Wayne Dean admits he’s never held a job he planned to get.
“I never trained for anything I actually worked at,” Dean joked. “I’ve done everything in marketing. I never went back to medical school, even though I was accepted, because I got drafted. When I came home I got into marketing because I knew some characters around Mobile.”
One of those “characters” was Red Foster, who, for many years, led the annual Joe Cain Procession the Sunday before Fat Tuesday in downtown Mobile. In 1985, Foster passed the feathers of “Slacabamorinico, chief of the Chickasaw” to Dean, who has worn them ever since.
“That role was not one that I sought out,” Dean said. “I didn’t run for it, didn’t campaign for it, but I’ve enjoyed portraying Chief Slac. He gets invitations and if he gets them, I’ve got to go with him.”
Sunday will mark Dean’s 35th year leading Mardi Gras marchers in “The People’s Parade,” a path in downtown Mobile first walked by Joe Cain in 1868. Dean’s experiences and knowledge of Cain are now preserved in “Have a Good Time – But Don’t Get Bad!” The 700-plus-page book details the history of Joe Cain in Alabama’s Port City.
“It’s basically a history of not only Joe Cain himself, the man, but the phenomenon that we now know as Joe Cain Day and Joe Cain Procession,” Dean said.
Mardi Gras originated in Mobile in 1703, but later faltered until Cain revived it after the Civil War. Dean said the name of the book came from one of Cain’s most popular sayings.
“He would put these ads in the newspaper talking what they were going to do, and he would almost always have an ending, a tagline at the bottom, ‘Have a Good Time, but Don’t Get Bad!'” Dean said. “It’s a pure Mobile saying. I like it better than ‘Let the Good Times Roll’ because we all know where that line is, so that was the title I chose for the book.”
Proceeds from the book benefit the Joe Cain Marching Society, the group that oversees the portion of The People’s Parade that allows people to march without having to pay.
“A lot of people put a lot of effort and time into making sure you can drive down from Birmingham on the spur of the moment and march with the foot marchers,” Dean said. “Even though it’s a fun day, it’s not done without sacrifice.”
Dean said he has no plans to pass the feathers anytime soon.
“I’ve been here all my life,” Dean said. “It’s always exciting to get up and see something new.”