ask me why Patty and I choose to live in Sierra Madre
a full 75 minute commute from my office in Orange. The
reason is we love it here and here's why:
Madre has only about 11,000 residents and because it's
land-locked with Pasadena on the west, Arcadia on the
south and east and Mt. Wilson rising abruptly on the
North, it is not likely to get any bigger. It's an old
town, once a mountain resort at that early day Los Angelinos
reached by taking the old electric "Red Car"
train. The population is diverse, but, it has no minority
population over 10% of the total, making it the only
incorporated city in Los Angeles County without a "Dominant
Minority" (Isn't that an Oxy-moron?). It's also
the only city in the County with no parking meters or
stop lights making it quite popular with the Movie Industry
as a site for filming a typical small town.
4th of July is a red letter day in Sierra Madre and
citizens celebrate the event beginning days in advance.
A Classic Car Show opens in Memorial Park on the First
of July followed by an exhibit of ancient mechanical
the evening of the 3rd the Volunteer Fire Department
and the Sierra Madre Brewing Company (producers of a
Micro-Brew of great quality) open a "Beer Garden"
in the center of the park, carefully erecting cyclone
fences to keep the kids out. Outside the beer garden
the Rotary Club (that's us) installs its "Dunk
Tank" to give kids and adults a chance to dunk
City Councilmen, the Chief of Police and other local
dignitaries. The line is always longest to dunk the
local Parking Enforcement Officer and the Episcopal
Priest. Dunking Little League Coaches is also popular
at two balls for a buck. Various food booths are available
sponsored by local groups and a free concert is offered
(This year it was a Beatles knock-off group).
big event of the celebration is the Fourth of July Parade
beginning at 10 AM and traversing the length of Sierra
Madre Blvd. Every resident of Sierra Madre is either
in the parade or watching it.
California has a lot of parades including of course
the Rose Parade and the Doo Dah Parade, a parody of
the Rose which has become famous for such entries as
"Dykes on Bikes" and "The Brief Case
Drill Team". The Sierra Madre Fourth of July Parade
is very patriotic, but, it's fun, too. Citizens never
mock the USA or the Founding Fathers, but, they don't
mind "sticking it to" the local politicos
in good fun.
and I live toward the end of the Parade route only a
block off Sierra Madre Blvd. We, along with all the
neighbors, congregate in the yard of one neighbor whose
property is elevated providing an excellent view over
the heads of the assembled multitude lining the sidewalk.
Beer and Cokes are available along with a lot of wisecracks
and gossip while we wait for the lead entries to reach
us. They arrive at 10:45 after about 2 miles on the
road. This year there were 85 entries.
the parade was one of the town's three Police Cruisers
followed by the Color Guard from the local U. S. Marine
Reserve Unit. Next came the Sierra Madre Veterans of
Foreign Wars. Four old geezers, probably the local chapter's
only ambulatory members, proudly marching in their uniforms
to a standing ovation from their friends and neighbors.
By the time they got to us they were sweaty and limping
from their 2 mile hike. Patty and I figured one to be
a Korean Vet, the rest were definitely vintage WWII.
There were no dry eyes as we cheered them.
came the Sierra Madre City College Marching Band. Now,
there is no City College in Sierra Madre. In fact, there's
no public High School or even a Junior High. Mysteriously
each year the musicians materialize ranging in age from
perhaps 8 to about 50 and they play a pretty good rendition
of the Mickey Mouse Club song. In mid stanza the leader
will run over to the side of the road followed by the
rest of the band to play Happy Birthday for some 6 year
old watching the parade. At the back of the band come
the drummers. Eight elegant black dudes with shaved
heads, earrings and shades, recruited from nearby Pasadena
High School's band. We think they are the best part
of the Parade. Behind the Band comes the Sierra Madre
City College Float (the only Float in the parade). This
year's theme is "Zero Tolerance" in honor
of Rudy Guiallini's crack down on New York City crime
and a spoof aimed at the local Police Department's recent
enforcement of the 25 MPH speed limit. No one really
knows who these Sierra Madre City College folks are,
but, we suspect they are the denizens of Sierra Madre's
one and only Bar, the Buccaneer Lounge.
next 80 or so entries contained a lot of kids - A Brownie
Troop and three Cub Scout Packs (offering their traditional
two fingered salute) marching with Den Mothers and Dads;
3 different Nursery Schools including "Mama Pete's"
featuring moms and dads pushing strollers and pulling
red wagons; the entire Girls Softball Association; the
roller hockey league in uniform and on skates; the "California
Twirling Corps" composed of about 50 little girls
carrying pom-poms, but no batons (one wonders what they
twirl); a group of little gymnasts cart wheeling down
the street followed by the local Ballet Dance School
prancing on the back of a truck plus the Sierra Madre
Kids Marching Band.
were the obligatory politicians. Our Congressman, our
State Legislators, our County Supervisor, all five members
of our City Council each riding in the back of a convertible
and the entire Arcadia City Council perched precariously
on a Hook and Ladder from the Arcadia Fire Department.
there were the Car Clubs: Horseless Carriages, T-birds,
Deuce Coups, Woodies, Packards, Studebakers, Hudsons
and seven forlorn DeLoreans doors lifted like seven
silver Batmobiles. This year for the first time there
were no Edsels, I guess they finally ran out of spare
parts. There were also no horses. Southern California
parades are always chock full of equestrian groups.
Not in Sierra Madre, where citizen volunteers do most
of the work and know full well who would end up cleaning
up the mess from
the streets. Among the Adult groups were the all volunteer
Sierra Madre Search and Rescue team marching in full
back pack. They are the pride of the community risking
life and limb to rescue novice hikers from our mountain
back yard. They received the only other standing ovation
of the day.
were two Church Choirs singing away from the backs of
flat bed trucks; The Sierra Madre Environmental Education
Committee carrying signs like "Compost Happens"
and "Think before you spray"; The cast of
the latest play at the Sierra Madre Playhouse in costume;
The "Stogie Club" a bunch of middle-aged fat
guys puffing on cigars; The Board of the Chamber of
Commerce pushing their latest "Find the Treasure
of Sierra Madre" promotion; a group calling themselves
"The Residents for the Preservation
of Sierra Madre" who I think are advocating against
in migration and the Ancient Order of Hibernians playing
their bagpipes made remarkable because one of the dozen
or so kilted Scots was obviously an Asian.
Rose Float Association is a group of volunteers that
has been designing and building a float to represent
Sierra Madre in the Rose Parade for 70 Years. Our float
is funded by the contributions of the community it represents;
most are now sponsored by big companies. In the Fourth
of July Parade the Rose Float Association enters the
bare chassis of next year's float while volunteers run
along side selling roses as a fund raiser for this year's
entry in the “Big Parade”.
number 40, smack in the middle of the parade (by design
or coincidence), is Sierra Madre's very own Belly Dancer.
Wearing her Stars and Stripes Bra with a red, white
and blue skirt she attempts to do a basically stand-in-place
dance while moving forward at about 5 miles per hour.
Trying to high-step and undulate at the same time, she
forward like a drunken half naked drum major. She's
at every public event and while she's getting a little
long in the tooth for her chosen profession she's a
good sport and she smiles broadly while we laugh.
the last few entries pass by we again hear drums in
the distance. It's the "Varmint Control Council's
Marching Band". They look familiar because they
are the same people who were in the Sierra Madre City
College Band, wearing different shirts. When they reached
the finish line earlier in the day they raced back to
the staging area, changed clothes and started all over
again. There is no mistaking those magnificent drummers
marching and pounding, marching and pounding.
Bringing up the rear are the 3 Fire Engines and Paramedic
Van which constitute the equipment of the Sierra Madre
Volunteer Fire Department. Manned by Accountants, House
Painters and School Teachers, they are the pride of
the community whose contributions support them. They
spray water from their hoses high in the air so all
the kids on the sidelines can rush into the street for
an impromptu drenching.
the parade, participants and spectators go back to Memorial
Park for more food and fun. Dunking of dignitaries continues,
the Beer Garden flourishes and a Dixie Land Jazz Festival
finishes off the day. If you think this is something,
wait until I tell you what happens around here at Halloween.