Verdugo Views: Longtime volunteer towed the floats home to Brand

September 07, 2012|By Katherine Yamada
  • Glendales 1988 rose float depicted an American Indian offering a peace pipe to the world. Carvel Gay, who towed the floats back to Glendale for some twenty-five years, said he had a special connection with that that years float as he is part Native-American, from the Cherokee and Chickasaw tribes in Oklahoma.
Glendales 1988 rose float depicted an American Indian… (Courtesy of the…)

For about 25 years, Carvel Gay towed Glendale’s rose floats from Pasadena to a spot in front of the Alex Theatre on Brand Boulevard.

“Towing the float back to Glendale was quite an experience. Every year I said I could have written a book on getting the float back,’’ he told me in a 2010 interview in conjunction with a documentary on the city’s Tournament of Roses floats.

“We developed a plan each year between the Department of Parks and Recreation and myself. We always brought it back late afternoon or early evening.’’ Their route was usually on Orange Grove Boulevard to Colorado Boulevard and then over several hills to Glendale. “It took three hours or so. I learned long ago not to try to do it quickly. Safety and getting it back in one piece is the most important thing.”

“Staff from Parks and Recreation provided employees to follow us and were also on either side, plus I had staff also.” Paul Salazar, a longtime employee at Gay’s Automotive and Towing, went with him for 24 years. “We would do the driving and the observing, plus a driver would also be in the float.”


“The floats were mostly 35 feet long, but we had some 55s; they were very large. It was a challenge going around the corners. We couldn’t rely on the brakes of just the tow vehicle when they were so long and wide.” To deal with the problem, his staff designed and built a special tow bar to prevent the floats from making too wide a turn.

As the float lumbered along, it attracted attention from drivers, so there was also a motorcycle squad along to clear traffic. “People would want to stop in the middle of the street. We tried to avoid that.”

Reflecting back over the years, he recalled a few critical moments, including the time they took the freeway back to Glendale. It only took an hour and a half, as opposed to the three-hour surface route, Gay said, but by the time they exited the freeway at Brand, they had developed mechanical difficulties. “The frame welds began separating, we didn’t make it all the way to the Alex. “We got as far as the old Security Pacific bank building, parked it on the street and Parks and Recreation staff came and put barricades around it so the public could come and view it there.”

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