Parader Picnic - August 8, 2000
GM Futurliner Restoration Project
National Automotive and Truck Museum of the United States


The following is a write up that Project Director, Don Mayton did on a picnic he attended for a few of the men who worked on the Parade of Progress.

On Tuesday, August 8, 2000 Frank Bredeweg scheduled a get together of a few of the "Paraders" that started the Parade of Progress in April of 1953. I had the privilege of being invited to attend. The get together took place at Frank's cottage in Commerce, Michigan. Commerce is located on the east side of Michigan, a little SW of Pontiac, Michigan.

The following "Paraders" were present: Frank Bredeweg || Jim Morris and his wife Jean || Tony Gagliardi and his wife Eleanor || Charles Tangora and his wife Barbara || Jim Gentzel and his wife Jane || Don Cadger || and Larry Finn.

Of the group that met at Frank's place only Jim Morris was with the Parade of Progress from the fall of 1952 (preparing the Parade) until it ended in the fall of 1956. He had the job of getting all the Futurliners, trucks, tractors and trailers back to Detroit.

It was a pleasure to hear the stories of the many instances that took place during the time that these men were on the Parade of Progress. In addition to the verbal information, several photo albums were available. In addition some original newspaper clippings were donated and several original publications of that era which included a Packard Electric division newsletter (Packard Cablegram) with a full spread section announcing the arrival of the "Parade" for October 8, 9, 10, 11, admission free. The article had 13 photos of the "Parade." Also included in the original publications were two post cards and a Christmas card that were designed to be mailed by the "Paraders" at Christmas - New Years time. The post cards had individual pictures of a "Parader" while working the "Parade" while the Christmas card was generic with Santa and his sleigh being pulled by reindeer followed by Futurliners.

Much of the conversation confirmed some of the facts that we have already learned but again, as we talked to more "Paraders" we are always learning new facts about the "Parade".

All of the "Paraders" present discussed how difficult the Futurliners were to drive and maneuver. They recalled that it was difficult to see immediately in front of the vehicle and reverse was even more difficult. In addition, the brakes were very poor for such a large vehicle. Many instances were discussed where things were bumped into or knocked down. Knocking things down was not confined to just the Futurliners. One of the Paraders recalled that the frame truck (truck that held the frames for the tent.) took out all the electric lines at their show in Grand Rapids. At another show in Kokomo, one of the tractor trailer rigs took out the corner of a garage.

The Futurliners, the frame truck, and the generator truck were so heavy that if they had rain on the show field, they often had to be winched off the field. In Beaumont, Texas it rained so hard that the vehicles had to be winched onto the field and it continued to rain so hard that the show never opened and all the vehicles had to be winched off the field. The field was so damaged that GM repaired it at great cost.

As mentioned before all the GM cars traveling with the "Parade" were painted the Chevrolet color "Target" red with some cars being two toned with white. Although this was a Chevrolet color, every time a replacement car was sent, it came in "Target" red. The cars were replaced on a period basis however the "Paraders" present could not remember the timing, except that it was several times a year. They would arrive in a town and there would be a new batch of GM cars in their bright "Target" red. These were factory painted cars and they were sold after being used for approximately six months on the "Parade". So in the years of 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, and possibly 1957 there were factory painted GM cars (Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet truck and GMC truck) that officially were painted in that Chevrolet color "Target" red. We have already found the color chip in the 1952 Chevrolet color chip chart. Another interesting fact about these "Target" red vehicles is that in many cases the color of the interior did not match the outside to the point of totally clashing. In one case, there was a mustard interior of a Pontiac and painted on the outside with this bright red. Jim Gentzel purchased one of the "Parade" cars which was a 1954 four door Century Oldsmobile, "Target" red.

The GM cars were used to pick up city and town dignitaries. They were generally assigned as follows:

Cadillac convertible - Show director
Buick convertible - Maintenance supervisor
Oldsmobile -
Pontiac - Trainee supervisor
Chevrolet - Vehicle supervisor

The "Paraders" continue to be amazed at the organization of the "Parade" -- how well it was managed, how smoothly it ran, and the backup that GM gave it. In one instance the frame truck (the truck that held all the frame members for the tent), while traveling in Alabama, rolled over and burned, exploding all the tires. Fortunately, the two "Paraders" were able to get out uninjured. The Parade Director called Detroit and by the time they got to the next location, in rolled a new frame truck with all the tent frames.

The second incident happened in Texas. There was a terrible windstorm and the Paraders tried to lower the tent skin as it was starting to shred. However the wind did its job and the skin was destroyed. At the next show, a tractor-trailer arrived with a new tent skin. I guess the "show must go on".

I know it is mentioned in a lot of articles about the "Parade" that the "Paraders" did everything. This included driving trucks, Futurliners, tractor trailers, setting up the show, changing clothes and then doing the lecturing, tearing down the show, cleaning up the field and moving on. You don't come to really understand this until you sit and listen to all the stories being told by the "Paraders." Remember these were young men fresh out of college performing all of these jobs.

While traveling, they each were assigned a "steamer trunk" to store all their worldly possessions in. These "steamer trunks" were painted red and white and labeled "Parade of Progress." The "Parader" was assigned a number and this was stenciled onto his "steamer trunk." Don Cadger has one of these trunks with the number 52 on it.

We have always been puzzled that in any picture of the setup of the "Parade" we cannot count 12 Futurliners. Even when we see photos of the Futurliners in a parade on a city street or moving down a highway we can never count 12. This was cleared up by the "Paraders" stating that they generally set up between 8 and 10 Futurliners at any show. Typically, there were one or two Futurliners having new or updated shows being installed, or were out for maintenance of one thing or another. I also found out that in the tent was not a Futurliner but a trailer that the side could let down to form a stage.

Jim Gentzel went to the next town to scout out the town with the show director using the Cadillac convertible. Charles Tangora was in charge laying out the field for the next show. This was generally done with white chalk much like is done at the high school football games.

Tony Gagliardi has some pictures of one of the Futurliners that was involved in an accident. It was repaired and put on the road.

Another interesting fact that was learned was that GM had the State of Michigan set aside a series of license plates to be used on the vehicles that were on the Parade of Progress. The Michigan plate numbers that were set aside started with plate numbered " 1001 - GM " and ended with plate numbered " 1099 - GM ". It could not be remembered if these numbers were issued yearly or if they were issued only once. As we look at all the photos that we have we will try to find out. Maybe some other "Paraders" can remember.

Also Stroughs Brewery of Detroit, Michigan used one of the Futurliners as an advertising medium sometime after the "Parade" was over. If anyone out there has pictures of this Futurliner we would like a copy.

This project, in addition to being a restoration project of a Futurliner, is also trying to gather all the facts around the Parade of Progress. The most important part of the project is the people involved starting with Kettering and continuing with the "Paraders" and including the volunteers currently working on the project. This is really the rewarding part of the project -- the people.

In order to gather the correct facts if any others out there has information about the Parade of Progress or the Futurliners we would be glad to hear from you.


Copyright 1999-2018. All rights reserved.