Tuesday, September 1, 2009

This Month in Rochester History

Forty years ago this month, Rochester was gearing up for the biggest party in her history as the Rochester Centennial celebration culminated in a week of festivities during the second week of September, 1969. The centennial commemorated the 100th anniversary of Rochester's incorporation as a village, and was kicked off on Memorial Day weekend of 1969 with a regatta on Paint Creek known as the Floatable Boatable. The next month, to encourage the men of the town to grow beards and mustaches, a funeral was held for a giant straight razor. The Razor lay in state in a wicker coffin in the lobby of the National Bank of Detroit branch (now Chase) at the corner of Fourth and Main until the appointed day of the burial, when a funeral procession made its way through town. I was only nine years old at the time, and I remember thinking the whole thing was pretty bizarre!

The centennial also featured a huge pageant called "Hills-A-Poppin!" on the Rochester High School football field. The festivities wound up in September of 1969 with a parade that included well over 100 units. It seemed as though everybody in town participated in some way, and it was not uncommon to see folks on the street during that summer wearing their costumes - including hoop skirts for the women and beards and mustaches for the men.

If you remember the Rochester Centennial, you are invited to join the Rochester Avon Historical Society for their regular meeting on Thursday, September 3 at 7:00 p.m. in the auditorium of the Rochester Hills Public Library. The free program will feature slides, pictures, stories and artifacts recalling the 1969 centennial celebration, and everyone is invited to come and share memories. This meeting will also mark the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Rochester Avon Historical Society, which was organized during the centennial year. See you there!

Photo: My dad took this photo during the 1969 Rochester Centennial Parade. Notice the parade spectators in costume. The building in the background, located on North Main at the foot of Drace, was a furniture store at the time, and had previously been the home of Davey's Market. Today it is the Rochester Elks Club.

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