Bathtub Battles Showered Crowd With Laughs


Bob Morrison’s family moved to the Conejo Valley in 1937 to buy the Oakdale Dance Hall and Saloon, later taming it into the Oakdale Market and post office. His first business, as a child, was selling watermelons under the Oakdale Oak that still stands between the ice machine and the market’s main entrance on Thousand Oaks Boulevard.

But some of his fondest memories of the boulevard come from his participation in the Conejo Valley Days parade and the “ubiquitous bathtub” he brought to the festivities.

“I got the idea in the middle ‘70s of towing a bathtub full of water in the parade, with my employee and friend Jack McGrath in it. So, I found a bathtub in somebody’s horse corral, had wheels and what have you welded on it, a tongue put on it, and gave Jack a squirt gun.”


Sounded like a good idea to McGrath. After all, the weather was warm and all he had to do was sit back in his Gay Nineties bathing suit with his derby on his head and squirt people. The tub would be towed the entire parade route by a tractor.

“However, as we started down the parade route, everybody thought it was great fun to dunk chunks and cupfuls of ice in with him. So pretty soon that poor devil was freezing to death--that water was just ice. People were meeting him and throwing ice in just as fast as he was throwing it out. Just about froze his fanny off.”

Ice wasn’t McGrath’s only problem. Toward the middle of the parade route, the wheels gave out and dropped the rear end of the tub on the pavement. Not one to call it quits without a fight, Morrison told him to hold on, they were going to finish this parade, and proceeded to drag that bathtub to the very end of the parade route.

“I just shifted a couple of gears down on the tractor and we wheeled the front and dragged the back the rest of the way, much to his dismay, because there were a lot of bumps on Thousand Oaks Boulevard at that time.”

McGrath thawed out and came back the following year in a new and improved bathtub. Morrison used a Jeep instead of a tractor, and pushed the tub instead of pulling it.

“I mounted a frame on the front bumper and put a big I-beam out ahead of the Jeep and welded the tub to the I-beam.”


Heavy duty wheels and no plug in the tub were lessons learned from the year before. But there was still the small matter of revenge.

“In the Jeep pushing the tub was about a 135-gallon water tank that Gene Dyke’s well drilling service loaned to me, and hooked to that was an oxygen cylinder that I got for the day from Harry Shaw’s Welding. We built up about a hundred pounds of pressure, gave Jack a spray device with a pistol grip and harassed everybody up and down the parade route.”

Jack was armed and dangerous and ready to fight back.

‘If somebody was very persistent, really working us over, I’d crank up the power on the oxygen and run it up a few pounds and really soak them, real fast. So it generally drove them off. Most of the time we just misted them.”

But revenge soaking can backfire, as it did one year.

“One of the big highlights of all the trips was when we got down to almost the end of the parade; the crowd was six or seven people deep on both sides of the boulevard and there was a bunch of guys that Jack knew, and they were saying, ‘Don’t squirt me, Jack, don’t squirt me.’ Of course Jack motioned to go get ‘em. So I pulled over to the crowd, and he kept saying ‘closer, closer.’ He just got ready to squirt his little gun and the crowd parted and two local firemen stepped out with a fire hose, and that stream hit him right in the chest.

“It was a big spray nozzle, so it didn’t hurt him, but I never have seen anybody get so wet so fast in my life. It filled the tub in an instant.”

It sounded more like a battle than like a parade, and as the years passed, that’s what it became. Morrison decided to stop participating when cubes of ice and water balloons gave way to large chunks of ice and full cans of beer.


“People were getting a little aggressive, a little more surly and throwing things at us that they really shouldn’t.”

Still, the bathtub remains in Conejo Valley Days lore.

“To this day, people still mention that fool bathtub out of thin air. It was just such a silly looking contraption to begin with. People loved to see other people get squirted. We would chase the deputies out of the intersections, them screaming, ‘Don’t get my gun wet!’ And people loved that kind of stuff.”

It was strictly hometown stuff and that is what the people love about Conejo Valley Days. When Morrison stopped wheeling the bathtub through the parade route, it was the end of an era. He said he misses seeing the people gleefully pointing, hollering and hooting as the parade passed by.

“There was just an electricity about that fool thing that I remember. So it was a weird looking thing, but boy, we had a lot of fun with it. A lot of people had a lot of fun with it.”


Four years ago, a group of Thousand Oaks residents launched an oral history project to preserve the memories of the Conejo Valley’s earliest settlers. With support from the Thousand Oaks Library Foundation, dozens of residents were interviewed and their remembrances transcribed and filed at the library. Tina Carlson, who heads the project, has pared down some of the interviews, and provided them to The Times to publish in connection with Conejo Valley Days. With the festival parade set to go through town this morning, Carlson uses the voice of Bob Morrison, 64, to recall one of the parade’s traditions.