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Photos: See what the Elks Parade looked like in the 1950s

As part of KSBY's 70th-anniversary celebration, the station looked back at what the Elks Rodeo & Parade was like in the 1950s.
Gray family, Elks Parade
Posted at 6:29 PM, Jun 02, 2023

Festivities for the 80th annual Elks Rodeo & Parade kicked off Thursday. If you can't make it to the event in person, you can watch a live broadcast of the parade starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 3 on The CW, channel 6.2. The parade will be rebroadcast at 3 p.m. on KSBY.

As part of the station's 70th-anniversary celebration, KSBY is looking back at what life was like along the Central Coast during 1953 and surrounding years.

While you may recognize some of the groups, schools and even individuals that participated in the Elk's Parades across the early 1950s, don’t expect to recognize many of the surrounding buildings. As the downtown-area buildings fell out of compliance with California earthquake codes, local officials opted to demolish the buildings instead of retrofit, leaving the strip along Broadway looking very different than it did back then.

Editor's Note: Many thanks to the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society Museum for the images and information contained in this article. If you would like to learn more about the history of the Elks Rodeo & Parade, the museum has a book for sale that covers the parades, rodeos and other Elk's information — all for just $10.

PHOTOS: Elks Parade, c. 1950s:

Elks Rodeo & Parade, 1950s, BofA in back
Two parade vehicles holding members of the Kiwanis Club are moving south at the corner of Broadway and Main, looking northeast. The sign on the vehicle says "Campfire Girls." The Bank of America building on the corner — which was previously the Bank of Italy in the 1930s — was demolished so the Santa Maria Town Center could be built. (c. 1950s.)

Elks Rodeo & Parade, 1950s, USC CoA
The University of Southern California College of Aeronautics float is seen moving south along Broadway near the corner of Main St. The Santa Maria Grill, seen along the left-hand side, was where North China Restaurant now is. The building next door, Beno's, was an Army surplus store. The USC College of Aeronautics had a campus in Santa Maria on property owned by Allan Hancock, where the school trained pilots. (c. 1950s)
Elks Rodeo & Parade, 1950s, USC CoA_2
The University of Southern California College of Aeronautics float. It in unclear who the women are. (c. 1950s)

Elks Rodeo & Parade, 1950s, looking south on Broadway
Beacon Outpost float moves south on Broadway. The Beacon Outpost was a popular restaurant and cocktail lounge in Santa Maria. Ford and J.C. Penney buildings can be seen along the left side of Broadway. (c. 1950s)

Elks Rodeo & Parade, 1950s, Joni Gray and family
The Gray family on horseback on Broadway. Joni Gray, who represented the 4th District for the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors before her sudden death in Nov. 2017, is pictured. (It's unclear which of the two children Joni was.) “Joni was a fascinating woman with North County roots that ran deeper than most,” 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said to the Santa Barbara Independent regarding her death. “She embraced the Western lifestyle and was a huge supporter of the Elks Rodeo and FFA."

Security-First National Bank can be seen in the background. The building held the Bank of Santa Maria prior and was constructed in 1906. It was demolished in the late 1960s and a gas station was built in its place. (c. 1950s)

Elks Rodeo & Parade, 1950s, Capt. Allan Hancock
The grand marshal of the 1953 Elks Rodeo & Parade — none other than Capt. George Allan Hancock himself. "Capt. G. Allan Hancock was a sea captain, oilman, explorer, developer, banker, aviator, scientist, businessman, farmer, railroad engineer, musician, and philanthropist," according to Allan Hancock College's website. (c. 1953)

Related video: See what the Elks Rodeo & Parade looked like in 1954.

Elks Rodeo & Parade, 1950s, fire truck
A fire truck belonging to the Santa Maria Fire Department moves south along Broadway. The old Santa Maria fire station, which was located behind where City Hall now is, burned down in May of 1956. "Three engines, a personal automobile, a motorcycle as well as the department’s records and historical data, were all lost in the fire," according to the Santa Maria Times. "The total loss was estimated at $100,000." (c. 1950s)
Elks Rodeo & Parade, 1950s, ostrich and Andy Hanson
An ostrich pulls a cart down Broadway carrying a man named Andy Hanson, according to Shelley Klein, curator at the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society. It is unclear where exactly on Broadway this photo was taken. (c. 1950s)

Elks Rodeo & Parade, 1950s, Minerva Club
A float belonging to the Minerva Club moves along Broadway. The Minerva Club, founded in 1894, is "one of the oldest, continuously operating women's clubs in California," according to their website. (c. 1950s)