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  • Writer's pictureMacabre Emporium Pod

Episode 6 - The Thanksgiving Episode


Parade Balloons from the 1930s

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

This originally started out to be about the Macy’s parade and black Friday but, the origins of black Friday are not nearly as exciting as the fight videos that surface every year of people fighting over a four-dollar toaster they don't really need.

Marching bands, enormous balloons, and floats. Hearing these three things the first thing that may come to mind is a parade. More than likely the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in particular. The Macy’s parade might be the most famous of all the parades held on Thanksgiving, but it is not the oldest. It's actually in a tie with the second oldest Thanksgiving Day parade held in Detroit, Mi created by J. L. Hudson's department store now named America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. J. L. Hudson would be rebranded into Marshall Field’s stores in 2001 and they would be acquired by Macy’s in 2006.

The oldest Thanksgiving Day parade belongs to the city of Philadelphia, Pa. that was started in 1920 by the now defunct Gimbels department stores and is now named abc6 Dunkin' Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade. The Macy’s and Detroit Parades four years later. I know there are more across the country but these are the three oldest that laid the groundwork for this holiday tradition. I will be focusing on the Macy’s parade as it's the most famous one of all three.

I am sure you may have caught on that all three of these were started by department stores. These department stores would use these parades to celebrate the holiday shopping season. In 1924 Macy’s would open their flagship store that would take up an entire city block. Branding it “the world’s largest store”. The size of a city block of Manhattan where this store is located would be 900 feet long and 264 feet wide.

The first parade was originally named Macy’s Christmas Parade. According to Macy’s interactive timeline about the parade which you can find on their website. A group of employees that were first gen. immigrants wanted to hold this parade to give thanks and celebrate their newfound freedom and the coming of Christmas. The original parade route started at 145th St. and Convent Ave. to 34th and Broadway ending at Macy’s. This route was only six miles but the entire parade procession was only two blocks long. The parade route today is 2.5 miles

This first parade didn’t have much in its procession as it does now. It only consisted of”

  • Four marching bands (possibly jazz bands as well)

  • Camels, donkeys, elephants, and even tigers from the Central Park Zoo

  • Five or 4 floats pulled by horses (old lady that lives in a shoe, little miss Muffet, and red riding hood, three men in a tub, and Santa at the end)

  • Parade participants were Macy’s employees which still do today with a special honor.

  • Santa Claus brought up the rear as he still does today except in 1933 he led the parade instead.

During this first parade historians for Macy’s said that spectators joined in on the parade and sang along with Santa Claus as he traveled the parade route following behind him. They are unsure how many people attended the parade, but their estimate is about 250,000. When Santa would reach Macy’s he would be crowned “King of the Kiddies” and then crowds would enjoy the unveiling of the Christmas window displays.

1927 is when the Macy’s Christmas Parade would become the Thanksgiving Day Parade and also the enormous balloons first made their appearance in 1927 as the animals were frightening to some children. Some sources stated these first balloons weren’t filled with helium but regular air/helium and would be held up with long poles, the following year they would be filled only helium. Felix the cat was thought to be the very first character type in 1931 but, the characters from a comic strip named “The Katzenjammer Kids” were the first ones. During the 1930s they would introduce four balloons with sound effects:

Dachshund that barked

Pig that squealed

A crying baby

A hissing alligator

These first balloons didn’t deflate for storage as they do now. They were originally designed to release their helium at an altitude of 2000 feet. Creating a short tradition for this area known as the Macy’s balloon race. Macy’s would offer a 100-dollar reward or 1,700 dollars today for any balloon returned with the affixed address on them. By 1932 they would stop releasing these balloons after one pilot retrieved one of these balloons by plane but only received 25 dollars and Macy’s banned retrieval by plane. The following year, a different pilot tried to do the same style of retrieval and nearly crashed causing Macy’s to stop releasing them all together.

Balloon retrievals

  • One known as Tom the pig floated around the Empire state building before being rescued in East Islip (long island hamlet aka township)

  • Fritz the dachshund would be rescued from the east river by tugboat

  • Georgie the Drum Major would be torn to shreds by a mob of spectators and 82 spectators and would try to claim retrieval

  • Willie redbird would be reduced 22 miles away on fire island and would stay in flight for 72 hours after the parade. If not claimed by the following Saturday Macy’s would issue warnings to ships in the North Atlantic lanes

They were only made by the Goodyear tire and rubber company until 1980 and moved balloon production in-house. It takes 25 employees starting in April to construct the balloons having them completed by Halloween. They are constructed of polyurethane rubber and made in chambered sections. This being if the balloon is torn during the parade it can continue to fly.

The balloons are hand painted after they are inflated. This is to prevent cracking and to check for leaks after assembly. They are inflated the night before as helium expands as helium warms up in the sunlight on parade day. This is why some look slightly deflated during the parade. It takes up to 90 minutes to fill the balloons but only 15 minutes to deflate them using a giant zipper sewn into them. Macy’s is the second largest consumer of helium in the world behind NASA since it cost about 510 million dollars to fill these balloons. To sponsor a balloon,

you have to pay 190,000 dollars to cover entry and construction and 90k every year after that.

In 1958 there was a helium shortage and they got creative to keep the balloons in the parade. They would fill them with regular air and have them hoisted up on cranes as they traveled down the parade route.

I’m sure everyone at some point in their life has wanted to take control of these behemoths but to be on a balloon crew it's a special honor for Macy’s employees only as well as their friends and family. The ropes they use to keep the balloons under control are called bones. These balloon crews are anywhere between 50-90 handlers depending on size. The team for each balloon includes an overall leader, a police officer, one pilot, two drivers, and whatever number of handlers are required depending on size. The pilot is constantly giving directions to raise and lower, speed up or slow down, and being a hype man to keep spirits up. The pilot gives directions with a combination of whistles and hand signals.

The handlers typically are dressed in a themed jumpsuit associated with the balloon but the pilot is in a white jumpsuit for easier visibility. They are also tethered to two utility vehicles similar to the John Deere one we used at Jazz Fest to keep them grounded. To be a balloon handler you must be at least 18 years old, weigh 120 pounds or more, and be in good health.

As for the pilot you are required to be able to walk backward for the entire 2.5-mile parade route knowing where you are at all times. They also must attend classes in aerodynamics, geometry, and physics. In the first week of November, they hold a balloon fest where these pilots and handlers train with their balloons outside for the first time.

Now the specific requirement for the pilot might sound a bit absurd but it's for good reason. Over the years there have been some mishaps with balloons that lead to major changes.

In 1997 the cat in the hat crashed into a lamp post causing falling debris to strike a spectator fracturing their skull that would leave her in a coma for a month and injuring four others. Balloon size regulations of 70ft. tall, 40ft wide, or 78 ft long. and wind monitoring along the route would be implemented the next year. If sustained wind gusts exceed 23-34 mph or heavy rainfall is ongoing they are prohibited from flying.

In 2006 new regulations would be implemented as well on how high they can fly per ballon size after a similar incident happened in 2005 injuring two sisters. With other changes before the parade begins, Macy’s will inspect the parade route looking for any obstructions so they can be either altered or removed for the parade.

There is a long list of incidents with balloons but these are the most well-known in the parade's history. Most of the incidents were tears and property damages due to wind and rain.

Some other fun facts to close this up

The only time the parade has been canceled was during world war 2 and Macy's donated the balloons towards the war effort weighing in at 650 pounds total. The parade returned in 1945 with a new route half the size of the original. My first thought was during the pandemic but they only went crowd less during that and pre-recorded.

The Rockettes are an iconic part of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but they didn’t make their debut in the lineup until 1958. And is the last act of pre-parade festivities.

The parade was first televised on a local New York City station in 1945. In 1948 it would be televised for the first time nationally on NBC. They would go on to be the official broadcaster in 1953. Today its estimated 50 million people watch the parade at home.

The original Miracle on 34th street would showcase the parade. And filmed on location so they only had one shot at the scenes. Actor Edmund Gwenn portraying Santa in the film would be Santa Claus in the parade this year as well.

Snoopy from the peanuts cartoons has had more appearances in the parade than any other character balloon since he debuted in 1968. This year will make his 43rd appearance and has had eight different costume changes over the years. From astronaut to fighter pilot “red baron”

When President Kennedy was assassinated three days before the parade it was possibly going to be canceled until the Kennedy family reached out and asked Macy’s to keep the parade going for the sake of the children.

The coldest was 18 in 2018, the hottest was 69 in 1933, wettest was 1.72” 06

Tom the turkey is the oldest Macy’s float debuting in 1973 and has been in every parade since.

Marching bands in the parade have to apply two years ahead of when they want to perform.

Macy’s will not disclose how much the parade costs each year saying “It’s a gift to the city, and as with any gift, you don’t leave the price tag on.”

There are estimated totals I found but after reading their response I had decided to leave it out.



Seth Privacky news article

The Thanksgiving Murders

On Sunday, November 29th, 1998, the Privacky family was preparing for a late Thanksgiving Dinner. 18-year-old Seth was getting ready for dinner in a different way than his family. His brother was watching TV while waiting for his girlfriend to show up. Their dad had gone to pick up their grandfather, and they were on their way back. His mom was showering in preparation for the day.

Seth had been upstairs loading a 22 Ruger belonging to his dad. They all woke up that morning excited to spend another holiday together and enjoy a feast…none of them knew that this day would end in murder.

According to neighbors, Seth was seemingly a good kid, but about a year before the events, which I will get to soon, took place, he had a couple of run-ins with the law. He was arrested twice. Once for shoplifting a CD and another for shoplifting beer. Hardly anything to write home about. However, this was a precursor to being sent to a youth home for ten days, being forced to take therapy, and being prescribed Wellbutrin.

Now I am going to dig into what happened with all of that out of the way. Keep in mind that this next part takes place on November 29th. This would start around noon, but nothing would be found until nearly 12 hours later. So around midnight on November 29th, April's parents showed up to look for her since she didn't show up to her third-shift job. Her employer called her house, and that's how they found out that she never showed up. They got worried, so they went to the Privacky house to see if she was still there. When they got there, they claimed to have seen a shadowy figure run from the garage into the house. They also spotted a man's body lying in between two cars in the driveway of the Privacky home. They went towards the garage and saw blood on the floor, and a young man ran out of the house and disappeared into the night. They called the police immediately after that. They knew something was very wrong.

When police arrived and entered the home, they found the bodies of April Boss and 78-year-old Jonathan Privacky (Seth's grandfather). They were both in a small room in the back of the garage. Seth's 19-year-old brother Jedediah was found in the basement, and his mother, Linda, was found upstairs in the bathroom where Seth had shot her as she was getting out of the shower. The body in the driveway belonged to Seth's father - 50-year-old Steven. Autopsies later revealed that all five victims had obviously died of gunshots, but all of them were shot once and died instantly, except for the grandfather. He was shot twice, as the first shot did not kill him.

Shortly after the police arrived, they were met by a teenage boy walking out. This would turn out to be 18-year-old Steven Wallace, and he would go on to explain what had happened. Steven was a friend of Seth's and had gotten a phone call from Seth earlier in the day. Seth had told Steven that he had killed his mom, dad, brother, their grandpa, and his brother's girlfriend. Seth had asked Steven to come over and help him clean up the scene. He wanted help moving the bodies and getting rid of the murder weapon, which he agreed to. Steven tossed the gun in a pond miles away from the Privacky home. He said he was there helping clean up when April's parents came over.

This automatically turned into a manhunt at that point. The high school that Seth and Steven attended the high school, the same school Seth's dad taught at, was put on lockdown in case Seth were to show up there. Pictures of Seth were shown around the school and handed out in case a student happened to spot him there - they could alert the staff. During the day at this high school, all those attending found out about the death of Jedediah and April even though they graduated the previous year. It made for a sad day. So sad for one student, Janavive Simonelli, that she left and drove around. During her drive, Janavive saw someone hitchhiking, and being young and dumb….she pulled over to pick them up. Once this person got in her car, she realized it was none other than…DUN DUN DUUUUNNN… Seth-mother-fucking-Privacky. Even though she was terrified, she took Seth to his friend's house, where he asked to go. His friend was not at home, so he went and hid in their pole barn until about 1 pm when police found him and arrested him - thanks to Janevive.

After being taken to the police station and interviewed, Seth confessed to everything he did. He told the officers the story about the fight with his dad and him being told he needed to move out, and that out of anger, he got the gun and decided to kill his family. Once he did that, he got rid of the shell casings and decided to call his friend Stephen to help him move the bodies and bury them. When Stephen arrived to help, they both soon realized that simply moving the bodies was too hard, so they chose to try and make it look like a robbery gone wrong. They were both in the process of taking things out of the house (TV, VCR, Stereo) to make it look like they had been robbed. That is when April Boss' parents showed up.

I found a timeline of events in an article from The Muskegon Chronicle…so let's run down that real quick.

• Noon: After an argument, Seth Privacky, who said relations with family members had been deteriorating in the previous six months, is told to move out by his father, Stephen Privacky, 50. Seth Privacky, 18, a senior at Reeths-Puffer High School, decides to shoot his family.

• 12:30 pm: Privacky goes upstairs to his father's closet, grabs his dad's .22-caliber pistol, inserts the clip, and goes downstairs, hiding the pistol behind his back.

• 12:45 pm: Stephen Privacky leaves to pick up Seth Privacky's grandfather, John Privacky, 78, in Roosevelt Park for a belated Thanksgiving dinner. Shortly after that, Seth Privacky walks behind his brother Jedediah, 19, who is sitting on the couch watching TV, and shoots him in the back of the head. He drags the body into the basement so no one will see it.

• 1:10 pm: Stephen and John Privacky return home, where Seth Privacky is waiting. He claims he didn't know his grandfather was coming for dinner. He shoots both men in the back of the head in the garage as they are heading for the door. He shoots his grandfather a second time because the first bullet didn't kill him.

• 1:15 pm: Privacky goes upstairs, where his mother has just gotten out of the shower. He enters the bathroom and shoots Linda Privacky, 49, in the back of the head.

• 1:20 pm: Privacky comes downstairs as April Boss, Jedediah's 19-year-old girlfriend, enters the home. She walks into the kitchen, and Privacky shoots her in the back of the head. He claims he didn't know April was coming for dinner.

• 2 pm: Privacky calls his friend, Steven Wallace, also a senior at Reeths-Puffer, and, according to Privacky's later confession to police, tells Wallace he killed his family. He begs Wallace to come over and help him clean up. Wallace goes to Privacky's home, helps him wrap the bodies in sheets, and they plan to bury the bodies later.

• 6 pm: Wallace attends a church youth group party and agrees to return to Privacky's home afterward.

• 11 p.m.-midnight: Wallace returns to Privacky's; they decide the bodies are too heavy to bury and try to simulate a robbery. But as they are moving furnishings, April's mother and stepfather -- Julie and Tom Cooper -- pull into the driveway because they are concerned that their daughter did not show up for her job. Privacky and Wallace flee the home and hide in the woods.

November 30th, 1998

• Midnight: Tom and Julie Cooper (April's mom and stepdad) call the police because they were worried since April hadn't returned home or contacted them since she left to go to the Privacky family dinner. While they are on the phone, police respond and apprehend Wallace, who surrenders. Privacky remains hiding in the woods.

• 7:15 am: Schoolmate Janavive Simonelli picks up Seth hitchhiking and drops him at Jason Pitts' house, 1737 Duck Lake, and then calls the police. Pitts is a friend of Privacky's, but he isn't home. Privacky hides in the pole barn where he said he wanted to commit suicide. Police arrest Privacky in a pole barn on the Pitts' property. In jail, he confesses to the killings.

December 1st, 1998

• Privacky and Wallace each are charged with five counts of open murder; Wallace's charges were later reduced to accessory to murder.

May 27th, 1999

Seth Privacky would plead no contest to the charges that were laid out before him. Privacky was sentenced to five life terms in prison without the possibility of parole after pleading no contest to five counts of first-degree murder and was shipped off to Kinross Correctional Facility in Kincheloe, MI - which is about 275 miles north of Detroit.

Steven Wallace would be charged with being an accessory and disposing of the murder weapon used. He would look at facing upwards of five years in prison if he was convicted. But in November of 1999, the ruling was tossed out.

November 1st, 1999

• Steven Wallace is acquitted by a jury.

October 30th, 2007

• Wallace, 27, is sentenced to prison for 28 months to 71/2 years for violating probation on a June 2007 felony conviction of receiving stolen property. Previously, he was convicted of vandalism at age 19, domestic violence at ages 22, 24, and 25, and attempted resisting and obstructing police at age 24.

July 15th, 2010

On July 15th, 2010, three inmates - Andrew Ross, inmate #504582, Brian Davidson, inmate #458405, and Seth Privacky, inmate #289400 - tried to escape from prison. The three men somehow overpowered the Michigan State Industry Semi driver at the prison a bit after 9 pm. They partially crashed the truck through a double chain-link fence. I say partially because the truck got stuck on the fence, so it didn't go all the way through and past it. When this happened, it caused the three inmates to jump out and take off running in any direction they chose. Unfortunately, they didn't get to go very far, and two were apprehended immediately. The third took off running, not heeding the warnings from the armed guards, and was shot and killed in their attempt to escape.

That day just so happened to end with Seth Privacky facing the same fate he dealt his family...he was dead at the age of 30 by a gunshot.

Kind of poetic justice.

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