SOUTH FULTON COUNTY, Ga. - Fifty years ago, Hapeville’s Marching Band was one of the first school bands east of the Mississippi to be invited to the Tournament of Roses Parade.
Channel 2’s Berndt Petersen spoke with some alums from the schools about their experience.
They remember it like it was yesterday, including the field the football field the Class of ’68 marched on to get ready for the parade in Pasadena.
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Ricky Hicks, a student in the 1968 class, has lived long enough to know there are some things you never, ever forget.
“It never leaves us,” Hicks said. “We discuss this once a month.”
Fifty years ago, Smiley -- as Hicks was called – was the drum major of the Hapeville High School Marching Band. The year the band members marched in the Tournament of Roses Parade, it was broadcast live on New Year’s Day in 1968.
Georgia Gov. Lester Maddox spent $20,000 in taxpayers' money to build a float for “Miss Georgia” to ride on. Band members raised $40,000 to pay for their trip to Pasadena.
“We sold tickets – that for 50 cents, gave you a seat in front of your own television to watch the parade,” Hicks said.
The city of Hapeville even hired the band to rake leaves around town.
“And the city would pay the band’s parents association – which would go toward the trip,” said 1968 alum Tom Eads. “And we raked pretty much every yard in town more than once.
Parade announcers Betty White and Lorne Greene were quite impressed. Smiley says there were a few pre-parade jitters that morning but it was the performance of a lifetime.
“Once we got started, it all came natural,” Hicks said. “It was a long, long parade. We were wore out when we finished.”
The state of Georgia’s float won the national trophy for the best in the parade. The game itself was between the University of Southern California and Indiana. The most valuable player: Trojans tailback O.J. Simpson.
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