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FLOATING AWAY: Parade retirement for Mike Glancy of Erling Rohde Plumbing?

Mike Glancy flips through the wooden signs stored on the side of his Bird Rock plumbing office. They’re painted in the bright acrylic tones of La Jolla Christmases past.

“I may keep a couple, but there’s no room anymore,” the 71-year-old says. “It’s sad.”

Glancy’s new landlord has decided to sell 5763 La Jolla Blvd., which means that Erling Rohde Plumbing — begun in 1910 by Glancy’s grandfather, Erling himself — must vacate by Friday, Nov. 30.

But Glancy’s only sad for a minute or two before he finds something new to laugh at.

“Look at this reindeer,” he says, beaming a bright smile as he comes across a creepily painted Rudolph standing upright on human legs in a pair of red Speedos.

“Not everything comes out the way you want it to!” Glancy laughs.

Glancy's conversation — even when the topic is sad — is punctuated by frequent fits of self-aware laughter.
Glancy's conversation — even when the topic is sad — is punctuated by frequent fits of self-aware laughter. COREY LEVITAN

Glancy — who lives in Mira Mesa with his wife of 45 years, Roberta — first entered a float in the La Jolla Christmas Parade in 1982. It was a bathtub advertising Erling Rohde Plumbing on the bottom, with his mother and three young daughters performing music up top.

“My mom was a first-string violinist with the San Diego Symphony for 45 years,” Glancy says. (Gail Rohde died in 2011.) “So she taught my three daughters violin and they played ‘Jingle Bells’ together.”

New marshal in town

In recognition of his iconic community status, the La Jolla Christmas Parade has named Glancy its first and only honorary marshal of “floatology” for its 61st run on Sunday, Dec. 2.

“Yeah, they made that up for me,” Glancy says. “Isn’t that nice?” (Other honorary marshals scheduled to march include civic marshal David Nisleit, community marshal Kristi Pieper, cultural marshal Erika Torri, philanthropic marshal Karin Donaldson, technology marshal Dawn Barry and military marshal Lorin Stuart. The grand marshal will be William J. Kellogg.)

“Mike’s floats are always the most anticipated floats,” says parade organizer Ann Kerr Bache. “He always has something unusual that the kids, and the adults, look forward to it every year.”

Glancy flips through the float signs from previous parades he has stored outside his plumbing business.
Glancy flips through the float signs from previous parades he has stored outside his plumbing business. COREY LEVITAN

Glancy intends to continue his plumbing business via an office in back of the nail salon next door, and a garage off Pearl Street for storage. He suspects that his daughter and bookkeeper, Maegan, might eventually take over.

“Nothing is for sure,” he says. “It all depends on my health.”

The shaking in his hands has gotten quite noticeable. Glancy suspects Parkinson’s Disease that the government refuses to diagnose. “Their tests say I don’t have it,” he says. “Otherwise, they’d have to pay me.”

Glancy served in the Army during the Vietnam War. Discharged in 1970, he never saw combat but was stationed downwind of where, he says, 64,000 gallons of Agent Orange were dumped.

End of an era?

“Lift it over more!” Glancy calls out to his employee, Manuel, who guides the surfing Grinches into place on Glancy’s 2003 Ford Ranger.

For the La Jolla Christmas Parade’s 61st run, Glancy has decided on a best-of montage of his previous floats. The Dr. Seuss characters, from 2000, will join a pelican who protested a 1991 sewage spill in Point Loma and the remnants of a Santa’s village from 2010.

“Usually, floats cost me from $500-$1,000 because I have to buy all-new stuff,” Glancy says, “but this year, I’m getting away cheap.”

Glancy affixes surfing Grinches to the back of the 2003 Ford Ranger that serves as his parade float.
Glancy affixes surfing Grinches to the back of the 2003 Ford Ranger that serves as his parade float. COREY LEVITAN

Although Glancy won’t say for certain that this will be his last float, Erling Rohde’s relocation will definitely deprive him, and Bird Rock, of the art gallery he made out of his office’s front room in 1992. After the company relocated from 7724 Girard Ave., its home since 1929, Glancy opened Moonglow at the urging of some local artists who noticed all the etched glass he installed on the building. (Glancy inherited it from a business he worked with that did etchings on shower doors.)

“The artists kept coming in, asking if they could hang their stuff here on consignment,” Glancy says, “so it became a gallery.”

Also gone will be the de facto shelter Glancy has operated for years on Erling Rohde’s spacious front deck, where as many as four homeless people at a time have been allowed to crash — including artist Glenn Chase, who painted many of the float signs. (Fortunately, Chase has since moved into a La Jolla apartment financed by his brother.)

“I’m too nice,” Glancy says. “My wife tells me that. I think I got that from my grandfather. But they’ll get along without me. They’re tough. They’ll figure it out.”

Glancy no longer has anywhere to store the old parade float signs stored outside his Bird Rock plumbing business.
Glancy no longer has anywhere to store the old parade float signs stored outside his Bird Rock plumbing office. COREY LEVITAN

Glancy says he’ll list the float signs for free on Craigslist to save them from the Miramar Landfill.

“It’s a shame,” he says, “but they’re on particle board, and that doesn’t last very long outside anyway.”

Kerr Bache holds out hope that this won’t be Glancy’s last parade.“I’d rather focus on the positive,” she says. “Knowing Mike, he’ll probably figure out a way to continue doing it and be back.”

IF YOU GO: The 61st La Jolla Christmas parade, themed “The Sounds of Christmas,” will roll through The Village beginning at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2. As in previous years, it will begin on Girard Avenue, moving west from Kline Street to Prospect Street, where it will turn left and end at the La Jolla Recreation Center. Instead of a post-parade Holiday Festival at the Rec Center, this year’s parade will feature a pre-parade festival from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in front of the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library at 1008 Wall St.

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