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May 23, 2024

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U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team
Celebration Brings Forth N.Y. Nostalgia

NEW YORK CITY (July 9th)   The office of New York Mayor Bill deBlasio made it official on July 9th, when his staff  announced that the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team would get a parade down Broadway Avenue into the “Canyon of Heroes”.  These days, the Mid-Manhattan honor of such parades is mostly reserved for local New York sports teams that win a major championship.  That hasn’t always been the case.

Olympic medalists got a parade in 1984, Sammy Sosa got one in 1998, and numerous non-sports figures have been honored as well.  On March 9, 1960, the Heiss family of Ozone Park, New York got a parade down the “Canyon of Heroes”.  This was to celebrate the home grown figure skating Olympic gold medal winner, Carol Heiss and her family.

The U.S. Women’s National Team is the first women’s sports team to get their own parade down the “Canyon of Heroes”.  As the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup victors, this group is joining some very elite championship company.

According to The Wall Street Journal, New York City has hosted 205 parades down the “Canyon of Heroes” dating back to the first procession marking the Statue of Liberty’s dedication in 1886.  Parades honoring other women had included Amelia Earhart and Althea Gibson.  When New York City celebrated the dedication of the Statue of Liberty in 1886, former New York governor and then-president Grover Cleveland established the rare tradition with a huge parade in celebration of what was quickly becoming a symbol of the nation’s spirit and integrity.  The biggest parade in audience was estimated for the massive reception for pioneering aviator and Detroit native son, Charles Lindbergh, in 1927.  It attracted hundreds of thousands of spectators to lower Manhattan, and made the ticker-tape parade famous around the world.   The longest was estimated for the welcome home celebration for the victorious soldiers of World War I.

Carol Heiss Waves During Ticker Tape ParadeCarol Heiss did not know about her place in New York ticker-tape parade history until now, but the memories of her riding on the back of a convertible with then New York mayor Robert Wagner are still very fresh.  In 1960, at 20 years old, Carol Heiss was making sports history.  It was a monumental year for Heiss, who married 1956 Olympic gold medal skating champion Hayes Jenkins a month later.

Carol’s younger brother Bruce Heiss, then 16, sat in the second car with his father, Eddie and sister, Nancy Heiss.  “There was confetti and paper flying everywhere,” said Heiss, now of Milan, Michigan.  Bruce and his other older sister Nancy were also elite skating champions.  At one time or another, they were all coached by the legendary, Pierre Brunet.  The three Heiss siblings also trained at Michigan State University and the old Detroit Skating Club on West Seven Mile in Detroit in 1958-59.  At the time Nancy was attending MSU and met her future husband there.  She lives in suburban Detroit also.

Bruce Heiss reminisced about the parade, “There looked to be a million people hanging out the windows of the skyscrapers.  I actually caught a glimpse of a neighbor, Vic Galdi, who lived in Queens.  It was very cold and windy and Carol was in the lead car in her new fur coat.”

In photo on left: Carol Heiss waving in the "Canyon of Heroes" in 1960.
Photo courtesy of Rolco Sports & Entertainment


Carol, 75, remembered, “We were in convertibles.  It was a cold sunny day and I couldn’t believe how big the buildings were.  With all the people cheering, there was a rhythm to the unbelievable noise.”  ABC-TV showed newsreel clips of the Heiss family parade during broadcast of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team parade emceed by Robin Roberts.  Carol added, “I am very excited that the U.S. Women’s National Team are being honored in this special way.  They truly deserve it for their global victory.  They will surely remember all the confetti and ticker-tape.”  (Now they use shredded paper)    

When asked about her role models, Carol didn’t hesitate, “My parents, especially my mother (Marie).  She was always supportive and encouraged us to fulfill our personal dreams.”

Carol added, “She taught us all perseverance.  With perseverance comes a sense of concentration and determination, and a certain amount of self-confidence.  And you have to be careful there, because there’s a very fine line separating self-confidence from conceit.  You can’t build it on your own.  You need others to help you see what it takes – the hard work and the work ethic – to succeed.  All three of us, inherited that other thing……an ethic of hard work.”

“After the parade, Mayor Wagner gave me the key to the city and took our whole family to the Top of the Sixes, at 666 Fifth Avenue,” Carol reminisced.  It was the popular and chick Manhattan restaurant of the day.  It was a meeting place of all the New York power brokers.  “I had lobster,” recalled Bruce Heiss, now 71 and a retired Northwest Airlines DC-10 captain.   Carol added smiling, “I was too nervous to eat.”

Heiss Jenkins added, “I have a granddaughter playing collegiate soccer now.  I am really into it.”

“I watched all of the championship game.  All of the goals and also the historic three goals from Carli (Lloyd) were phenomenal.  It was a star moment to have a hat trick in the Final.  At that level – the actual performance like the Olympics, like the NBA finals; you work so hard to get to the Final and then to do that in the Final, it’s unbelievable.  The girls were wonderful.  They never let down, and that’s so important at a Final, never over until it’s over.  The whole team was superb.”

She concluded with some coaching advice, “If you believe in something, write it down, because if you believe it, then it becomes a goal.  Young girls have to have dreams and believe in those dreams in order to make them happen.  I think this parade is so important.  Everyone is going to watch.  It’s such a big thing for women and girls to see.  I hope the team takes it all in because it’s a wonderful day.  It’s one of those rewards that you don’t expect.  You have to earn it.  But this is a reward that is the icing on the cake and it’s engraved in history forever.  I didn’t realize the history of this but I think these girls know it and will appreciate it.”

All 23 members of the team traveled through downtown Manhattan aboard 12 floats, and an open-topped bus heading up Broadway from Battery Park to City Hall, where de Blasio addressed the team and the crowd.  The players were then handed keys to the city by the mayor during a ceremony hosted by ABC’s Robin Roberts.

The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, beat Japan 5-2, in Vancouver, for the FIFA World Cup title.   A first half hat-trick by veteran center midfielder Carli Lloyd, (32), blew Japan away early in the match. When asked about the impact of the victory and her thoughts about the parade, Lloyd said, “It was honestly an amazing thing.  I remember thinking, ‘they’re here because of us,’ and that is unreal because of what we accomplished.  We’ve etched our names in history.  People will be talking about this, this moment for the rest of their lives.”  Lloyd received the Golden Ball Trophy as best player of the 2015 World Cup tournament.  The New Jersey home-girl had been a four year all-conference player for Rutgers.

Carli-Lloyd-US-SoccerAnother team veteran, Abby Wambach, from Rochester, New York, thanked fans and said it was an honor to be a part of the parade.  “All of this for us started when we were little and we had a dream,” Wambach said, noting the team’s campaign to girls “#SheBelieves.”  “In my opinion all the women believed in that dream and kept believing in that dream, not only from the time they were 5 or 10 but through the time we won the World Cup.”

The final Women’s World Cup game was the most-watched soccer match in U.S. history.  The television viewership was watched by an average of 25.4 million viewers, peaking at 30.4 million.’

In photo on right: Former Rutgers soccer star, Carli Lloyd,
now of the 2015 Women's World Cup fame.
Photo courtesy of U.S. Soccer

Editor’s Note:  Raymond Rolak is currently helping to produce a new full featured movie in Hawaii. www.kuleanamovie/team

By Raymond Rolak