Here is part 1 and here is part 2. Now for part 3:
We saw clusters of kids like ourselves, wrapped in the warmth of our moms, dads or siblings, walking in a sleepy haze with cups of hot chocolate supplied by the Block Association.
We saw Snoopy's nose, 5 feet high, and maybe the tip of his 15 foot snout. So that's how we knew where Snoopy was. Earlier in the evening, on the way home from Chinese or the pizzeria, or from a friend's party (and there were lots of them that night), we'd look at whatever balloons had been partially or completely unrolled on their tarps and we'd make guesses. We were often wrong, but those of us who were true, old-timers could usually make pretty good guesses at the regulars.
The regulars included Elsie the Cow, from Borden's Dairy Products, the Sinclair Oil Dino the Dinosaur, Underdog, and Mickey Mouse. Snoopy was newer, as were an ever-changing cast of the latest cartoon characters. In later years there were Muppets, Smurfs, etc.
I never liked watching Mickey Mouse being blown up. His ears weren't solid like the rest of the balloons. They had thick rims but thin membranes for the middle. And I was sure those membranes were going to burst in the wind. Underdog's ears were similar, but they didn't have anything holding them still, like the rims of Mickey's ears, so I figured if they blew off, no one would get hurt.
I was scared of that Mickey Mouse.
Usually two balloons would be going at a time, and we were only allowed to stay up for one balloon to be completed, which usually took around an hour. We always hoped that one of our favorites would be going at the time we were awakened. Sometimes you got to stay later if your mom was part of the hot chocolate crew, because, let's face it, the dads wanted to be out there as much as you did, and they'd let you stay out later.
The balloons would be blown up in sections. It isn't like you send in the helium tanks and it starts at one end and is a smooth progression - a hand would be blown up, then maybe a tail, a snout or a head, and finally, the torso would generally be last. Then the weighted nets would be placed over the finished products, because these babies were huge, and would take several folks with them if they took it into their rubber heads to blow away.
If you were a teen, you might stay later. But probably not. You would have been up, and after your pizza you would have drifted from one apartment to another, with an occasional wake up run through part of Central Park. You would have stayed up straight through balloon time. But you'd be out there, along with everyone else. And you probably weren't too grown up to accept a cup of hot cocoa from Mrs. Mendez down the street.
But all fun comes to an end, and young or older, you wanted to be in bed by 1:00 or so - early for a holiday night for the teens, but you knew you'd be up at 5:30 and out by 6:00 the next morning, when the streets would belong to just the neighborhood for the last time.
Tune in tomorrow for the last part of this neighborhood tale...