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t took Margaret Salter's parents, Pete and Margaret Nicoletti, to bring her forward as a contender for the oldest living flower girl.

Face it, who wants to be the oldest anything?

But Salter, who was among the earliest flower girls when they were incorporated into Fiesta celebrations in the '40s, bears her dubious title with good grace and has several good stories to tell.

Take the picture of her and the sailor. It was 1952, and she was dressed in her flower girl regalia at the Courthouse Sunken Garden when a newspaper photographer asked her to pose with one of the sailors whose ship docked in Santa Barbara every year during Fiesta. They posed, they smiled, the camera clicked and that was it -- or so she thought.

Something else clicked.

That night, the sailor showed up at her front door, looking for a date.

"I don't know how he found me ... I didn't tell him my name," Salter said."

And besides, "I was only 12," she added.

Needless to say, he didn't get a date, but Salter can't help but wonder, even today, who he was and what he's doing now.

She also may be the youngest unofficial St. Barbara.

Nicoletti said their neighborhood decorated a float every year to enter in the children's parade. In 1947, they created a float "decorated with peppertree and whatever flowers we could find," he said, and little Margaret, who was 7 years old, rode it dressed as St. B‡rbara.

The family's Fiesta tradition lives on. Salter's granddaughter, Sara Van Valkenburgh, is a regular children's parade participant.

y family moved from Virginia to Santa Barbara in 1956 and my uncle and my aunt and their two little girls soon joined us. Santa Barbara at that time was a sleepy little town and Highway 101 consisted of two lanes with a cross guard who would stop the traffic so my brother and I could cross to go to McKinley School.

Our sleepy little town would come alive in August when it was Fiesta. We had never been to the parade so we were all excited about going. We took blankets to sit on and started off to see the parade. We were in the 500 block of State Street and we spread our blankets out and we all sat down. We heard the music first and then we saw the beautiful horses coming up the street. The flower girls threw flowers, bands passed and the Indian runner portrayed by Jules Linder ran by. He became our favorite. There was a lady dressed in a formal gown watching the parade close by the curb and when the marching band went by she jumped out and joined the parade. Some people next to us explained that she did this every year. She did this for years and we waited with anticipation for her to join the parade. Someone would try and get her out of the parade and they did, but for a few moments she got her chance at being part of the parade. I believe years later when she died the Santa Barbara News-Press had an article about her and it was mentioned that she would always join the parade.

When it was time to go my mother and aunt started gathering the blankets. My aunt turned to a lady who was standing by us and asked if she would hold my cousin Patti, who was 14 months old. The lady said she would hold her while my aunt helped my mother. Well, we all started off for home and about a half a block away from State Street my aunt said, "Oh, we forgot Patti!" All of us hurried back and my aunt was so upset saying, "How could I forget my baby?" The lady was still standing there and as all of us rushed up to her, my aunt was crying. The lady smiled and then started laughing. She said, "Well, I was wondering how long it would be when you would remember your little girl." My aunt took Patti and hugged her and all of us were so happy and the lady was laughing, and then we started laughing and it must have scared Patti because she started crying. Big tears streamed down her face. Years later when all of us were together and our first Fiesta parade memory would be told, my cousin Patti would always say, "I can't believe you would just let someone hold me that you didn't even know." It was a safer world then and you could trust a stranger for help.


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