Published : Monday, January 1, 2018 | 6:02 AM
Born and raised Pasadenan Don Leis will attend the New Year’s Day Rose Parade and Rose Bowl game Monday just as he does every year–for the past 70 years in a row.
The now 85 year-old Leis attributes his long streak of Pasadena pride to both the love for his home city and, more importantly, his love for sports and the Rose Bowl game he calls the “granddaddy of them all”.
Leis never intended to set a personal record the his first Rose Bowl game on New Year’s Day in 1948, but one thing for sure is that he may very well be the only person around to have done so.
“It never dawned on me that I was trying to set any record or anything. If I lived another ten years I’d be very blessed to do that. I look forward to the game, I just never tried to set any record. I just want to go to the game,” said Don Leis.
“I’ve been on the Rose Bowl more than most people, that’s for sure,” Leis added.
Leis’ allegiance to Pasadena is strong and despite going to college in Idaho after high school, Pasadena has always been his home residence.
Leis grew up obsessed with sports as a child and as one would guess the Rose Parade was a big deal and typical family tradition when he was a boy.
“We’ve always gone to the Rose Parade even when I was ten years-old. Every year we used to camp out, now I get tickets down on the parade route,” Leis explained.
It wasn’t until he was fifteen years old in 1948 when his father bought him a ticket to see University of Michigan play USC at the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Since then, he gone to the game every year following a family outing to the Rose Parade.
“Some people like to lollygag around and talk after the Rose Parade Parade. I got to get home, go to McDonald’s get a hamburger and get down to the Rose bowl,” explained Leis about his annual routine.
Leis will be attending the game this year with District 4 Councilmember Gene Masuda who is proud to go with his constituent with an intense love for the game.
“Don [Leis] is a true fan of the game, anyone that goes that many times has to be,” said Masuda who has attended approximately five games himself.
“We will be there enjoying the game, rooting for both teams. It’s a fun day to be at the Rose Bowl for this Rose Bowl game. And you know, usually it’s two different teams that you don’t really know that well, but I know Don does,” explained Masuda.
Leis’ home is filled with Rose Bowl memories and includes a cache of tickets he saved from almost every year.
“There was a was a player named Bob Chappuis. And at that time he was on Michigan’s team and they beat USC 49 to nothing. And that’s the ticket my dad gave me 1948, January 1st. I still have the ticket,” said Leis.
Even more fascinating, Leis’ obsession with football allows him to recall play-by-plays, scores, player stats and more dating back decades. After all, he was most likely there.
“He can remember football games, he can tell you about players, well-known players, scores, stories of close games and probably sad endings for the losing teams,” said Masuda.
“I’ve seen some good plays,” recalls Leis.
Over the years Leis would do whatever it took to get tickets to the big game.
As a kid he would sell newspapers outside the gate and then sneak in with big crowds.
As a college student he would take a long train ride from Idaho to Pasadena.
As a young adult, he would sometimes have to resort to a more under-the-radar approach when his family ties to the Tournament of Roses did not pull through with tickets.
“A lot of times sometimes I’d have to buy scalpers ticket,” said Leis. “I always made it to the Rose Bowl game.”
Much has changed since Leis’ 1948 experience. Namely ticket prices.
“The ticket was $3.75 at that time. Now, they are but three hundred dollars or more,” said Leis whose 2018 ticket came with a price tag just under $130.
Tight security, massive crowds, and grid-lock traffic are other things Leis remembers being less imposing.
“We didn’t have any of that back then,” said Leis.
“I always really thought that there was nothing better than the people in those days. Everybody’s in such a rush now in haste makes waste ways. Just too many people, the freeways are crowded and back then in the 50s, 60s, and 70s it was much more pleasurable to go to the Rose Bowl game,” added Leis.
Leis revealed his favorite Rose Bowl game.
“If I could go back and say, “Okay, Don what team would you like to see replayed? It wouldn’t be the modern Rose Bowl games,” Leis said.
Leis’ favorite football game of all time took place a year before on the east coast.
“I would say army and Notre Dame in 1947,” explained Leis. “Most people say they want to see a lot of scoring. I would rather see that game than any games,” said Leis about the game that ended zero to zero.
If Leis had to pick his favorite Rose Bowl game, it likely occurred in the early ‘60s.
“Wisconsin came back and almost beat USC, but USC did win. That was a good game,” said Leis.
Now 70 years later, Leis will go to yet another Rose Bowl game and hopes for many more to come.
“It’s still the granddaddy of them all.”