Finley: Look out, I’m back parading

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

After last year’s fiasco, I thought I was done with parades.

Not to belabor a bad memory, but you may recall a year ago I drove the Mother Goose float in the Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade. Or, more accurately, I drove Mrs. Goose as far as she would go.

Halfway down Woodward, her engine blew. (She was mounted on an old Ford full-size car chassis, and this would be a fine place to assuage my friend Tony Michaels and mention that Ford sponsors the Detroit parade.)

With me still deep inside the bowels of the goose, and still ostensibly behind the wheel, parade workers began pushing the float down the avenue. And somehow it ended up in the crowd. There were some bruises, but no serious injuries.

Except to my pride. And so I swore in the future I’d be a parade spectator rather than a participant, preferably watching from my couch with a plate of cinnamon rolls on the TV tray.

But a while back the organizers of the Garden City Santaland Parade invited me to serve as the grand marshal of their annual march through downtown, which is this Saturday. I accepted. How could I not?

I owe a lot to Garden City. I graduated from its East High School 43 years ago. And though I was much closer to the bottom of my class than the top, it was there I started my career in journalism.

And there, too, I came under the tutelage of the person most influential in my professional life. Columbe Haukala, the journalism teacher, ignored my academic shortcomings and too frequent suspensions and made me editor of the school newspaper.

She taught me to report and write, and brought me to the conviction that there was no better place to spend my life than in newsrooms. She’s been gone for years, but I know that while many of my former teachers will be spinning in their graves Saturday, she’ll be smiling.

Hopefully, so will the late Judge Richard Hammer, who is responsible for my other experience with the Garden City Christmas festival.

As a teen I went before the judge on some minor juvenile infraction that we don’t need to talk about, but for which he decided public service would be a fitting punishment.

And that’s how I ended up spending my evenings during the Christmas season working as an elf at Santaland, handing out candy canes and hoisting squalling kids onto the big guy’s lap.

St. Nick’s local headquarters was set up in Garden City Park right next to the ice rink where several of my friends had hockey practice. They just loved my green tights and pointy felt hat. Whatever it was I did to earn that sentence, I never did it again.

For a family from the hard south, Garden City might as well have been Beverly Hills. The blue collar suburb’s tidy ranches and bungalows were crammed with kids during that era, and the city went all out to nurture and amuse them. I always felt lucky to be there.

And I’ll feel lucky to be back, riding and not driving along the parade route. But a little guilty, too. Mother Goose never recovered from the shame of last year’s accident, and while I’m returning to the parade business, she won’t be rolling down Woodward today. Regrets to Ma Goose fans.

Nolan Finley’s book “A Little Red Hen: A Collection of Columns from Detroit’s Conservative Voice” is available from Amazon, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble Nook.