Written by Kevin Kidney
The scene is so charmingly Americana, it’s no wonder the photograph may be the best-known image in the history of the Anaheim Halloween Parade. Four boys (Tommy Ulrich, Jerry Russell, Steve Miller, and Jimmie Kirk) dressed in blue jeans and tin foil helmets pose alongside their circular spacecraft christened “Flying Sasser” in bold brushstrokes. A TV antenna, perhaps borrowed from a rooftop, adds a hint of a high-tech to the homemade contraption built of corrugated cardboard, an inner tube, and a hidden toy wagon. The moment was captured by a photographer for the Anaheim Bulletin amid the excitement of parents and other spectators crowding the curb along Center Street to see the Halloween ‘Kiddie Parade” on Friday afternoon, October 30th, 1953. “It didn’t take too long to build,” one of the boys was quoted by the Bulletin, “but it took a lot of thinking.”
The Festival’s theme that year was “Out of This World” and nearly 3000 kids marched through the streets dressed as goblins, witches, animals, storybook characters, and denizens of the outer space world. The theme continued with the big Halloween parade held the following night, which featured a friendly witch riding a missile instead of a broom and a platoon of green-faced Martians (employees of the Downtown Anaheim Kress Department Store) outfitted in “woolies” and wearing kitchen strainers on their heads.
Over the years, the “Flying Sasser” photo was reprinted in books and articles on Anaheim history, sometimes representing the Halloween Parade as a whole, and has become an icon.
Fifty-nine years later, the Sasser returned to the Anaheim Halloween Parade on October 27th 2012, thanks to some creative members of the Anaheim Historical Society. Anaheim resident Bill Couture made a perfect replica—this time built to last with a tubular steel frame and wood veneer shell.
After a silvery paint job by Jody Daily, the Sasser was ready to fly.
Every year since then, the famous Flying Sasser has zoomed and zipped through the Anaheim Halloween Parade with its own crew of ‘Sass-tronauts’ dressed appropriately in tin foil helmets!
(Photo by Susie Delaney)