Family 1962 - Page 5

Detroit's Thanksgiving Day Parade

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J. L. Hudson Thanksgiving Day Parade


In 1924, Charles F. Wendel, display manager at the J.L. Hudson Company, conceived the idea of a grand Thanksgiving parade down Woodward Avenue, with Santa alighting from his sleigh at Hudson's to take up residence at the 12th floor Toyland.

His idea would become one of Detroit's longest-running and most beloved traditions.


Mishaps have been few throughout the history of the parade, but when they occurred they were spectacular.

In the early years, horses were used to draw the floats. One year a team of horses, startled by a marching band, panicked and took off, destroying a gas station building as well as the float they were pulling. After that, Hudson's employees pulled the floats, as many as 24 for a single float.

In 1960 five children were pushed underneath the Santa float by a surging crowd.

In 1969 a bomb threat caused a slight delay while a thorough search was made of Santa's float. Nothing suspicious was found and Santa continued on his journey to Toyland.

The Most Rebellious Parader award goes to Chilly Willy, a rogue 30-foot-tall penguin. Chilly Willy pulled free of his tethers in 1990 and took off on a 25-mile journey up the river to Lake St. Clair.

He was apprehended by the Coast Guard just off Walpole Island at 4:18 pm.


In the late '70s, Hudson's began soliciting sponsors for the parade and in 1979, gave up primary sponsorship and turned over control of the parade to Detroit Renaissance, which in turn handed off to the Michigan Thanksgiving Parade Foundation in 1983.

The Parade Company took over in 1990, and keeps the show running with thousands of volunteers.

Television Rights

There was a squabble in 1959 over the television rights to the parade.

Although Hudson's had an agreement with ABC to air the parade nationally, CBS wanted to broadcast a portion of the parade along with Macy's and Gimbel's parades.

Hudson's threatened a lawsuit but CBS went ahead. National coverage ended completely in 1988, but will resume this year with Chrysler returning as a sponsor of a half hour's coverage on CBS.


Mother Goose Float, 1924

In 1924, the Mother Goose float led off the first J.L. Hudson Thanksgiving Day parade.

Shoe Float, 1925

The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe float from the 1925 parade. Horses were later banned when a team was spooked by a marching band and destroyed a gas station.

Santa, 1937

St. Nicholas greets the crowds in front of Hudson's at the conclusion of the 1937 parade.

Woodward, 1947

Crowds line Woodward for the 1947 parade.

Santa Float, 1982

Santa and his reindeer arrive in front of Hudson's at the end of the 1982 parade.

Source of above photos and text: Detroit News

Thanksgiving Day, 1962

Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1962 No. 066

Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1962, No. 067

Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1962, No. 068

Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1962, No. 069

Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1962, No. 070

Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1962, No. 071

Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1962, No. 072

Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1962, No. 073

Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1962, No. 074

Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1962, No. 075

Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1962, No. 076

Christmas, 1962 - Santa Visits Joni,
5 1/2 Years Old

From Mom's Memory Band--As Reported by Joni:

"Mom said I'd lick my lips all the time so they turned red, and that they always looked chapped from November to March. The Santa was played every year by Mr. Currier."

Joni and Santa, 1962, No. 077

Joni and Santa, 1962, No. 078


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