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Barry Schrader
Columnist

 

I currently have columns running in 3 newspapers;

  • Tri-Valley Herald : Looking Back
  • Valley Times : Do You Remember?
  • The Independent : Do You Remember?

The Articles appear in the Herald and Independent on Thursdays,
and the Times on Sundays.

They will also be found on this page each week as well.

 

If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

Archive Page

When the Good Times rolled in Pleasanton

By Barry Schrader.................................March 20, 2005

Those living in the Tri-Valley 31 years ago may remember the biggest parade of all time in these parts-Let the Good Times Roll.
This fun event was the result of a silly bet between two KNBR Radio disc jockeys-Mike Cleary and Frank Dill. The on-air wager was won by Dill so Cleary had to grant his wish and create a parade somewhere in the Bay Area and make Frank the grand marshal.
Some two months earlier Mike had visited Pleasanton to attend a soccer banquet at the request of Harry Miller and happened to meet then-city councilman Ed Kinney. When the parade needed a host community, Mike remembered Ed and called to ask if P-town would be interested. This sounded like the chance of a lifetime to parade enthusiast Kinney so he called Chamber president Jo Betty Allen and JC head Gene O'Brien for support, so the parade idea took off from there.
It all culminated March 23, 1974 with a three hour extravaganza that included nearly 4,000 participants, over 300 units, and a crowd estimated by police at 75,000 that lined Main Street for two miles. Traffic backed up on I-680 and thousands more never got to their destination that day. But it was declared such a success that the radio station sponsored four more in town over a 20-year period.
Some unique features of that parade still bring back smiles. There was Carol Doda, the San Fran dancer, and even a Lady Godiva astride her white stallion. A small plane had landed on Mohr Avenue unexpectedly, the pilot folded his wings, and that got towed through the parade route. Kinney also recalls that a wayward Greyhound bus got caught up in the traffic and was routed through the parade.
A Viking Ship float created by the Presbyterian men in town was a forerunner to the now famous Balloon Platoon, which made its debut in the second Good Times parade the following year. The KNBR promoters were so impressed with the turnout that they decided to do it again. In 1975 they attracted about 60,000, and a third parade in 1976, tied in with the nation's Bicentennial attracted nearly 50,000 spectators. By that time the city police department had about enough and it looked like the end of a good thing had come.
But in May of 1984 Kinney brought them back to town for a 10th anniversary parade which included 150 entries and 30,000 onlookers. Then a decade later, during Pleasanton's centennial year, there was a fourth parade to observe the 20th anniversary of the Good Times procession. During that 1994 reunion Mike Cleary commented that "The minute we saw this Main Street we knew that was it…it had to be in Pleasanton-small town USA." That about sums up what people today still think of that street-it brings back memories of lots of home towns across America.
Parades are a part of Americana and we can be thankful there are still groups out there today putting them on-whether it be the Dublin St. Patty's Day Parade, the Livermore Rodeo Parade, Danville's Fourth of July event, or the County Fair Parade-they are all worth the effort and deserve our support.

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For the second week in a row Don Van Meter had the answer to the history mystery. This week I asked about the wording on the missing plaque atop Oak Knoll at the corner of Stanley Boulevard and Wall Street in Livermore. The answer could also be found in a book published by the late Dublin historian Virginia Bennett. The plaque said: "Oak Knoll Pioneer Memorial Park. The pioneers who rest interred on this knoll had the unique experience and challenge of changing a wilderness valley into a vigorous community. Their efforts have cast the present as our deeds shall mould the future."
The cemetery was the first in town back in the 1800s and had fallen into disrepair by the mid-Twentieth Century. Other cemeteries had been created, and this one was no longer maintained. Hillside erosion from the steep banks of the adjoining arroyo had caused some of the remains to be exposed, falling into the creek or taken by vandals. So in 1964 the city and park district decided to restore it. The decision was made to contact any remaining descendants of those buried there so their graves and markers could be relocated, and the remaining tombstones were moved to the city corporation yard where they would be held for a period of time in case relatives surfaced to claim them.
Some 40 years later the area is pretty much returned to its natural state, but those Livermore pioneers still deserve remembering. Lets hope we can get the plaque replaced to honor their memories.

* * *

The history mystery question for this week: What part did this valley play in the saga of Grizzly Adams?

The columnist can be reached via email at :

Historian2sbcglobal.net

or by snailmail at:

Barry Schrader
PO Box 446
Livermore, CA. 94551

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