November 27, 2019

Thanksgiving memories

It's been said that in New York, people refer to it as the "Macy's Day Parade," such is the identification the parade has with Thanksgiving. There are other, and older, Thanksgiving parades; Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Houston come to mind. And, if you ask me, the telecast of the Macy's parade has suffered over the years; the floats and bands and balloons almost seem to take second place to the pop stars and dancers lip-synching their way through Herald Square. If I wanted to torture myself that way, I'd watch the Grammys. (I don't know if MTV has music anymore, but if it does. . .) And with the current crew from Today doing the announcing, the parade sometimes becomes unwatchable.

But I come here not to bury the Macy's parade, but to praise it. No matter how bad the coverage may be (and whether you watch it on NBC or CBS, it's equally bad), I still have to catch a few minutes of it while flipping back and forth between the other parades. And when you strip away all that's annoying, it's still magically colorful. (Probably the best way to see it is to go to New York and view it from a point where the pop stars aren't warbling.) Take a trip through the years with the ads below, most of which have a prominent mention of the television coverage.

There was no TV for the first parade, though. I wonder if anyone thought it would last.

No parade was held between 1942 and 1944 due to the war. I'm guessing this might have been from the first year without the parade; having the balloons enlist is a clever way to make the point that everyone needs to sacrifice for the war effort.

This ad for the 1954 parade is just fun, don't you think? It sums up the magic of Thanksgiving and Christmas all in one. Believe it or not, the parade was first televised in 1946; you can see that by 1954, it's become an integral part of a company's advertising strategy.

The 1963 parade went on as scheduled, even thought it was six days after the assassination of President Kennedy, and the day after Lyndon Johnson's speech to a somber joint session of Congress. The rationale was to try and keep the day as normal as possible for children. All of the floats were adorned with black mourning streamers.

McDonald's was a sponsor of the telecast in 1965; it looks kind of like kids were supposed to color this in, doesn't it? And take a look at the vintage version of the Golden Arches at the bottom. Remember when all McDonald's looked that way?

An ad for the 1968 parade, from WRGB-TV in Albany, New York.

The 1982 parade; Bullwinkle is in the parade for the 22nd time, despite the fact that Rocky and Bullwinkle haven't been on network TV since 1964. The years may change, but the characters stay the same.

Garfield the cat appeared for the first time in the 1984 parade, as did Raggedy Ann, at least this incarnation. As the small print says, be sure to "See it live or on NBC-TV.!

Here's the poster for tomorrow's parade. It's filled with the iconic images from history; the Tom Turkey float (which from that angle inspires thoughts of the NBC Peacock—coincidence?), the elves, and, of course, Santa. And speaking of iconic, there's Snoopy in his space suit, throwing back to the famous image of him that became so popular around the 1969 moon landing. And notice the things you didn't see on the other posters: the web address and hashtag. 

Even though I complain about them, the parades are one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving. Thanks to those miracles of technology, you can see the Macy's parade, as well as those in other cities, via streaming video (in the case of Macy's, the cameras from other locations probably make for a better viewing experience). Whatever, wherever, and however you watch, I hope it lends to the pleasure of your day, and that you all have a peaceful and most thankful Thanksgiving Day! TV  


  1. I don't mind the musical performances so much. I recall the last time I saw Patty Duke live during her lifetime was during the Macy's Parade. IIRC, she was appearing in "Oklahoma!" at the time and sang "The Farmer and the Cowman" for a minute or so.

  2. Definitely a favorite. If we are home, we watch, sometimes in the background, but sometimes paying attention. Otherwise, we DVR it and watch it another time, as we did Thanksgiving night. Just comfortable, festive, fun.


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