Chet and Eileen Jaeger:
Grand marshals of the July Fourth parade

Chester “Chet” Jaeger is truly grateful to be named co-grand marshal, along with his wife of 70 years, Eileen, of Claremont’s annual Fourth of July parade. There’s a certain practicality involved, he thinks. “They better not wait much longer,” Mr. Jaeger said. “I’m 91, and she will be 91 on Saturday.”

All joking aside, the Jaegers are thrilled to be recognized.

“I think it’s quite an honor, really,” Ms. Jaeger said. “We’ve been around Claremont for so long, and have made so many connections.”

You really can’t get much more Claremont than the Jaeger family. Mr. Jaeger has lived in the City of Trees since 1931, when many of the city’s namesakes were saplings. Ms. Yeager has been in town since the couple married in 1946.

Upon arriving in Claremont after their marriage, the couple had five children in short order, the youngest arriving before either of them turned 30. “And then, of course, our children have gone through all the schools,” Ms. Jaeger said, “and we’ve been very active in their school activities, so that’s kept us going for sure.”

“I got a kick out of it a few years ago,” Mr. Jaeger recalled, “when the grand marshals [of the Fourth of July parade] were ‘longtime residents.’ They’d been here for 25 years,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve lived here 85 years.”

The Jaegers are also no strangers to Claremont’s Fourth of July parade, a tradition in town since 1948. Mr. Jaeger, a retired educator and still active musician, began performing at the parade with various traditional jazz bands, including the well-known Night Blooming Jazzmen, in 1950.

Years ago the band would perform prior to the parade in Memorial Park on a parked flatbed truck, “then wait until it was our turn to pop into the parade, then we’d do that.”

One year the band’s 1928 International would not start, so Ms. Jaeger had to quickly go home and save the day with a tow through the parade route via the family’s station wagon. 

The Jaegers have seen Claremont grow from a citrus- and college-driven grove town to what it is today. When Mr. Jaeger arrived in 1931, the town was “very small,” he remembered.

“There was an article in the COURIER [back then] that said the population of Claremont had passed 1,000, not counting college students,” Mr. Jaeger said. “The police force, when we got here, was one man with a Model A. Just before we got here it was one man with a bicycle.”

And as the town and their family has grown, the Jaegers have taken it all in from their home on Alamosa Drive. They built their rambling, ranch-style house in 1964 with the help of their kids, aged 10 to 17 at the time.

Aside from a large contribution from a framer, and piecemeal help on the home’s fireplace, stucco, plaster and mainline plumbing, it was a complete DIY project. “It was really fun to build the house,” Mr. Jaeger said.

Nowadays one of the couple’s grandsons, his wife and their two children, ages three and six, live with them. It’s been nice to hear the sound of small children around the house, Ms. Jaeger said. “Most of the time it’s great,” she said. “To watch a totally new group of citizens coming up is just amazing. We have Facebook on the computer, so the kids are constantly putting up their kids’ activities, so we feel like we visit with them every day.”

Claremont’s 68th annual Fourth of July parade begins at 4 p.m. at Memorial Park, continues south on Indian Hill Boulevard, west on Harrison Avenue and concludes at Larkin Park. The Jaegers will appear at the Garner House prior to the parade at a reception with city luminaries.

With Ms. Jaeger’s 91st birthday behind them—she celebrated on June 25—the Night Blooming Jazzmen will enjoy closing out summer with a performance at Claremont’s summer Concerts in the Park series. The show starts at 7 p.m. on Monday, August 29 at the Memorial Park band shell.

—Mick Rhodes


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