Brisbane Halloween (circa 1940’s)

BY: Dolores Gomez, Brisbane historian, brischic@sonic.net

In the early 1940’s, we students at Brisbane Elementary had never heard of “Trick or Treat.” Our Halloween was exciting and welcomed with much anticipation. Released at noon, we all rushed home to put on our home made costumes. (There were no store bought costumes then) Who would know who we were with our chosen mask? We rushed back to school where we all marched, for half an hour around the school yard, parents proudly watching with smiles on their faces. Then we’d go to our class rooms to enjoy tasty chocolate cupcakes with orange frosting, made and donated by our mothers of the P.T.A. (parent teachers association)
Parents worked hard, for weeks to provide our wonderful and fun Halloween Carnival at the elementary school lunchroom. Colorful booths were constructed and set up by parents for students of all ages. Toddlers could “fish” for a prize. They’d toss a pole with a string on it over a sheet; a person would pin a small prize on the line and toss it back over to the child. You could see their excitement as they saw a toy or small object at the end of the line. There was a ping pong ball toss for the older kids. They would toss the white ball into a small bowl, hoping it would float on top to win a live gold fish. They were delighted when the ball hit the water; parents were not!
There was a bean bag toss into the wide mouth of a brightly painted clown face to be rewarded with candy. A “cake walk” was a favorite for those with a sweet tooth and thanks to the moms who baked them. If you could guess how many jelly beans were in a large jar there was a prize of a beaded necklace. Many went home with a Halloween decorated cake, a bag of candy or a sloshing bowl with a gold fish.
(I wonder if those plywood colorful game set ups that parents worked so hard on, are still somewhere at the school?)
I suspected the adults had their own form of entertainment! Walking into the girl’s restroom, I was very frightened to see a person slouching in a chair with a gunny sack over her head moaning and slightly moving.
I could smell “booze” in the air. Was this the person in charge of the event? Could she breathe with that hot sack over her head? Would she die? I quickly left, hoping someone would find and help her. I never forgot that Halloween at the Brisbane Elementary School.