A prankster steals the parade in Arlington on October 28, 1924.

  • By Phil Dougherty
  • Posted 4/07/2008
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 8577

On October 28, 1924, a prankster steals the parade in Arlington (Snohomish County). He manages to direct approximately 275 cars of a 400-car parade in the wrong direction, resulting in an enormous traffic jam and considerable consternation among parade goers and public officials. The parade is to celebrate the opening of two new bridges across the Stillaguamish River in Arlington.

Two Brand New Bridges

The town of Arlington sprang up in the early 1890s, and in the early twentieth century two bridges crossing the Stillaguamish River and leading north out of town were built. These two bridges, known as the Haller Bridge and the Lincoln Bridge, were built for foot traffic and horses and wagons. Both bridges proved inadequate to handle the advent of the automobile that soon followed, and in the late spring of 1924 construction began on two new and improved bridges.  

The new bridges were also named the Haller Bridge (which is part of today’s [2008] Highway 9), located at the northwestern edge of Arlington, and the Lincoln Bridge, located about two-thirds of a mile southeast of the Haller Bridge and at the northeastern edge of town. The Lincoln Bridge is on the Arlington-Darrington Road, also known today as Washington state highway 530.  As with many other road projects during the 1920s, construction of these bridges generated terrific excitement with local residents, who closely kept up with their construction.  Finally, a grand opening celebration was set for 2 p.m. on Tuesday, October 28, 1924.  Arlington mayor Will Verd proclaimed a half-holiday for that afternoon; businesses were closed, a large celebratory parade was planned, and plenty of important county and state officials came to town for the gala affair. 

A Long And Winding Parade 

And the town was ready.  The contractors scrubbed the new bridge decks, and nearby roads were regraveled and graded to put them in the best condition possible. Local car dealers, caught up in the excitement, generously agreed to loan new cars in their lots to those who did not have one to drive in the parade. By the time the parade began to assemble on Railroad Avenue in downtown Arlington at 1 p.m. on the afternoon of October 28, there were at least 400 automobiles participating. The Arlington band played music, the growing crowd eagerly watched the action, and the cars lined up for the big parade.

The parade was scheduled to drive east to the Lincoln Bridge, cross the old bridge (some minor work remained to finish the new Lincoln Bridge), turn around and double back across the bridge through Arlington, then turn north and cross the new Haller Bridge, where two young women, representing the towns of Arlington and Bryant (two and a half miles northwest of Arlington) were scheduled to cut ceremonial ribbons on either side of the bridge. After a victory lap north to Bryant and back, the parade was scheduled to stop at the new Haller Bridge (nicely decorated with flags and banners) for ceremonial speeches.  

A Shocking Surprise

Everything seemed to be running smoothly, and no one noticed that as 2 p.m. approached, cars scheduled to ride in the parade were mysteriously disappearing and heading north across the Haller Bridge.  A “parade committee” had three traffic men lining up the procession, but they evidently weren’t watching closely enough, because “at a moment when the head of the line was unguarded, this person [who was not identified] ‘took the bit in his teeth’ and managed to make a farce out of what otherwise would have been an orderly and impressive procession of some 400 automobiles” (The Arlington Times, October 30, 1924, p.1).

It wasn’t until nearly 2 p.m., as the pilot car (driven by state senator George Murphy) was moving down a rapidly shrinking parade line to take its position to lead the parade east toward the Lincoln Bridge, that someone noticed something was wrong.  To the shocked chagrin of all, they learned that a prankster had managed to slip to the head of the parade during an unguarded moment and had successfully led about two-thirds of the cars in the parade across the Haller Bridge, forcing its opening prematurely, robbing the two ribbon-cutting young women of their moment in the sun, and causing considerable consternation in general. 

The problem worsened when the rest of the parade doggedly proceeded along its intended route across the Lincoln Bridge and back. By the time this second part of the parade reached the Haller Bridge and tried to cross it going north, the first (hijacked) part of the parade had completed its loop north to Bryant and was trying to cross the Haller Bridge going south back into Arlington.  The two parts of the parade simply collided with each other on the new bridge, resulting in an enormous traffic jam. There were so many people and cars on the bridge that some feared it would collapse from the weight.  (An article in the Arlington Times the next week cited statistics of the bridge’s load capacity and assured its readers this could not have happened.) The frustrated crowd milled about unhappily; it took awhile for people to figure out what to do next. Finally the program of speeches was moved to the firemen’s pavilion in town, and the celebration continued to a satisfactory conclusion.   

The new Lincoln Bridge opened on November 11, 1924, without incident and with little fanfare.

Sources: “Bridge Work Progressing,” The Arlington Times, June 5, 1924, p. 1;  “Big Crowd Expected At Bridge Opening Tuesday,” Ibid., October 23, 1924, p. 1;  “New Bridges Duly Opened; Huge Crowd At Ceremonies,” Ibid., October 30, 1924, pp. 1, 8;  “Explanation,” Ibid., October 30, 1924, p. 1;  “Bronze Plates Mark Bridges,” Ibid., November 13, 1924, p. 1.

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