Mystery History No. 18

Jul 29, 2013

Mystery HistoryWhat’s happening here?

With apologies for the morbidity, in the photo to the right, City of Pasadena public safety personnel look over the rubble left behind after a grandstand collapsed during the Rose Parade on Jan. 1, 1926. Eight spectators died.

It was a terrible tragedy that, thanks to resulting regulations for careful construction and inspection of grandstands, has not happened again. It was also an early experience in hands-on disaster management for Pasadena public safety personnel.

Excerpt from an Associated Press report:

Pasadena, with its hundreds of thousands of guests for the thirty seventh annual Tournament of Roses pageant, was thrown from a scene of joyous enthusiasm into a turbulent tragedy when a grandstand seating 350 men, women and children collapsed as the floral parade was passing and 135 more women and children were injured and taken to hospitals while about 100 others were given first aid treatment.

An investigation determined that the collapse was caused by many structural flaws, including poor-grade lumber, poor workmanship and no cross bracing.

The contractor responsible for the grandstand was convicted of manslaughter but prosecutors dropped the charges when a new trial was ordered a year later.

Esotouric gives occasional scene-of-the-crime tours of Pasadena that include the very spot where the collapse happened. (They also include the bungalow where Robert F. Kennedy assassin Sirhan Sirhan lived and other locations with creepy histories.)

This seems like an odd transition but…

…on a happier note:

Fay Lanphier was the Rose Queen. She had been crowned Miss California in 1924 and Miss America in 1925.

Fay Lanphier 1926

Col. L.J. Mygatt was the grand marshal. He had commanded the U. S. Army Air Corps Balloon School in France during World War I and then the Balloon School at Ross Field in Arcadia.

L.J. Mygatt 1926

Later that day, the first local radio broadcast of the Rose Bowl Game featured sportswriter and former Olympian Charlie Paddock doing the color commentary. Alabama beat Washington by just one point — 20 to 19. Now that’s a game!

Alabama Team

And as it was in 1926, crews from the Street Maintenance and Integrated Waste Management Division of the Public Works Department remove tons of litter and other materials and leave the 11 miles (5.5 miles, up one side of the street and down the other) of the parade route squeaky clean. They do magnificent work that continues all through the night!

Thankfully they won’t have to remove any collapsed grandstands.


Many thanks to Los Angeles Public Library, Tournament of Roses Association, and eBay for use of the photos.

Copyright © 2008 Ann Erdman

Ann ErdmanAnn Erdman is happily retired after decades of loyal service to the City of Pasadena as Public Information Officer. Her blog can be found at



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