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The Big Cleanup : Tournament of Trash Begins Immediately After Parade

January 03, 1985|PAT BRENNAN | Times Staff Writer

PASADENA — The street looked like a fraternity party gone amok: more than 40 tons of debris lay scattered about, including bottles, cans, paper, horse droppings and dozens of battered couches and chairs. Someone had even left behind a live goat.

The annual Tournament of Roses parade route looked more like a tournament of trash. Spectators had lined both sides of Colorado Boulevard with an ankle-deep assortment of rubbish on Tuesday.

But Pasadena was not unprepared. Crews of city sanitation workers were deployed like an assault force of Marines to key points along the parade route. Within minutes of the final float's passing, they had climbed down from a fleet of garbage trucks and gone to work.

Cleanup Command Post

Jim Morris, sanitation supervisor, directed the assault from his command post, a slightly disheveled office at the top of a rickety staircase on Mountain Street in northern Pasadena.

From there, Morris kept track of the first three "packer" crews, each consisting of three men and a huge truck that mashed the refuse into manageable proportions. The crews had been told to move the heavy stuff first. "We don't touch the other stuff till midnight," he said.

The heavy material included furniture and the containers used by parade-goers to build fires. The bulk work occasionally includes animals, both living and dead. "One time we found a deer carcass out there," Morris said. This year, he said, one crew had to break up a fight between a goat and a Doberman pinscher at Berkeley Avenue and Colorado Boulevard. He said both animals were turned over to the Humane Society.

An hour after the parade, the scene on the street was chaos. Cars and buses swerved to avoid piles of trash in the streets, giving downtown Pasadena the look and feel of a blighted nation. Street people and scavengers kicked through the litter looking for valuables, encouraged by a few disoriented spectators who remained in their seats and cheered the traffic as if unaware that the parade was over.

"This is the time of year you get rid of your furniture if you don't want it," said Edward Dallas, a member of one of the packer crews. He and John Brown walked along the sidewalk, heaving what they could into the maw of the truck that inched along beside them.

Bus Benches Replaced

"This is my first year down here," Brown said. "I just wanted to see what the experience was like."

"Thank you, gentlemen," called one parade-goer as they hauled away a large sofa. But another pair, still seated in lawn chairs on a sort of makeshift cardboard platform, resisted their efforts.

"Can we have your cardboard?" Dallas asked.

"No," said one, a girl wearing a headband with plastic hearts at the end of two bouncing antennae. "We're taking our cardboard with us. If we don't, you can come looking for us."

By mid-afternoon, the heaviest trash--couches, ice chests, chairs, ladders, cardboard crates--had been picked up. At midnight, when most were sleeping and others were trying their best to relive New Year's Eve, the really grimy work began.

Armed with giant brooms, scoopers, air hoses and buckets, about 90 workers began putting back into order a city that takes pride in its tidy downtown elegance. They replaced bus benches and trash cans that had been removed from the parade route Monday.

"If we don't pick the benches up, they use them for firewood," Morris said. "If we don't pick up the trash cans, they use them to build their fires."

The crews had less than seven hours to move titanic volumes of trash before early morning traffic began to make the job difficult. In eight hours, snarling columns of commuters would make it all but impossible.

While Pasadena slept, men with generators on their backs flushed out the refuse from sidewalks with their "blowers," or high-pressure air hoses. Others assembled it into roadside heaps. Then backhoes were used to ram the piles into dumpsters attached to the mechanical arms at the front of the packer trucks. Similar operations were being conducted at the Rose Bowl, where 102,594 football fans generated as much or more garbage as the estimated one-million parade spectators, Morris said.

By 5 a.m. Wednesday, only a few scattered remnants and trash piles remained. The haul was disappointing to some.

He Found No Money

Curtis Carraway, a street supervisor who has been in the sanitation business 25 years and cleaned up after parades for the last five, said the garbage this year was just that--garbage. He watched his crew pick up the last of it, near West Colorado and Highway 134. "No money," he said. "People are not that eager to leave money."

Sanitation worker Bobby Harris also was disappointed. "I've been looking for something unusual," he said. "That's what's unusual: you think you'd find something. "

Joe Floyd, a packer driver who lives in Pasadena, said he was convinced there was more garbage this year than last. "It was a real nice day," he said. "Every time you get sunshine, you get a bigger amount of people."

Morris was unable to calculate the exact tonnage of trash, but he said the Rose Bowl and street trash combined would probably come to between 90 and 95 tons.

The streets were back to normal by 7 a.m. Wednesday, and Carraway said how it got that way would be a mystery to some. "People tell me they don't recognize Colorado, it looks so different from the day before."

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