For about 25 years, Carvel Gay towed Glendale’s rose floats from Pasadena to a spot in front of the Alex Theatre on Brand Boulevard.
“Towing the float back to Glendale was quite an experience. Every year I said I could have written a book on getting the float back,’’ he told me in a 2010 interview in conjunction with a documentary on the city’s Tournament of Roses floats.
“We developed a plan each year between the Department of Parks and Recreation and myself. We always brought it back late afternoon or early evening.’’ Their route was usually on Orange Grove Boulevard to Colorado Boulevard and then over several hills to Glendale. “It took three hours or so. I learned long ago not to try to do it quickly. Safety and getting it back in one piece is the most important thing.”
“Staff from Parks and Recreation provided employees to follow us and were also on either side, plus I had staff also.” Paul Salazar, a longtime employee at Gay’s Automotive and Towing, went with him for 24 years. “We would do the driving and the observing, plus a driver would also be in the float.”
“The floats were mostly 35 feet long, but we had some 55s; they were very large. It was a challenge going around the corners. We couldn’t rely on the brakes of just the tow vehicle when they were so long and wide.” To deal with the problem, his staff designed and built a special tow bar to prevent the floats from making too wide a turn.
As the float lumbered along, it attracted attention from drivers, so there was also a motorcycle squad along to clear traffic. “People would want to stop in the middle of the street. We tried to avoid that.”
Reflecting back over the years, he recalled a few critical moments, including the time they took the freeway back to Glendale. It only took an hour and a half, as opposed to the three-hour surface route, Gay said, but by the time they exited the freeway at Brand, they had developed mechanical difficulties. “The frame welds began separating, we didn’t make it all the way to the Alex. “We got as far as the old Security Pacific bank building, parked it on the street and Parks and Recreation staff came and put barricades around it so the public could come and view it there.”
Gay has lived in Glendale for more than 45 years and raised his family here. He was a Parks and Recreation commissioner for a time and then became involved with the Rose Float Assn. “It used to be really fun. We had events at the old Pike’s Verdugo Oaks on Verdugo Road.
“Towing the float home was a family event,” he added. “I used to take my son Michael along with me in the cab. Then all my family would be waiting at the Alex. We’d get the float there, then take the family and a lot of the crew and go to Damon’s to celebrate. It is part of our family heritage.”
To the Readers:
Carvel Gay is one of several community volunteers featured in a new documentary, “Rose Float: A Century of Roses,” which covers the 100 years since Glendale’s first float in 1911 and provides an in-depth look at the making of the 2011 float. Producer Vicki Gardner also interviewed Parks and Recreation staff who were involved in recent years. The documentary airs on the City of Glendale’s GTV6. Check the schedule for replay times. The documentary can also be checked out at the Glendale Public Library.