5 Traditions That Ended Because the Public Just Couldn’t Handle Themselves

It’s all fun and games till a plane crashes
5 Traditions That Ended Because the Public Just Couldn’t Handle Themselves

Your neighbor bangs on your door with a complaint. Apparently, your dance parties are “too loud,” and your meat festival is “attracting rats” and your chemistry-themed TikToks have “killed several residents.” Sometimes, fun bothers people. That is when they insist the fun must end. 

The Macy’s Parade Used to Free the Balloons and Let You Catch Them for Money

The Thanksgiving Day Parade has always been a grand way of declaring that the Christmas shopping season at Macy’s has officially begun. Even watching the people watching the parade is like looking at a gallery of Norman Rockwell paintings. 

But you know what’s more fun than staring at a bunch of balloons? Running and catching a bunch of balloons, which was how they did things back in the 1920s. These targets included thousands of little helium balloons but also the big ones we all know and love. The parade would release, say, a giant Sky Tiger, which made it as far as Queens before it landed on a roof. Then, people scaled the building to grab the balloon, because whoever claimed it won $100. That’s about $2,000 in today’s money. 

Macy’s balloons 1931


And whoever grabbed one of the little balloons got a little balloon. 

Above, you can see 1931’s dragon balloon, which a crowd tore to pieces in their struggle to get at it. The year after that, they released an ugly creature named Tom Cat, and this one drifted to Queens as well. Then a plane hit it. It was a tiny plane, and its passengers risked more danger from the collision than Tom did. Its wing hit the balloon, and the pilot — a 22-year-old woman still learning how to fly — almost fell out as the aircraft dropped 5,000 feet.

Along with deciding to stop releasing the balloons going forward, Macy’s released a formal statement about the collision. They said that hitting the balloon with an airplane constituted cheating, and no pilot who did so would be awarded any prize money. 

Disney’s Nude Rooftop Sessions

Starting in the 1930s, animators at Walt Disney had an onsite club just for men, known as The Penthouse Club. Was this place a den of debauchery? On one hand, “Penthouse” was definitely not a word exclusively associated with sex. The magazine Penthouse was still decades away when the club opened. On the other hand, the club featured the following mural by Fred Moore, the foremost expert on animating Mickey:

Fred Moore

Kind of wholesome actually that animators like making art in their spare time.

Also, the Penthouse Club featured a rooftop patio, so the men could go out and sunbathe — nude. This makes the place sound like an orgy arena, but by all accounts, this nudity wasn’t sexual at all. These were just a bunch of dudes relaxing by hangin’ dong, and the very fact that the men were segregated into this all-male club, while women had their own separate “Tea Room” club in a different building, meant these employees may have engaged in less salacious shenanigans than people in the average office did back then. 

It was all good clean fun, until the hospital across the street built a new wing. Soon, the fellas found themselves spied upon by nurses and nuns from St. Joseph’s. The nude sunbathing had to come to an end, to spare the men the scrutiny of these voyeurs. You’ve heard a lot of theories about why Walt Disney Pictures has been faltering lately, but has anyone considered that the real secret to recapturing the Disney magic is pure sunlight, shone directly on the animators’ genitals? 

IKEA’s €1 Breakfasts Were Just Too Popular

Big retailers know that food attracts customers, even when it doesn’t make much money by itself. Costco is famous for its $1.50 hotdogs and cheap pizza, and then IKEA has their Swedish meatballs. “Come for the meatballs, stay for the furniture,” as the old saying goes. Or rather, “Come for the furniture, stay for the meatballs instead of going elsewhere for a meal, and then stay for more furniture, and hopefully actually buy something this time.”

Ikea meatballs

miss eskimo-la-la/Wiki Commons 

Maybe sleep in one of our beds, digest those meatballs, then shop more. 

Sometimes, you’ll hear of IKEA kicking it up a notch by offering an entire breakfast at some crazy low price, like one dollar. They tried this in Canada in 2012, and the breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs, hash browns and two little nubs of sausage. In 2014, an IKEA in the Netherlands offered breakfast of one euro, and this breakfast was more interesting, with an omelet, a croissant and cheese. “Holy shit, croissants!” exclaimed everyone in town, and they swarmed to IKEA for this deal, even when they had no desire to wander the store floor. 

The highway exit leading to this IKEA became backed up every morning. The city had to repeatedly shut that exit down to keep the highway running. Finally, IKEA surrendered and killed the promotion, for the good of the land. Apparently, stores that face a constant influx of diners who spend just a minute there require different traffic infrastructure than furniture retailers do. If only this business came with an instruction manual. 

‘Saving Private Ryan’ Was Fit for TV, Till It Wasn’t

Rules are a little vague about what you can broadcast on TV and what you can’t. The FCC says you can’t air “profane programming” between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., which means swear words are generally off the table. However, swear words are considered acceptable within a sufficiently worthy work of art. Saving Private Ryan is often mentioned as an example of a movie no regulator would punish you for airing, because getting angry at that movie would mean disrespecting the troops. 

Paramount Pictures

“Fuck our orders, fuck Ramelle, fuck the cheese capital of France, and while we're at it, fuck Private James Ryan.” — Saving Private Ryan 

For a few years running, ABC would air Saving Private Ryan every Veterans’ Day. Then in 2004, many affiliates were too scared. They told the main office that they feared the FCC might fine them if the movie made it to the airwaves. The FCC hadn’t fined them for it before, but the FCC had been acting strange, what with their response to Janet Jackson at that year’s Super Bowl. “This is television, not the Disney Penthouse Club!” the agency had said, so who knows what they might do next. 

Perhaps, you might think, someone could simply ask the FCC what they’d do. This part’s fascinating: You can’t do that. According to the FCC, if they could approve or disapprove of a movie in advance, that would be censorship. And they’re right. That would be a bad system. But the existing alternative is also bad. Multiple things can both be bad. Some would say that is the true message of Saving Private Ryan

For a While, British Neighbors Could Serve Together in the Military

Of course, war is not merely something for us to watch on our screens and learn from. Sometimes, people actually have to fight wars, and in 1914, Britain came up with a novel way of coordinating these fighting men. Rather than put everyone in the nation in a giant pool and assemble smaller units out of them, they’d let individual towns and cities field their own forces of soldiers, all of whom knew each other. 

Neighbor would fight alongside neighbor. They’d come in bubbling with morale, already bonded together. These divisions were known as Pals battalions

"Pals" departing from Preston railway station, August 1914

Lancashire County Council

Men would go off to war together like they were going to boarding school.

This worked well enough, for quite a while. Then came the Battle of the Somme, and the military had to contend with what happened when nearly an entire battalion would get wiped out in one day. A town would have to grapple with the news that they had lost all of their men. This wouldn’t be very enjoyable for them, and it also made it rather difficult to recruit more volunteers from the same area to bring the battalion back to strength. 

So, that was the end of Pals battalions. Damn. War could be a lot of fun for everyone, if we just got rid of the “combat” and “people dying” parts. 

Follow Ryan Menezes on Twitter for more stuff no one should see.

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