SNOHOMISH — Every day is a parade for Mike Carver and his red 1967 Ford pickup.
Music blares from the truck’s 18 speakers and hundreds of bubbles waft from the tailgate as he cruises the Bickford Avenue shopping center parking lot on his afternoon rounds about town.
The Ford is festooned with “Snohomish Class of 1972” signs and Snohomish Panther flags.
What the truck?
It’s a rootin’-tootin’ tribute to his alma mater.
“I think everybody should be proud of the town and the school that hands them a diploma,” Carver said. “I transferred my senior year from Darrington. I was in foster homes. I ran away from up there. My brother in Snohomish decided to give me a try. It worked out good. That’s why I graduated.”
He wasn’t a sports star or scholar. He says he was pretty much a nobody. Near the black-and-white photo in the yearbook under his name is “FFA,” for the agriculture club. That’s it.
It shows him as a suited-up young man in glasses with a reserved smile. Now 64, he’s an older version in a sleeveless tuxedo T-shirt and bushy gray beard.
Carver milked cows for 20 years in Snohomish and lives in Gold Bar. He’s divorced, with two adult children.
“I’m on Social Security disability. I do landscaping to make ends meet,” he said.
The truck was his landscaping rig until he went to his 40th class reunion six years ago. Now he hooks a trailer to it so as to not disrupt the masterpiece.
“I got an invitation to my school reunion. That’s what started it,” he said. “I’ve been doing it ever since. I decorate my truck for holidays and play different music.”
He’s in local Christmas and summer parades, such as the recent Kla Ha Ya Days. He gets occasional gigs as a disc jockey on wheels.
Mostly, though, he’s free entertainment on the streets of Snohomish.
“I drive around a lot. I got a little route,” he said.
First Street is his favorite drag. That’s where Mayor John Kartak chased him down a few weeks ago.
“I said, ‘Mike, can I ride along with you?’” Kartak said.
Riding in the tricked-out truck allowed the mayor to experience his town from another vantage.
“It was like a one-vehicle parade,” Kartak said. “Everybody would light up. Little kids stood at attention and smiled. It was a lot of fun and I took some video.”
Kartak said he asked a police officer if there’d been any complaints about the music. “He said, ‘Heck, no.’”
Carver finds notes of thanks on snippets of paper.
“Dear Mr. Class of 72,” wrote a fan named Jenny. “You made my day hearing your Elvis. You raise our spirits.”
Carver digs Elvis, but knows that not everybody does.
“I carry four or five boxes of CDs on my seat so I can have a variety,” he said.
At the ready is a briefcase with copies of pages from his 1972 yearbook, in case he runs into someone from his class.
It captured the attention of classmate Michelle Twigg.
“I saw his truck. I said, ‘Oh, my gosh, I wonder who that is.’ He was mowing somebody’s lawn,” Twigg said “I vaguely remember him. I remember his name and seeing him. I don’t remember a lot about school. Of course, none of us really look the same as in school. We’re not really sure who we’re talking to.”
That’s why Carver carries the yearbook pages.
Unlike the mayor, Twigg didn’t ask him for a ride-along. She asked him to mow her yard. “He is very conscientious about his job,” she said.
She likes the flashbacks to ’72.
“We were a pretty proud class,” she said. “It’s really nice to see him promote our school. The Panthers had a good year that year. We had some great teachers.”
Carver has owned the truck since 1991. “It used to be a low rider,” he said.
The Ford gets 7 or 8 miles per gallon. There’s a leak in the carburetor. It has about 93,000 miles. It’s on its third engine.
“If I have to put another in, I will,” Carver said. “I’ll have it until the day I die.”
A thin scrap of plywood covers the rotting floorboard on the driver’s side. Carver wants to be cremated and have his ashes spread in downtown Snohomish through the holes in the floor.
“My daughter said no,” he said.
His grandson told him to keep the music down.
“He was going to a birthday party and I was going to take him there in my truck and he asked, ‘Papa, can you not have that music so loud when we go in there?’ He doesn’t like making a big entrance.”
The 600-watt stereo system can deliver.
“I’ve always played my music loud,” Carver said. “You can hear me almost a block away. I try to be considerate when I go through residential (areas). When I stop at lights I make sure to turn it down.”
A makeshift toggle switch controls the stereo, siren and flashing lights. “I am trying to figure out how to hook the volume up to my gas pedal.”
The two bubble machines in the truck bed are low-tech. “I have to get out and push that by hand,” he said.
Carver said he’s just an average guy.
“When I went to my reunion and filled out some paperwork, I put down that I had a small landscape business and most of my customers were senior citizens or disabled people. Then I thought, there’s nothing special about me anymore. I’m just helping my own kind now.”