The Irish in America

WHERE GENEALOGY COMES FULL CIRCLE

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Welcomes Two Girls From Milltown

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Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade debuted in 1924. Macy’s began the parade in order to promote their department store for the Christmas season. Most of the participants in the parade were Macy’s employees who donned costumes, marched, and rode on floats pulled by horses, tracing the route from Harlem to Macy’s Herald Square store. Over 250.000 people watched the parade that first year and it became an annual event.

1940 Hippo balloon at Macy’s parade (photo from theweek.com)

The famous helium-filled balloons of animals first appeared in 1927, replacing the real animals that were sprung from the Central Park Zoo to march in the parade. By 1942, the rubber and helium from the balloons became necessary for the war effort and the parade was called off until 1945.

The November 28, 1947 s New York Times article describes the parade in great detail. The parade had clearly hit its pre-World War II stride with crowds, bands, floats, and the return of the giant balloons. The headline reads:

2,000,000 THRILLED BY MACY’S PARADE

Gas-Filled Giants Prance Again to Delight of Throngs Who Forget Cold

CLOWNS ADD TO THE FUN

Three Little Pigs, Peter Rabbit in the Line — Santa Bestows a Greeting.

What a line-up! The two million spectators lined the sidewalks of the parade route and “peered from open windows, crowded roof-tops, and marquees” to catch a glimpse of Humpty-Dumpty, the Pumpkin Float, and a gigantic panda balloon. Five-year-old Katharine had this to say about the parade: “I like the Jack O’ Lantern, I like the Funny Cop, I like loud music, I like the dancers, I like everything.”

Among the two million people gathered that Thanksgiving morning in 1947 were Maureen and Joan Teahan. Maureen and Joan were sisters who had just arrived in New York the previous day, November 26th. The sisters left their home in Milltown, County Kerry about a week earlier to begin new lives in the United States. Milltown’s population? About 100 people.

The girls experienced just a bit of culture shock upon arrival in New York City. Their Uncle Dan sponsored the sisters’ passage to the United States and made a point of telling them to lock the hotel room door. Maureen recalls that this was something she and Joan had not even considered.

So, what did Maureen think of the two million people plus a rocket ship from Mars full of blue invaders who were “mocked” by Peter Rabbit and the Mad Hatter while the Three Little Pigs “sang the praises of Thanksgiving” and the steady pounding of drums filled the air? Maureen admits she was overwhelmed.

What an introduction to the United States for Maureen and Joan. They walked right into one of the most cherished Thanksgiving traditions for families all over the United States – the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, on a day that is uniquely American. That is a lot to process within the first forty-eight hours in a country.

Maureen and Joan stayed in New York for a week – shopping and seeing the sights – before settling in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

In a couple of weeks, I will publish a lovely story written by Maureen. It’s a Christmas story. But for now, a Happy Thanksgiving to all and enjoy the parade!

Special thanks to Mary Power for sharing the New York Times article, as well as her mother Maureen’s memories of the 1947 Macy’s Thanksgiving parade.

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Author: Aine

I live in Saint Paul, Minnesota. My heritage pretty much covers the map of Ireland: great-great-grandparents from Cork (Crowley, Foley, Regan), a great-great-grandmother from Clare (Quinn), a great-great-grandfather from Fermanagh (McMahon) and his wife's parents from Mayo (McAndrew), a great-grandmother from Connemara (Hannon) married to my great-grandfather from Laois (McCormack), great-grandparents from Sligo (Flannery), and a great-grandmother from Kildare (Hill). All of those people ended up in Minnesota, where my four grandparents were born. Three and four generations after my people left Ireland for America, I retain all Irish heritage. So much for the melting pot...

21 thoughts on “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Welcomes Two Girls From Milltown

  1. Whats up are using WordPress for your site platform?
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  2. Hi, I check your new stuff like every week. Your story-telling style is awesome, keep doing what you’re doing!

  3. Pingback: Meet Maureen (Part III) | The Irish in America

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  6. Pingback: Meet Maureen (Part I) | The Irish in America

  7. Pingback: Day Eleven of Irish American Favorites: Maureen Teahan Murray | The Irish in America

  8. love your story about the fair day. I remember Miss Eager well.

    • So happy you enjoyed Maureen’s stories. She gives us a new one each month!

      *Aine McCormack*

      *aine@archival-solutions.com*

      *Twitter: @irish_america*

      * *

      *www.TheIrish In America.com *

      ThelrishlnAmerica @ gmail.com @FamilyToursIRL on Twitter + 1-651-222-4402

      304 Dacotah Building 370 Selby Avenue Saint Paul MN 55102 USA

      * *

  9. Maureen, I have thoroughly enjoyed your stories about growing your growing up. I can’t wait for you to write about my mother Dolly, guess we just like to have some memories to hang on to.
    Helen

    Josephine’s oldest

  10. Pingback: Maureen’s Memories: The Infant’s Class Uprising | The Irish in America

  11. Pingback: Maureen’s Memories: Fair Day in Milltown « The Irish in America

  12. Pingback: An Orange for Baby Jesust « The Irish in America

  13. What a great story! I have grown up watching the parade every year. And every year we say how great it would be to see it in person. Maybe someday!

  14. What a lovely post! I can just imagine these two girls watching the parade, their eyes wide with amazement as they tried to take in all the sights and sounds.

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