PASADENA

I never liked the Rose Parade. My parents took me when I was 10 -- a restless night sleeping on the sidewalk followed by the horrors of the procession itself. You have no idea what several dozen horses can do to a paved city street.

I was never crazy about Pasadena, either. It seemed to me the ultimate in white-bread suburbia, which as a born-and-bred white-bread suburbanite was what I thought I should be rebelling against. I spent a year of college near here, cruising Colorado Boulevard like the little old lady in the song, and then moved on to what I considered more cosmopolitan habitats.

That would have been the last I had seen of this city, had it not been for a a house-hunting expedition five years ago.

I thought we were going to buy a place in one of the funkier San Gabriel valley towns -- Monrovia, perhaps, or Alhambra. But here on a Pasadena side-street was a 1907 bungalow with enormous eucalyptus trees in the front yard. My wife had just spent two years living and working in a single Chinese hotel room. She was a dead duck. We bought it. We were Pasadenans.

Linda immediately entered into the spirit of it, making the pilgrimage to the David Gamble House, the shrine to the Greene brothers' turn-of-the-century craftsman style of architecture so dear to Pasadena preservationists.

She spent her weekends toiling in our garden. She joined Pasadena Heritage and gave tours at some of the grander mansions.

I assumed a lower profile. Most Los Angeles-based journalists congregated on the more fashionable west side of town, and you could occasionally hear cruel jokes about the San Gabriel valley.

I liked the quiet streets and little parks and plentiful trees and looming mountains to the north, but I didn't talk about them much.

But now we come to 1986, Pasadena's centennial, a good time to confess our interest in this little city. Like many southern California suburbs in the last two decades, it has undergone active voter registration, fair housing laws and massive immigration.

Pasadena has produced a string of blond Rose queens (leavened recently by one black and one Japanese American), but Jackie Robinson also grew up here.

Three years ago, we were one of the only cities in the country with a black female mayor. At least half of the city's 125,000 residents are now part of some identifiable ethnic minority -- about 21 percent black, 18 percent Hispanic, 6 percent ethnic Asian and perhaps as many as 8 percent Armenian.

New restaurants and pubs and side-street shops abound. In 1984, this city that had so often seemed to symbolize conservative Republicanism chose Walter F. Mondale over President Reagan, bucking a pro-GOP trend in nearly all its neighbors.

Pasadena began a century ago in the midst of a housing boom encouraged by several investor-settlers from Indiana.

Developer-promoter Daniel Beery contrasted the clean air at the foot of the San Gabriel mountains with Los Angeles where "the air is heavy with slow and sure coming death." (Eventually, however, the smog found its way here.)

Many of Pasadena's earliest residents were affluent. Our house had been a honeymoon cottage built for the granddaughter of one of the area's wealthiest developers, "Lucky" Baldwin. Master chef Julia Child, daughter of a transplanted midwestern industrialist, grew up across the street.

A center of social life then and now was the Valley Hunt Club, whose distinguished member Prof. Charles F. Holder launched in 1889 what became the Tournament of Roses.

But now even the club is feeling the heat of change in modern-day Pasadena. My neighbor John Hare, a Democratic Party activist, has persuaded the city Board of Directors to have its human relations committee look at the absence of blacks and other minorities in the club's membership. The Tournament of Roses Association, housed in the stunning William Wrigley mansion a block from the club on Orange Grove Boulevard, still draws the attention of the world on Jan. 1 with its huge floats and parade officials in white suits.

But the Doo-Dah parade, a home-grown spoof by the city's more Bohemian element, now attracts large crowds and much television news coverage every November for its lawn mower drill teams and marchers dressed in shower curtains.

Sure, we are proud of Caltech and the Rose Bowl and the Emmy Awards at the convention center, but no one wants to be thought of only as the pit of the establishment, as a rest home for reactionaries.

I felt better after the soccer game last year. My elder son had joined a group of other 10- and 11-year-olds in a contest against the Glendale All- Stars.

Our team had a nice mix of races and colors, with my blond child in a definite minority. As the youngsters bounced onto the opponent's field, I heard a Glendale mother say, "here come those JDs from Pasadena."

At first I was offended, then I smiled.

We had arrived, white bread no more.