Sure, the kids meant no harm. The ones I saw getting relieved of their beer didn't give the cops any guff. In fact no words were exchanged. The kids surrendered their cans or bottles meekly. The cops moved on.
And the beer guzzling continued more or less immoderately. It didn't make much difference in the morning or early afternoon, but by nightfall, from about Pine Street on to the reviewing stand area around 15th and Market Streets, the scene among the onlookers was, well, not wholesome.
How could it be with young men urinating on curbs or against buildings and the sidewalks littered with beer cans and bottles and other debris and the revelers by then more than somewhat boisterous. It was no place for mothers and fathers with children, and that's a shame.
I mean the Mummers Parade gets better every year. There is nothing to compare it to, at least in this country - not for tradition and originality, not for costumes, music and plain good fun, not for competition between neighborhoods and an absence of even a smidgen of commercialism.
It's old fashioned and it's up to date. It's bizarre and it's beautiful. It's waggish and it's warmhearted. But all that really doesn't come through on the tube, or while watching the parade from an office building or a hotel
window. The only way to catch the Mummers' spirit is to be on the street.
So we are back in the crowd. The police indulge the drunken revelers up to a point, very professionally keeping things from getting out of hand. Maybe there's not much more that can be done.
One of the city's most-honored cops thought maybe there was. He was on the street from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and walked the route from St. Agnes Hospital to City Hall.
"They've got to do something," he said. "They should reduce the number of the clowns, start the string bands earlier and shorten the parade."
Heresy? Almost. That's toying with tradition. That's tilting at windmills and look what happens to people who tilt at the Mummers' windmill.
George V. Karalius, deputy commissioner of recreation, did last month when he suggested that the Mummers "consider the possibility" of reversing the parade's direction and have it end before paying customers in Veterans Stadium.
That idea got shot down quicker than you can say "trash-to-steam." Karalius hasn't been heard from since and isn't likely to be. On Wednesday as Mayor Goode was waiting to march at the head of the string bands, Channel 10's Bill Baldini asked him what he thought about changing the parade's direction.
"Not while I'm mayor," Goode replied, and that's that and a good thing it is, too.
Another idea about the Mummers whose time is not likely to come is to send the winning string band each year to strut in the Rose Parade on New Year's Day in Pasadena. It's been around at least since 1955 when Ferko was invited and declined to go.
There's no question that any string band good enough to win top honors here would be a crowd-pleaser in Pasadena and a tremendous boost for Philadelphia, since the Rose Parade is viewed by millions on national television. It would be well worth spending some of the hotel tax revenue earmarked for tourism promotion to send a band to represent the city, but forget it.
The Mummers exist to march up Broad Street on New Year's Day.
Send the Polish-American String Band, Wednesday's winner, to dazzle the spectators along palm-lined Colorado Boulevard next New Year's Day? No way. The band wouldn't be here to defend its title, cutting some measure of competitive incentive for the other bands, and we'd be deprived of the pleasure of seeing the Polish-Americans in our parade.
And it's not likely that the Mummers would be receptive to shortening the parade or changing the order of march. That would be bucking tradition, but it is more than that.
For one thing, the elaborate makeup worn by the Polish-American, Ferko, Quaker City and several other bands takes several hours to apply and the bands probably couldn't be ready to move out earlier.
For another, as old-timers like Ferko's Bill Connors point out, the comics are joyful and imaginative - an integral element in the parade, and it wouldn't be fair to limit their number.
But the fact is the crowd becomes more boisterous after the last of the bands passes by. That interferes with and detracts from the pleasure of watching the brigades and that's not fair.
So, maybe something should be done. It's worth some serious thought
because the Mummers Parade is too special to let beery revelers bring it down to their level.