More than 40 years ago, Bill and Virginia Morris had an idea. It was just a small one, thought up on their way home from the city’s Fourth of July parade.
“We went downtown to the parade,” says Morris, “which consisted of the Daughters of the American Revolution riding down the street in air conditioned cars, waving at us out the windows. My wife and I thought we needed a much better parade than that.”
Virginia told Morris of the childhood parades she remembered, made up completely of neighborhood kids. They decided they’d try it in their own Northaven Park neighborhood.
“The next year we simply spread the word that we were gonna have one,” he says. “We told people to decorate their bikes and things, and said we’d start at 10 a.m.”
They planned to begin in front of their house on Elderwood. A few minutes before the designated time, they probably wondered if the idea was a good one after all. Only a handful of people had gathered out front.
“At 10 minutes ‘til 10, we had maybe a dozen people outside,” he says. “But right at 10, we must have had 150 people. They came out of the woodwork.”
They came on bikes. They rode in strollers. Some even traveled on converted lawn mowers. The Morrises dressed their oldest daughter, Cindy, in a Statue of Liberty costume.
“We made her a costume and a hat with the spikes, you know, and built a little four-foot-square float with a rope for her to hold onto, and somebody walked in front and pulled it,” he says.
Cindy wore the costume for a couple of years, before passing the honor to another lucky neighborhood girl. Since then it has been handed down every year, from neighbor to neighbor. And last year, Cindy’s own daughter was Miss Liberty.
Few things in life have remained the same in the past 40 years. But one of those things is that not-so-little neighborhood parade, held every year since the first, at 10 a.m. on the Fourth of July.
“It’s almost exactly like it was,” Morris says. “It’s still all kids. And it’s still amazing how, 15 minutes before it starts, there’ll be no one around. And then, when the time comes, they’re just everywhere.”
It’s sure to happen just the same way this year, with only one difference. Though the parade will start in front of the same house it always has, it won’t be Morris who comes out the front door to start things off.
Now widowed and battling health problems, Morris decided earlier this year to move to another neighborhood to live with his son. But he didn’t leave the parade without a leader.
His daughter and son-in-law, Kathy and David Fechtman, moved into the house. They’d already been involved with the parade for years, so it just seemed natural for David to step into the leadership role.
Morris says he’ll continue to attend the parades, but it’s time to let someone else take charge.
“I think it’s great that he will be doing it,” he says. “I need to pass this down the road, hand it off. They’re enthusiastic about it, as much in favor of it as I was.”
Looking back, Morris says he’s proud of what he started, though he’s reluctant to take the credit for himself.
“It was just an idea,” he says. “We just wanted a little parade the kids could participate in. Now we’re on our second, almost third generation. I think it turned out very well.”
The parade, which is open to the public, begins at the 5800 block of Elderwood on Friday, July 4, at 10 a.m.
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