Coulrophobia & Fog

Sometimes odd just happens. The day after Thanksgiving in 1935 it seemed perfectly normal to merge a Christmas parade with a toyland theme-especially for a parade sponsored by the downtown merchants just before the big shopping season. It seemed like the ideal way to tee up the buying season for downtown department stores and brighten the coming Christmas season for Tacoma’s families working to emerge from the struggles of the Depression. Kids were encouraged to make their own costumes and join Santa in the parade. Someone thought it would be a great idea to make head masks based on Disney characters and cartoon clowns printed in newspaper ads. What could go wrong.

A dense fog for one thing followed by the somewhat frightening emergence of really bad, over sized head masks and weirdly scary clowns. The floats were just plain creepy and the musician union band was missing most of its members giving the whole performance a weirdly fragmented, off key musical score. The cold, thick fog backed up the waiting paraders and created a street crowd of freezing clowns, mystified fairytale characters and mirthless, confused organizers. Into the cloudy throng stepped a photographer with a decidedly twisted eye for the oddly juxtaposed slightly creepy dreamland.

After 1935 the Christmas parade stayed with just Santa and a traditional theme. Tacoma’s toyland nightmare was mostly forgotten except for the photographs.

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