White convertibles carrying some of the world’s greatest golfers cruised Broad Street. Beauty queens rode decorated floats. Majorettes from local high schools wielded golf clubs instead of batons.
The annual Masters Parade was a short-lived tradition that welcomed out-of-town guests to Augusta.
A hospitality headquarters was set up in the 700 block of Broad Street, and stores and organizations set up displays, all part of efforts by the city to support the Masters Tournament in its infancy.
Phone calls to Fort Gordon, Laney High School and Richmond Academy got the parade rolling in its first year, said Lillian Cullum. Her husband, Jim, who later owned Cullum’s department store on Broad Street, was part of the Masters Week steering committee.
“I don’t know how he did it, but he got in touch with several of the better golfers,” Cullum said from her Augusta home. “It was just such an exciting thing for our little town.”
According to The Augusta Chronicle archives, the inaugural parade was April 2, 1957 – the Tuesday of Masters Week.
Bobby Jones, a golf legend and co-founder of the Augusta National Golf Club, led the parade down Broad Street. A flight of blimps from Glynco Naval Base in Brunswick, Ga., flew overhead, The Chronicle reported.
By 1959, 25,000 spectators lined Broad Street for the parade. The Parris Island Marine Corps Band was an annual favorite. In later parades, balloons up to 150 feet long floated down Broad Street
Lance Jones and his brother Lark, now mayor of North Augusta, rode on their father’s float for the North Augusta Little League teams. The brothers have a framed photo from the 1959 parade when Lance, then age 4, was dressed as a bat boy surrounded by baseball players.
“The picture brings back some memories,” Lance Jones said. “Times have changed. It was a neat era and cool to be a part of it then.”
In newspaper editorials, city leaders and civic organizers said the parade resembled the Macy’s Christmas parade in New York City and it would grow to rival the annual Rose Bowl Parade in California.
“Everybody who could showed up because it was something so novel here at that time,” Cullum said. “Every year (the crowd) just doubled or more. Everyone was so excited.”
The last newspaper accounts of the parade appeared in 1964.