Footage from 1963 Johnson City Christmas Parade could influence 2020 parade


How parades of Christmas past could change the parades of Christmas future

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Reels of footage stored in a box for decades could change the look of the 2020 Johnson City Christmas Parade.

Johnson City native Jason Cobble found a box of 8mm film that his father had stored since before he was born. He took the footage to Bays Electronics in downtown Johnson City to have the film developed and reformatted to digital.

Courtesy of Jason Cobble.

The night before the 2019 Johnson City Christmas Parade, amongst the typical family vacation video contents on the converted footage, a nostalgia crept into the Cobble home as the 1963 Johnson City Christmas Parade started playing.

“We were watching it and you know, in the middle of seeing family things, there was the parade!” Jason Cobble told News Channel 11. “And as soon as the parade came on, we all kind of looked at each other because it was like ‘oh wow!'”

“As we watched the footage, sometimes we got teary-eyed by things, but it’s awesome,” he added.

Cobble’s uncle, Gene Cobble, shot the footage from the corner of Main and Buffalo Street in 1963.

Elmer Gene Cobble in 1962.
Courtesy of Jason Cobble.

The then 20-year-old Gene Cobble must have given his little brother, Larry Cobble, the footage, which was then found this year by Larry’s son, Jason.

“And so I put it on Facebook and it just blew up from there,” Cobble said.

It was the day of the 2019 Johnson City Christmas Parade when organizers caught wind of this Facebook post and were blown away by it.

“It was the day of the Christmas parade, that afternoon we were on Facebook and it popped up,” Johnson City Christmas Parade Organizer Shannon Castillo told News Channel 11. “I wonder if anybody else has any kind of historic footage of past Johnson City Christmas parades, and it might be nice to do something that would honor the past.”

Nostalgia is a big theme during the Christmas season, and Cobble was so touched by the old footage, that he made it his mission to share it with as many people as he could.

“My family’s lived here for generations and generations and so we love this area anyway, so for us to be able to give this – it feels like we’re giving it to the community because how often do you get to see something like that?” he said.

Being able to share this piece of local history with his community, means a lot to Cobble, and having his family’s footage influence the 2020 Johnson City Christmas Parade, means so much more.

“It’s going to be touching. It’s going to be special to know that all those years ago, back in 1963, that something that my uncle did is now affecting us, which will be 2020, that’s crazy!” Cobble told News Channel 11.

One aspect of the 1963 parade that caught the eye of both Cobble and Castillo, was the floats. Specifically, how different the floats were back then.

“The main thing that I saw were the floats,” Cobble said. “The floats back then were elegant, and I know they were just put up with cheap wood, and you know, that type of stuff, but they were elegant with how they decorated them.”

The event organizers agreed.

“You know, just looking at all those different floats and the way they looked in 1963, we kind of are just joking that wouldn’t it be fun if we re-enacted some of those types of floats where you had the, it looked like beauty pageant winners standing on a float in a really lovely dress and I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh! That would be really fun if we could ever re-enact that next year,'” Castillo said.

“There’s something nostalgic about seeing the women with the dresses and everything,” Cobble said. “Oh, I love it!”

The Christmas spirit was revived in the Cobble home this year after finding this footage.

“When we saw it, I don’t know, it just touched us, especially the ending when Santa Claus was waving at everybody in the crowd, at Christmastime, it’s just amazing to find that,” Cobble said.

Event organizers urge the public to submit any old footage of past Christmas parades here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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