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Boo!

Tim Willoughby
Aspen Times Weekly
A make-do 1920s Halloween costume " even then the holiday wasn't just for kids.
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Two things you could count on at Halloween in Aspen: The school carnival would be fun and it would snow. Aspen’s schools put on a traditional Halloween carnival designed to make a marginal profit while providing entertainment for both children and adults.

One of the memorable carnivals was that of 1924, not because of its outstanding events, but because of the controversial Vaudeville show that the school produced at the Isis Theater. Early in the list of acts was a “Pierre and Pierette act” where a girl enticed a boy in a way totally unacceptable to any of the elders who were a product of Victorian morals. The act might not have drawn as much attention had the girl not been the daughter of Mr. Graves, a member of the school board. Aspen was just not ready for that.

Early in the 1950s, Aspen’s school enrollment topped 200. Even with rapid growth, pressure remained to join the Roaring Fork School District, to send Aspen’s children to one big school in Glenwood Springs. Fighting limited budgets but proud of a tradition of quality schools, parents resisted the unification. Through PTA efforts they funded many extras for the school, and the Halloween carnival was one of those fundraising events.

The evening began with a buffet dinner. Even childless adults took advantage of the 80-cent dinner that included all the turkey, coleslaw and mashed potatoes that a person could eat.

After dinner, for a dime, you could participate in a multitude of games, entertainments and purchases. You could gamble at the Chamber of Commerce Wheel of Fortune or the Elks bingo games. If you didn’t win there, you could accompany your child to take a chance at the fishpond where you might reel in a lime-green plastic toy.

The white elephant booth and the country store offered bargains for shoppers such as hand-sewn items and useful refuse resurrected from the depths of dark basements.

You could try to fool the experts at the guess-your-weight booth. If you felt outraged by their estimates, you could take your revenge at the pie-throwing booth.

The first-grade room was reserved for the cakewalk. You were enticed by the spectacle of tables stocked from end to end with cakes of every description. Most were “Betty Crocker specials,” white cakes iced with glistening pure sugar white frosting.

You could attend a minstrel show that starred the famous Freddie Fisher, the renowned bandleader and comedian clarinetist. Not-so-famous stars included Elbie Gann, school superintendent, and Mike Garrish singing a jazzed-up version of “The Preacher and the Bear.”

Primary grade students worked hard to build up enough courage to visit the spook house, which was populated by older-student ghouls and goblins. For 10 cents you could have the wits scared out of you by various combinations of olive eyes, spaghetti worms and ketchup blood. We avoided that room for weeks after the carnival just to make sure the spooks wouldn’t get us.


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