University Library

History of the Rose Float

tournament picture group
1950 - Tournament picture being accepted by Harold Wilson (far right) and student chairman DonMiller (second from right) at the Voorhis Chapel.

Student Don Miller deserves credit for getting Cal Poly into the annual Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade. His family, long-time residents of Pasadena, had a history of involvement with the parade. As a proud Cal Poly student, Don Miller had openly spoken about his belief that Cal Poly could create a Rose Parade float. At the end of the summer in 1948, Don Miller got a surprise call from the Pasadena Rose Parade Committee asking if Cal Poly really could produce a float entry within ninety days. Although there was no precedent, no budget, nor a committee for the project, Don said, “Sure!”

Fortunately, President Julian McPhee and Dean Harold Wilson gave their approval, and with the active support of instructors Oliver "Jolly" Batcheller (Ornamental Horticulture) and Quin Conard (Agricultural Engineering) a student committee was formed with Don Miller serving as Chairman. A $258 budget was somehow acquired. 

As the parade deadline drew closer, desperately needing float foliage, Mr. Batcheller decided that certain campus plants were over-due for “heavy pruning”. There were also some midnight flower raids on campus and in Pasadena one week before the parade that left the campus and whole neighborhoods devoid of flowers. In addition, lumber was appropriated from the school at odd times of the day.

cal poly first rose float

Cal Poly’s first float "Childhood Memories" ultimately made it to the Rose Parade on time and won an Award of Merit. Jolly Batcheller's young son Chip rode the rocking horse on the first float, appearing New Year’s Day 1949. Also riding with him were Beth Batcheller and Dennis Delamore (shown in the photo sitting in the right corner). Student Don Miller (standing on left, in the trench coat) who launched Cal Poly’s parade effort, looks on. Other faculty children riding on the opposite side of the float were Donna Weeks and Carol Conard. Chip waved as the cheering crowd tossed candy to him. In response, he plucked handfuls of flowers from the float and tossed them to the crowd. By the end of the parade, every flower within his reach had been thrown from the float.