Plain People Parade

August 29th, 2011 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

queensPlump girls on horses and scrawny ones on ponies. One tractor after another. Fire trucks from every wee burgh in Hampshire County. Teen beauties in sparkly gowns. Wrapped candies tossed from every vehicle.

Until I saw the 14-minute video of this year’s county fair parade in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, I had forgotten.

These are my people.

They may not claim me. I moved away, first to Manhattan and then to Boston, so I’m not from Romney as far as they’re concerned. Yet, I spent my summers and holidays there with family. These are the folk I sat with at the Mountain Top, Pioneer and Green Palm. These are the distant relatives I learned to swim with in the Potomac. These are the lads I stupidly jumped from the tall bridge into the river with. These are the girls I learned kissing with. These are the plain folk who find simple pleasures in such as parades.


There’d be a parade for the fair. Of course, they’d be one for the Fourth of July. There’d be one for Heritage Days (after all this is the oldest town in the state, the one where George Washington as a young surveyor slept in the barn in the still standing house behind my grandparents, and the one that happened to be on a major train line, so it changed hands something ┬álike 56 times in the Civil War).

I remember what seemed like onerous duty at the time, rather times, of parades. My grandparents lived on South Marsham Street, a block off Main Street (a.k.a. Route 50). One of my chores was to bring a backyard picnic table bench to the sidewalk in front of the A&P. I would set it in the place my grandmother designated, close enough to the curb to reserve the room. Then my sister and I would take turns sitting there and refusing to let anyone else, so that a few minutes before noon, parade time, my grandmother and any neighbors she’d invited would walk down to take their throne on the parade route. I was out of luck and only served to wait until after the parade to lug the wooden bench back.


I’m a boomer and never questioned the inequality and arbitrary abuse of power. I respected my elders and did what they told me.

Even now, I can recall the crude thrills of the parades. It certainly was what passed for theater in Romney. It surely was superior to any school or church play.

In my late 20, married and running a grocery magazine, I returned to Romney for the Fourth parade. My newish wife came and we did enjoy it. A long-time family friend, nearly 90 if she wasn’t already, had stayed up all night baking pies for church. Then she rode on a float, and walked back to the start to march with her women’s group. If I can find the issue of the magazine I published the story about it in, I’ll do another post.

Everybody knew this, that and the other person. All the marchers, musicians, baton twirlers, drivers and candy tossers got cheers. Pretentiously we could say that bonhomie reigned. In plain terms, people flat out enjoyed every moment.


One Response

  1. Harrumpher says:

    Here’s a pic of the parade, taken by my wife Cindy Thames in 1976. The charmer with the bonnet is Nora Daugherty.

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