The City of Boston’s 1974 Christmas Parade Is a Malaise-Era Goldmine

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Digging around the innerwebz for a few vintage automotive holiday photos, we stumbled upon this absolute goldmine of photos. The cars are cool, but what they say about the time and the location is just perfect.

The photos are part of a collection on Flickr from Mayor Kevin White, the City of Boston’s Chief Executive from 1968 to 1974. The parade was the lead-in to a Christmas party in the North End, Boston’s predominantly Italian neighborhood. There are some interesting 1960s and 1970s-era cars here, but there are a few shots we’ll get into that nail these photos to such a specific time and place that they should be included in a time capsule.

Looks like a 1973 International Harvester Scout hauling this tandem trailer full of revelers. Scouts had a painted grille like this one in 1973, while Travelalls and pickups had brushed aluminum.

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The trailer the I-H is hauling is pure, free-wheeling, laissez-faire 1970s awesomeness:

Nothing more malaise-y than putting a bunch of kids in metal cages on two barely inflated bias-ply tires and then charging a quarter a ride.

Frightening Donald Duck here is astride the hood of a 1971 or 1972 Chevrolet C10. What’s great about this is a recurring theme: If there was a parade in 2017, you’d see spotless new cars. The bumper on this pickup shows a couple of dents and scuffs that come from negotiating Boston’s goat-path streets for a couple of years. Also on display is a Volkswagen Super Beetle, a 1970 Ford Mustang and the back half of a 1968 Chevy Impala.

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Long before the official car of New England was some kind of Subaru, everybody’s mom drove one of the Dodge Dart/Plymouth Valiant twins. This one’s a ’68 Plymouth Valiant with that odd split grille. It’s also from New Hampshire, as evidenced by the ’73-spec license plate.

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New England had a bunch of fire apparatus manufacturers including Maxim in Middleborough, Continental and Farrar in Hopkinton and Ranger in Smithfield, Rhode Island, but the City of Boston went with this Hahn Fire Apparatus unit from Berks County, Pennsylvania. Boston ordered a whole fleet of Hahns in 1971.

Knock yourself out identifying all the cars packed into this neighborhood. Digging the second gen 1974 Camaro base coupe with full wheel covers, and the twin Pontiacs on the opposite side of the street. What else do you spot?

Within that shot, you’ve got the greatest snapshot of recession/fuel crisis/high interest rate/New England winter you could ever reproduce:

Well get to the ’72 Chevelle convertible with some closeups in a second. For now, clap an eye on the rear quarter of that 1969 Chevy Impala convertible. Yes, we may be shuttling local dignitaries through the parade, but we’re using a five year old car with whitewall snow tires to do it. This is New England, after all.

The guest of honor at any Christmas parade is Ol’ Saint Nick. Befitting his status, the Mayor put him in a ’72 Chevelle convertible with a busted marker light dented wheel arch trim and missing door trim.

For good measure, there isn’t a hubcap on it, and the rear quarter looks like it side-swiped a light pole. WELCOME, SANTA!

(Honorable Mention: The 1969 AMC Ambassador bringing up the rear.)

The entire photo archive of this parade and Christmas party is on Flickr. Just warning you now, it’s a rabbit hole you may spend the day clawing your way out of.

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Craig Fitzgerald

Craig Fitzgerald

Writer, editor, lousy guitar player, dad. Content Marketing and Publication Manager at BestRide.com.