One of the first things Nello Iacono discovered when he was hired by the city of Glendale’s Parks and Recreation Division in 1978 was that the department’s staff was heavily involved in the city’s annual entry in the Tournament of Roses Parade. And that’s why he was in the driver’s seat the year the float clipped a grandstand.
Iacono learned that not only did staffers oversee the decorating, they escorted the float from the builder to the staging area on Orange Grove Boulevard in time for judging, provided overnight security and then drove the float along the parade route.
So for many New Year’s Eves, Iacono and his crew accompanied the float on its journey, protecting it from bystanders along the way.
“Some wanted to take flowers off the float, others rescued flowers if they fell off due to road hazards or vibrations and handed them back to us,” he said.
Iacono’s family often joined him on Orange Grove to see in the new year.
After celebrating, the crew remained on alert until around 3 a.m., when the judges came through on a truck fitted with huge floodlights.
“Sometimes we were still out there adding flowers and glue as the judges neared the float,” he said.
Iacono, who became director of the division in 1988, can only recall one parade when weather really got in the way. That was the year when Glendale honored its sister city, Higashiosaka, Japan, with a float titled “Bridge of Friendship,” according to the Glendale News-Press, Nov. 16, 1981.
“That was New Year’s 1982, when Mayor Jack Day rode on the float,” Iacono said. “It rained all night long and we huddled in the van. Then just before the parade started, the rain lessened and the parade went on.”
Iacono recalled other pre-parade nights when the temperature got down to the 30s. Those were nights when they started a fire in a container to keep warm.
“We were miserable,” he said.
But, no matter what the weather, it was soon time to climb aboard the float and take it down the parade route. Iacono said he did both driving and spotting over the years.
“In most floats, the driver is hidden in the depths of the float and cannot see, so spotters sitting elsewhere communicate with the driver,” he said.
He recalled 1990, the year of “Winter Wonderland” (with three revolving snowflakes), when Bob McFall was the spotter and brakeman and Iacono was steering.
“You can’t see where you are going, you have to rely on the spotter,” he said. “On the big turn from Orange Grove to Colorado Boulevard, the white suits (Tournament of Roses volunteers) waited too long to tell us to turn. Bob told me to crank the wheel to the right, but it was too late. The float clipped the grandstand on the northwest side.
“One announcer kept saying, ‘it’s headed toward the stands, oh, no, it’s hitting the stands.’ Everyone scattered as we hit the stands. After that, Bob said to me, “we’re not listening to the white suits anymore.’ “
During his time at the helm, Iacono realized that his staff’s role was too labor-intensive and negotiated a deal with the builder to take over escort and driving responsibilities without an increase in the float cost.
Retired since 2003, Iacono said that in earlier years, when cities were divided into divisions by population, Glendale won many awards.
“Now we compete with huge corporations with huge budgets,” he said. “It’s difficult to compete with that.”
Those challenges make the trophies that Glendale floats received while he was director that much more significant.
Katherine Yamada’s column runs every Sunday. To contact her, call features editor Joyce Rudolph at (818) 637-3241. For more information on Glendale’s history, visit the Glendale Historical Society’s web page: www.glendalehistorical.org; call the reference desk at the Central Library at (818) 548-2027; or call (818) 548-2037 for an appointment to visit the Special Collections Room at Central from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Gail Stanchfield Rollinger, who grew up in Glendale and now lives in Woodland Park, Colo., was curious about a fur coat she inherited from her aunt, Louise Baldwin, who lived in Burbank until the early 1950s and then moved to Northern California. The label inside the coat reads “Rougier, Glendale, California” and Rollinger wondered if she could find anything about Rougier.
George Ellison at Special Collections found a listing in the 1951 city directory for Rougier’s Furs at 513 N. Brand Blvd., owned by J.W. and R.W. Rougier. Rollinger thought her aunt could have purchased the coat while visiting her mother, Manon Stanchfield, who lived in Glendale all her married life (60-plus years).
“I’ve paid little attention to the coat, which I’ve had for many years, until recently when I noticed the name Rougier in the label. With a name like that, I expected also to read New York or Paris. Glendale, California, was a surprise.”
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