U.S. Women’s National Team Celebrated, Along With Memories

DETROIT – New York Mayor deBlasio made it official, as his office announced that the U.S. Women’s Soccer National Team will get a parade down Broadway Avenue into the “Canyon of Heroes” on Friday morning. 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 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.” 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.

Heiss Bruce Nancy Carol
Bruce Heiss, Nancy Heiss and Carol Heiss as competitive skaters in New York.

Carol 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 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.

On March 9th of 1960, her younger brother Bruce Heiss, then 16, sat in the second car with his father. “There was confetti and paper flying everywhere,” said Heiss, now of Milan, Michigan. Bruce and his other sister Nancy were elite skating champions also. At one time or another, they all were coached by the legendary, Pierre Brunet. The three Heiss siblings also trained at Michigan State and the old Detroit Skating Club on West Seven Mile in 1958-59.

Bruce Heiss went on 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 a fur coat.”

Carol, 75, now has a granddaughter playing college soccer. “We were in convertibles,” remembered Carol. “It was a cold sunny day.”

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.”

US Women Soccer look at trophy
2015 U.S. Women’s Soccer National Team members and World Cup Champions admire the honored trophy.

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 took our whole family to the Top of the Sixes, at 666 Fifth Avenue. It was the chick and popular restaurant of the day. It was a meeting place of all the Manhattan power brokers. I had lobster,” added Bruce Heiss, now 73 and a retired Northwest Airlines DC-10 captain.

The U.S. Women’s National Team, who beat Japan 5-2, on Sunday in Vancouver, will ride an open-topped bus down Broadway. The game was the most-watched soccer match in U.S. history. A first half hat-trick by Carli Lloyd blew Japan away early in the match. The television viewership was watched by an average of 25.4 million viewers, peaking at 30.4 million.

Raymond Rolak is a veteran sports broadcaster who writes on a range of sporting events, plus automotive and aviation topics of interest.