12/02/12 — Goldsboro Christmas Parade brings back memories

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Goldsboro Christmas Parade brings back memories

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on December 2, 2012 1:50 AM

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Wayne County residents kicked off the Christmas season Saturday with four parades. Above, people line the streets of Goldsboro late in the afternoon to watch the Jaycees Christmas Parade.

In December 1967, Debbie Pittman watched her first Goldsboro Jaycees Christmas Parade from the corner window of her father's accounting office at the corner of John and Walnut streets.

Her father, Jim, and mother, Barbara, traded shifts holding their 1-year-old daughter up to see the parade while her two older brothers, Jimmy and Ray, stared down at the floats as they made their turn onto Walnut Street.

It's a story Barbara had long told her daughter, but it took on another life a few years back, when Debbie toured the art studios that replaced her father's office, Pittman-Price.

"It felt familiar, almost like deja vu," Debbie recalls.

So when the Arts Council of Wayne County completed its renovations to the building this year, she asked whether it was possible for her to watch the parade from that same office where, years ago, she had seen her first.

The Arts Council obliged, and although her father passed away eight years ago and her mother wasn't able to join her, Debbie got the opportunity to relive part of one of her first Christmases.

The parade has been a part of her life since before her earliest memory -- she rode in her first with her father, then the president of the Jaycees, when she was 9 months old -- and when she followed in his footsteps as the first female president of the civic club, she continued to marvel at the parade's majesty even while organizing and participating in it.

The Jaycees float always comes just before Santa Claus, she said, so it was always a great moment to watch the children light up as the grand marshal approached.

"It's such a cool thing to see the anticipation in their eyes," she said. "It's priceless."

On ground level less than a block away, Katherine and John Parker stood with their 16-month-old Matilda, whose eyes lit up at the sight of the Wayne Community College buffalo mascot, although she kept pointing, insisting he was a dog.

The Parkers moved back home to Goldsboro from Virginia Beach in July, so Saturday was Matilda's first parade -- the possible beginning of a lifetime of annual trips downtown, like Patricia Lane, who said she had been going to the parade since she was 12.

Always at a spot between Mulberry and Walnut streets on John Street, she and her nephew, Mike Sasser, estimated their family had been going to the parade for upwards of 50 years.

Today they were corralling a crowd of kids and family members -- nine in all -- from the bed of a pick-up truck that looked closer to a front porch, thanks to the lawn chairs they set up in it, putting a fresh shine on the term "tailgating."

As Santa Claus approached and the sun set, downtown lit up with its holiday decorations, ushering in a new holiday season, just as the Pittmans, Lanes and countless other families have done each year for decades.

Santa passes. The crowds leave and the streets grow quiet, but one thing is different: It's Christmas season again in Goldsboro.