choice was my best white Sunday dress shoes. Second, as many of the people in the parade were riding in the backs of convertibles, or at least a pickup truck, I was walking.
So the superiors decided – purely by accident I’m sure – that I would walk behind… the horses. Let me point out a few things that have just been revealed to you: I was walking in white shoes, dressed as a pregnant woman BEHIND the horses.
This was the moment when a more rational person would have said forget the $ 10 entrance fee, I’m leaving. Not me. I had a heart to win and a bunch of horses with bad bowel habits weren’t going to be a deterrent.
At the start of the parade, even I began to wonder if I had made a terrible mistake. We made our way to the Post Office, past the Judges Platform, and over the hill on Main Street just level with the monument that still stands to this day in the middle of the intersection of Main and Columbus Avenue.
You could hear the sound of the band, the Christmas music, the laughter of the kids and the impatient buzz (pun intended) from the crowd – until I appeared.
Suddenly there was silence. Maybe it wasn’t really quiet, but it seemed to be. Every freckle on my face started to fade as I started to realize that maybe it wasn’t a great idea after all.
I realized I had to do something. Many apparently thought that I was actually a pregnant teenager, which really wasn’t a good idea for a Christmas float, especially in 1975. So my instincts kicked in. bursts of laughter from those who lined the street as we passed.
“It can actually work,” I started to think. As I slowly walked down Main Street, my eyes began to scan the crowds for that “special girl” who I knew would be standing right outside the Ben Franklin store. There were 10 people lined up in places, but I just had to make sure she saw me.
As we got closer, I started to meander to this side of the street and finally saw his face. He should be standing, with a shocked look on his face, holding my best friend’s hand.
I had this baby right in the middle of Main Street.
Austin Bishop, aka The Old Sports Dude, has covered high school, college, amateur and professional sports since 1975. He is currently pastor of the Great Commission Assembly of God in Philadelphia. He can be contacted by email at [email protected]