Sunday Journal: Life's a parade, once you jump aboard a float

During the late '70s I worked for WSDR radio in Sterling, Ill., across the river from my hometown, Rock Falls. One of my duties, in addition to being head copywriter, was to broadcast the live color for local parades, Agriculture Days celebrations, band contests, the Petunia Festival, the Lyndon Crow Festival (I am not making this up) and Fiesta Mexicana.

In June 1976, during the Rock Falls bicentennial celebration, I was perched on a flatbed truck that served as a makeshift radio broadcasting booth. As the voice of the Rock River Valley I blathered and gushed over every float and band that went by.

I loved that job. Just eight months earlier I'd divorced my abusive alcoholic husband in Missouri, crossed the mighty Mississippi River and rented a 98-year-old house in my hometown. My children, ages 4, 5 and 7, were thriving in their new environment and I was happy, especially with my exciting new job at the radio station.

On that June day goose bumps popped up on my arms when I turned the microphone toward each of the 18 high school marching bands as they played one patriotic march after another.

Sitting on one side of my makeshift broadcast table were four men dressed in black pants, white shirts and black baseball caps. Professional musicians and former band directors from Wisconsin, they were judging the 18 marching bands competing for prizes in the parade category.

As I over-described a daisy-covered float for my radio listeners, one of the judges leaned over and handed me his black baseball cap. Into my live microphone he said, "You're doing such a fine job describing all these floats, why don't you describe my cap to the folks in radio land?"

Shocked at first, then genius struck. I turned the tables on this intruder and asked him to introduce himself to my audience and explain the system he and his fellow judges used to score the bands and what sort of things they watched and listened for as the bands marched by.

When he finished his interesting commentary I took back my microphone and said, "By the way, sir, your baseball caps are ugly. Plain, black, no words, pictures or symbols, just black. Now if you had a few daisies on them . . ." We all laughed and the parade marched on.

That night at the high school football field where the band contest continued with field performances, I walked up to the press box where I could get a bird's-eye view. The radio station wanted me to cover the event and call in the winners as soon as it was over.

To my surprise, the same four judges were sitting in the press box, this time judging the 18 high school bands in field competition. Harold, the one who horned in on my live radio broadcast that afternoon, smiled and said, "Hey guys! It's Miss I-love-a-parade! Come on in. You can sit right here next to me and I'll tell you everything you need to know about this event."

What a charmer, I thought. Not bad looking, either. I'd been so busy getting my life organized the past eight months that I hadn't had time for dating, but suddenly I found myself attracted to this older gentleman.

That's when my ex-husband, who'd come up from St. Louis to see his children, showed up in the press box. He was supposed to be down in the stands with the kids but somehow the finality of our divorce hadn't sunk in. Harold, the band judge, turned to the intruder and asked, "Who's that?"

Before I could say a word, my ex blurted out, "I'm the father of her three children."

I wanted to simply disappear. Instead I rolled my eyes heavenward and very quietly said to Harold, "We're divorced and I don't know what he's doing up here."

With that, Harold shook my ex's hand and said, "Say, son, would you mind going down to the concession stand and bringing us a couple of cold sodas?"

That's when Harold asked me if he could come back to Rock Falls the following weekend from his home in Milwaukee and take me out to dinner. I couldn't say "yes" fast enough.

Harold made the three-hour drive from Milwaukee to Rock Falls every weekend for the next year. In June 1977 at the parade on that same flatbed truck where Harold was once again one of the band judges and I was broadcasting the parade for WSDR radio, we announced our engagement to the radio audience.

Harold continued the drive every weekend during our engagement. The following June 1978, again from the flatbed truck, we told our listeners that we were going to be married the following week.

The fourth year, June 1979, we were both still together on that flatbed, he judging bands and I broadcasting the parade. By now the radio audience looked forward to hearing about our work-inspired grandstand love story. That day we gushed into the microphone together that we were expecting a child in December.

Our love story began and continued for four years on a flatbed truck overlooking a parade. Radio listeners in four counties heard how Harold Lorenz and I met and continued a friendship that blossomed into marriage and parenthood. And during those years we never, ever, let it rain on our parade.

Patricia Lorenz is a writer and art-of-living speaker who lives in Largo. Her website is http://www.patricialorenz.com.

Sunday Journal: Life's a parade, once you jump aboard a float 05/02/10 [Last modified: Sunday, May 2, 2010 1:01am]

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