A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from December 04, 2010
“When you’re about to get run out of town on a rail, get out in front and call it a parade”

"When you’re about to get run out of town on a rail, get out in front and call it a parade” is an old saying of how to turn around a bad situation. The saying has been cited in print since at least 1957 and appears to have been used by college head football coaches.

“When you’re getting run out of town on a rail, get to the front of the line and call it a parade” has been used by politicians since at least the 1980s.


2 July 1957, Big Spring (TX) Daily Herald, “Looking ‘em Over” with Tommy Hart, pg. 7B, col. 1:
Sports dialogue:
GENE ELLERSON, coaching aide at the University of Miami:
“The successful football coach is one who can act like he’s leading a parade while being run out of town.”

27 September 1966, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “Powell Is Hot Topic” by Bill Henry, pt. 2, pg. 11A:
ley s (?—ed.) joke concerning the fellow who was being ridden out of town on a rail and made it look as if he was leading a parade.

Google Books
26 November 1976, Times Daily (Florence, SC), “Vols’ Battle Defines Class,” pg. 26, col. 1:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UPI)—At the end of his career at Tennessee, Coach Bill Battle was still talking about “class.”
(...)
“I’ve talked a lot about class,” Battle told reporters crowded about him following the game. “To me class is being ridden out of town on a rail and you make it look like you’re leading a parade. That’s what I believe I’ve done.”

Google News Archive
9 October 1985, Milwaukee (WI) Sentinel, ‘State Senate endorses lottery amendment, 19-14,” pt. 1, pg. 6, col. 6:
“When you’re getting run out of town on a rail, get to the front of the line and call it a parade,” he (One state senator—ed.) said.

13 December 1985, Augusta (GA) Chronicle, “Georgia holds best potential in the Sun Belt, Cleland says” by Joan Kirchner, pg. B1, col. 5:
And as a former state senator and former member of Leadership Atlanta, Leadership Georgia and Leadership VA, Cleland has three keys to being a good leader: be prepared, have faith in yourself and havecourageto withstand adversity.

“You can’t just put your finger in the dike and stop what’s coming. You have to get out in front of it, lead the mob and call it a parade.”

Google Books
Dynamics of the Empowered School:
Getting to the core

By oseph W. Hoff
Pittsford, NY: J.W. Hoff
1993
Pg. 1:
He then recalled a phrase attributed to Mark Twain: When you’re being tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail, get out front and make it look like a parade!

Google Books
Political Parties, Campaigns and Elections
By Robert E. DiClerico
Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall
2000
Pg. 56:
Even the Clinton administration — giving fresh currency to the old adage that when you’re about to get run out of town on a rail, dash to the front and make it look like a parade — has decided, according to the New York Times, to ask the Court to reverse Buckley.

Google Books
Legacy to Power:
Senator Russell Long of Louisiana

By Robert T. Mann
Lincoln, NE: iUniverse
2003
Pg. 401:
But, as he (Russell Long—ed.) often told his staff, “When an angry mob is chasing you out of town, you might as well grab a baton, and call it a parade.”

Google Books
Down Grove: A Novel
By Richard Allen Kulics
New York, NY: iUniverse
2005
Pg. 105:
As the expression goes, ‘When they’re getting ready to ride you out of town on a rail, run to the front and make believe it’s a parade.’

Google Books
Living a Charmed Life:
Your Guide to Finding Magic in Every Moment of Every Day

By Victoria Moran
New York, NY: HarperOne
2009
Pg. ?:
Years ago, my friend Alima had an eye-catching wall hanging that said, “When you’re being run out of town on a rail, get in front of the crowd and make it look like a parade.”

Google Books
ECONned:
How unenlightened self interest undermined democracy and corrupted capitalism

By Yves Smith
New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan
2010
Pg. ?:
Was this a serious change of posture, or as a cynic might note, merely an effort to get in front of a mob and call it a parade?

The confirmationfile’s Blog
No Class Michael Steele
November 23, 2010
(...)
Lastly, there is a saying in Washington:  When you’re about to get run out of town on a rail, get out in front and call it a parade.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Saturday, December 04, 2010 • Permalink