Sid Bell, Welch Daily News Editor
With the bright November sun shining down through a cloudless blue sky and temperatures climbing just over the 40 mark, several thousand McDowell Countians lined Wyoming and McDowell streets this morning to enjoy the color and excitement of Welch's 36th Veterans' Day parade.
The theme of the parade, begun on Armistice Day in 1919 to honor this country's war dead and service veterans, was "20th Century America - 1901-2000," and the award-winning floats stressed coal's role in our nation's past and future and paid homage to those who gave their lives to preserve freedom in the past 4 wars.
Earning guest of honor Col. James Price's "Best of the Parade" trophy, the Rotary Club float featured 2 miners standing with a loaded coal car at the entrance to a coal mine shaft. A banner on the side proclaimed, "20th Century Wonder."
McDowell County Vocational School students won yet another award for the schools' division with their tribute to American Servicemen. Labeled "Armistices, 20th Century America," the float was a monument to those who fought in each of the 4 wars-World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam-and an eternal flame at the front burned above plaques with the date and place of each conflict.
The trophy for best entry in the civic organization division went to the Welch Lions Club's "Conserve Energy" float. With the caption, "The Ins and Outs of Modern Man," the float consisted of a gas pump ("out"), an oil derrick ("out") and a pile of what we have most of, coal, which got an emphatic "IN!"
The delightful McDowell County Public Library's "Children's Story Hour" setup in the bed of a pickup truck was awarded the Chamber of Commerce trophy.
Blaring, high-stepping bands were once again the highlight, adding electricity and color to get the adrenalin flowing.
The chilly weather, just as it did last year, brought a rosy glow to the majorettes' checks and noses.
Iaeger High's superb band, about 75 strong, thrilled the throng with the biggest and best sound and went home with its second straight Veterans' Day trophy for the best senior high entry.
The Cub marchers lost their uniforms in the April flood-news ones are on the way-but they substituted for them with blue berets and yellow raincoats. They really wanted the award (especially director Keith Wagner) and the contest was a runaway.
The Anawalt Intermediate School band, dressed in red hooded sweatshirts and white pants, and War Intermediate band took the other tooting and marching honors.
With bundled up children straining to get the first view and American flags on each street corner flapping wildly in the stiff breeze, the parade got underway promptly at 10 a.m., and lasted about 45 minutes.
Welch Police Chief R.K. Miller led the way, followed by the shiny new Welch fire truck with its featured passenger, Sparky the fire dog.
Mayor W.B. Swope, in his characteristic brown leather coat and hat, came next in an antique car. Big Creek High's marching band and cheerleaders followed him, then came the color guard and Col. Price's car, driven by Luke Gianato.
Welch American Legion Commander Troy Hawks and W.H. (Colonel) Ballard rode with Price, a 1947 Welch graduate whose name joins the list of guest speakers which includes President Harry Truman (1957), President Lyndon Johnson (1963), Col. Theodore Roosevelt (1920), and Gen. Chuck Yaeger (1976).
Former Congressan Ken Hechler, his little red jeep still bearing the banner, "Your Servant In Congress," jerked along behind as the master politician paused to wave, exchange greetings and offer rides.
Sheriff Clark Belcher got to show off the fancy lights and blue and white color scheme his deputies' patrol cars will have. They are expected to have them on the road in January.
Rumbling National Guard halftracks and jeeps contrasted sharply with little Mary Ann Lombardo's unicycle as they moved steadily along behind the sheriff.
Gary High, prepping for the afternoon "Barrel Game" football encounter with Welch, featured a contingent including its marching band, cheerleaders and a spirit truck with a sign declaring, "We're not consolidated yet." The two schools will be cheering together in next year's parade as they go together to form Mt. View High.
Dozens of flag-waving Brownie and other scout groups filed past, along with sorority and high school queens, midget football league cheerleaders, a Humane Society van, senior citizens groups and head start vans; some taking a "Star Wars" theme with children wearing space helmets and rocket ships decorating the sides.
Welch High's parade delegation featured its marching band unit; confetti and candy throwing pep club members and posters predicting, "The Barrel Stays," "Gary, We've Got The Colors Off Your Back," and "WHS, The Baddest School From East to West."
One of the parade's most unique and charming units was a little red fire engine with an intent young man at the wheel - he wouldn't say whether he had his driver's license - and a pretty little brown-haired girl at this side, ringing the bell as they moved along. A poster on the front of the tiny vehicle reminded everyone, "Smokey Bear Says Help Put Out Forest Fires."
The fire engine followed The Big Sandy Nightingale 4-H Club and preceded the Red Rose 4-H Club, with featured a gigantic red rose on the hood of the pickup truck hauling the members.
General Telephone Company's float entry depicted an oldtimer sitting in a rocking chair beside an antique phone while a young woman, stretched out on modern furniture, conversing on a newer model on the other side of a partition.
All of the city's auto dealers had new models sprinkled throughout the parade procession.
Even the bands which were overlooked in the awards got plenty of attention from the viewers. Berwind Intermediate's spotlighted a charming, high-strutting little majorette and Bartley Elementary's group was led by a pair of cute little blondes carrying the band's banner. Kimball Junior High's green and gold band was really impressive with more than 60 members, including pom pom girls, surging along the parade route.
Parade committee members, a carload of men wearing amusing masks and a Welch fire truck full of wide-eyed children closed the book on Veterans' Day parade, 1977.
The parade committee was made up by Chester Matney, Dick Ruff, George Lockhart, Joe Gonzalez, C.H. Gearhart, Jr., Jack Green, Earl Jones, Paul Santoro, Fred Adams, Melvin Dillon, Ken Roberts and Butch Hawks.