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Verdugo Views: Sister city float was a highlight of an earlier Rose Parade

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A float from the 1980s titled “A Bridge of Friendship” honored Glendale’s first sister city, Higashiosaka, Japan. Kimiko and John Nagahiro stand in front of the teahouse, while Miss Glendale Susan Bresheurs and then Mayor Jack Day wave to the crowd from the front of the float.
(Courtesy of the Glendale History Room)

For more than 100 years, Glendale entered a float in Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses Parade. That tradition ended in 2016, but memories of the many floats sponsored by the city linger on. In fact, for several years, the float reflected events going on in the community.

In the early 1980s, Glendale chose to honor its first sister city with a float. That relationship had been formed in 1960 when Hideji Yamasaki, mayor of Hiroaka, a small suburb of Osaka, Japan, visited Glendale. He was impressed by the similarities between the two cities. Both were situated between a mountain range and a large metropolitan area.

Inspired by President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s “People-to-People” program to promote friendship between various cultures, Yamasaki proposed a sister city relationship to Mayor E. C. (Cal) Cannon, who agreed and formed a committee to arrange exchanges between the two cities, according to the July 10, 1960, edition of the Los Angeles Times.

Hiroaka later changed its name to Higashiosaka.

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Headed by Ruby Barnett, the sister city committee organized social events and, at some point, began a student exchange program. Members also worked with the city to plan a Japanese teahouse and garden.

In 1981, the year Glendale celebrated its 75th year since incorporation, a large delegation from Higashiosaka arrived. The 34 delegates, accompanied by the new chair of the sister city committee, Anabel Neufeld, visited Glendale City Hall.

Mayor John Day welcomed them during a council meeting and thanked them for their efforts in “maintaining goodwill between the two cities.”

Replying via an interpreter, the delegates expressed their pleasure at being in Glendale during its 75th anniversary and expressed hope that the relationship between the two cities would continue to flourish, as noted in council minutes on file in the Glendale History Room at the Glendale Central Library.

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As the delegates looked on, parks and recreation commissioners announced that the 1982 float would honor the sister city. Designed by Charles Welborn of C.E. Bent & Sons, and featuring a Japanese-style bridge leading to a teahouse, the float paid tribute to the teahouse and garden completed in 1974 in Brand Park.

The commission also recommended that the float’s budget be increased from $30,000 to $40,000. Member Marlene Hamilton noted that, in light of Glendale’s Diamond Jubilee Year, “the city should try for a real prize winner on New Year’s Day,” according to the July 19, 1981, edition of the Los Angeles Daily News.

Before the delegates left City Hall, Neufeld invited council members to participate in a tea ceremony at the teahouse and watch a judo demonstration.

That fall, Henry Agonia, director of parks and recreation, invited senior class members at Hoover High to help decorate the float, another tradition at the time.

Class president Greg Ramsey, vice president Lisa Koontz, and secretary Laurie Duncan, along with school administrator Debra Bradley, organized the volunteers.

Secretary Duncan wrote to Agonia, “Thank you for appointing the Class of ’82 to help make this float successful and beautiful. There is a lot of pride involved in working on our city’s float.”

On Dec. 31, 1981, the Daily News noted that Higashiosaka’s Deputy Mayor Goro Nomura and his wife, who had been invited to ride on the float, had been prevented from doing so because of an illness in the family. Instead, longtime city employee John Nagahiro and his wife, Kimiko, rode on the float, along with Mayor Day and Miss Glendale at the time, Susan Bresheurs.

Titled “A Bridge of Friendship,” symbolizing the ties between Glendale and its sister city, the float received the Grand Marshal’s Award for exceptional merit, and was later on display in front of the Alex Theatre.

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Dick Wonser, president of the Tournament of Roses Float Committee, encouraged residents to come see the float in person.

“Perhaps it will encourage them to make a donation to the float committee,” he told the Star in its Jan. 7, 1982, edition.

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