A Knoxville CHRISTmas Parade Tradition…50 Years Ago

In the 1950’s the annual Santa Claus Parade (pronounced Sande Claus by most of us) always drew the biggest crowd of any event in Knoxville each year…hands down. At that time Shields-Watkins Stadium held 50,000 fans and was rarely full. The Tennessee-Chattanooga Mocs game each year would draw 20-25,000. But, you could bet that the annual parade down Gay Street would be a “sellout” much in excess of 50,000 regardless of the weather.

This past week Steve Cash, a classmate of mine in 1958, e-mailed me a link to a fabulous 6-1/2 minute video of the 1952 Knoxville Christmas parade. I’m sure you’ll agree that this is a fabulous retrospective of great memories, sequestered back in the deep recesses of our rapidly aging minds!

1952 Knoxville Christmas Parade on Gay Street from TAMIS on Vimeo.

Look at the crowd pouring into and blocking Gay Street as they try to get a glimpse of the parade’s beginning. Of course there are the camera hounds making sure they make it into a few frames. Who knows, maybe you will see yourself among the crowd. If you do, please look at the frame counter and let us know where we can see you on the film.

You’ll see that the film is a composite of images contributed by numerous amateur photographers. Scenes are shot from both sides of the street and looking both South and North. The film was artfully produced by Bradley Reeves, his wife Louisa and the staff of Tennessee Archive of Moving Images and Sound, (T.A.M.I.S.). The credits at the end of the film list the dozen or so contributors of their film to this project.

A couple of years ago I was privileged to get an introduction to the incredible efforts of Brad and his team as they seek to chronicle the history of our great city. If you have 8mm, Super 8, VHS or any type of film of Knoxville and Tennessee, including still photos stored away, get in touch with Brad at TAMIS and allow your collection to be viewed more broadly.

Look at the film and see what and who you might identify. The Rule High band is easily identifiable by the flag at the front of the band. Beginning at counter 3:48, I think the Park Junior High School Band occupies numerous frames in scenes taken from two different cameras. Professor DeRobertis is in his normal position at the right side of the band. I’m certain you can find more. Write a short comment at the end of the article about what you find…and any other memories you have of the annual Knoxville Christmas Parade. Numerous people commented on last year’s Christmas article (Read it here). Please come back and do it again. We look forward to what you remember.


  1. Evelyn Lingerfelt on November 20, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    Thanks Ross. I reAlly enjoyed this, and have shared with my Knoxville friends on FB.

  2. William K. ("Kinser") Ellenburg on November 21, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Thanks, Ross, for the memories. About 2 or possibly 3 years later, I marched in that parade in the Park Junior High band, but I had forgotten about it completely!

  3. David Wright on November 21, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Ross: Thanks for the memories. My brother was a senior at East High School that year. It was great looking a the clothing styles and such a large crowd. Even considering the increase in the population of Knoxville, can you imagine that many people going to a parade today? David Wright Class of 1957

  4. Beverly Cash Randolph on November 21, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    Thank you Ross. I was only 4 at the time but enjoyed watching the parade. I remember the ones I did attend. They were awesome!!!!
    EHS ’66

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