Despite 27-degree weather, thousands of people packed Downtown streets to watch the annual Christmas parade during the noon hour on Thursday, Nov. 22, 1956.
Leading the way was a Marine Corps color guard and mounted county police officers. Behind them were marching bands. Waving from open-topped cars were the “Santa Belles,” women drawn from the membership of the Pittsburgh Models Club. The women covered their goose bumps by modeling fur coats.
The Indian Bonnettes, an Oil City unit of baton twirlers who ranged in age from six to 12, weren’t so lucky. The girls’ legs turned a rosy red as they marched and spun in the frosty air. They marched, counter marched and swung batons as though they had lived at the North Pole all their lives, wrote David Martin of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
There was a float with a nativity scene. Also in the procession were 40 mammoth balloons, pulled by boys in clown suits. One balloon was shaped like an ice cream cone. The others were characters such as Humpty Dumpty, Felix the Cat and Jocko the Monkey. Santa Claus and his eight reindeer sat on an 85-foot-long float and brought up the end of the procession.
Back then, the parade route was different. Participants started in Gateway Center and marched up Liberty Avenue to Fifth Avenue, up Fifth to Grant Street, then down Sixth Avenue to Liberty and back to Gateway Center.