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Childhood Rose Bowl Memories (and a Lesson)

January 3rd, 2020 by dk

My mother loved the Rose Bowl. It always felt like our New Years celebrations lasted for two full days. It started with kazoos on New Years Eve — because boys have to practice! It continued until after dark the next day, when the Rose Bowl ended.

Growing up outside Chicago, the Rose Bowl was naturally the game of choice. Both my parents went to Big 10 schools, though I’m pretty sure the teams that played each year were never theirs. I’m certain that we never watched an Oregon team in the Rose Bowl. I’m not even sure any of us could have found Oregon on a map back then — including my parents.

It occurs to me now that my mother loved all sorts of things about the Rose Bowl, but none of them had much to do with football. She had five skinny boys and two baton-twirling girls. None of us were built to compete on the gridiron. But she loved everything surrounding the game.

First, she loved the pageantry. The parade was the official start of festivities. She’d get upset if any of us tried to play with our new toys rather than watch the floats, decorated with waving beauty queens and millions of flowers. The Macy’s parade had balloons, showing off New York’s endless supply of hot air, but California had flowers — an infinitude of flowers.

My mother grew up believing that a household’s true character was best seen in their garden. She was active in the local Garden Club, and loved to have fresh flowers on the table for Sunday meals. Her parents had a massive garden and enough lawn furniture to host backyard parties for what seemed like hundreds of guests.

My parents honeymooned in California, but after they started having children, vacations were limited to where the station wagon could take us.  We got to Missouri and once to Kansas — or was it Iowa? — but never to a land where flowers grew like weeds. That seemed mystical to us.

Once the parade was finished, there was a lull in the action on Berkley Lane — unless they showed the Goodyear blimp or the pictures from the sky that it provided. My mother marveled at this view throughout the game, but especially at halftime.

The marching bands were more important to her than the score of the game. She loved how the musicians could draw pictures, as they paraded across the field. She appreciated the precision this required, and also the teamwork. In her own way, she loved the same skills that are rewarded in football.

The marching band’s exhibit demonstrated the lesson more easily for her children. If you hit your marks and practice your role, you can play a part in a picture that’s bigger than you. You can’t see it clearly while you’re toiling on the ground, so you have to imagine how it looks from the blimp.

If it looks right from above, there’s your proof that everyone on the team played their part. All in all, it wasn’t a bad message for the start of each new year.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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