It was Friday, June 2, 1972, and school was finally out for the summer. Big things were planned to take place that afternoon. Not since that day has this ever happened again in Anchorage, Alaska, and probably never will without quick response from law enforcement.
Organizing our own personal parade, was the last thing left unaccomplished on an otherwise stellar year of innocent juvenile hijinks. Leading forty yellow buses down Lake Otis Parkway in my purple, 1954 Chevrolet “Hot Rod” was the ultimate touché for me and my pal.
Being seniors at East High, we’d graduated one week earlier. Our celebration for twelve years of imprisonment was a late-night meal at Leroy’s Pancake House, along with dessert at Flapjack Jim’s right down the street. We needed a more grandiose farewell than that.
Buses leaving our school parking lot each afternoon went different directions on their way out. Our carefully planned parade unfortunately wouldn’t work there because of such. This wasn’t the case at Service High.
The buses at that facility formed a one-mile line down Abbott Loop Road before most of them turned onto Lake Otis Parkway for another five-mile jaunt. We decided Service High was the perfect place for our celebration to begin.
The day before, things were surveyed to see exactly how and when the vehicles departed. They all exited from the same turnout which made things easy. Friday afternoon, several minutes before the last bell, we positioned ourselves on Abbott Loop Road just beyond that point.
As the buses started rolling, Jeff wheeled in front of them. The plan was to never leave first gear which made for a maximum of 20 MPH. My old car was a stick shift.
Within seconds, we were “Grand Marshals” of a parade far bigger than some found in rural American harvest festivals. As we slowly led the convoy, Jeff and I waved to those watching. The sight was definitely something to behold.
For what seemed like an eternity we led our entourage with tears rolling down both faces and cheeks. I was afraid to turn around and look but my compadre gave me constant updates. Some twenty minutes later we arrived at Tudor Road. That was where our parade ended, or at least we thought it did.
Changing seats, I dropped Jeff off at his house and headed home. As I rolled into my driveway a police car was already there. Mom was standing at our door talking to a man in blue. We’d cleverly concocted a story just in case this happened. When the officer asked me what was going on I innocently informed him,
“Something’s wrong with the steering.”
He didn’t buy my story and pressured me into telling who the other person was in my car. I was then given a ticket for impeding traffic. Evidently, that’s all they could legally hang me for. Thankfully, there were no vehicle safety inspection stations in Alaska back then, so my Chevy was off the hook.
Jeff had the same experience and also received an impeding traffic ticket. My pal told the policeman the same fabricated tale which sealed the deal in that respect. Being juveniles, we were instructed to have our parents accompany us to court. Jeff’s dad came with him, and my mom chaperoned me.
The judge wasn’t pleased to hear what happened saying that we jeopardized the lives of many people that day. I’m not sure Jeff and I went along with his analogy, but for the sake of not incurring further wrath, we agreed with him. Our fines were something like $15 apiece which was a bit steep.
Being Co-Grand Marshal of a parade lasted for a mere twenty minutes, yet I relish that title as much as any. Roy Rogers once led a parade I attended in Victorville, California. He rode his white horse “Trigger” and made quite a spectacle with fancy saddle and clothing. My brother said that people cheered him on.
Jeff and I did much the same as Roy Rogers while driving a purple ’54 Chevrolet. You know, when I think about it, I believe people were cheering for us that day. I’m sure the bus driver directly behind our rear bumper said a few choice words, and might’ve even given us a hand salute, minus four fingers of course.