I was talking with some friends the other day and a term I hadn’t heard in a long time was mentioned. The term was Cake Walk. That is a game that was played at the Felicity PTA Halloween Socials back in the 60’s when I went to school there. The Social was always held as near to Halloween as possible and was really the first big event of a new school year held at the school. The ladies of the PTA worked themselves to the bone preparing for this the event of the year. Remember now this was back in the 60’s and I’m talking about a rural community where there was an event that offered something from the youngest to the oldest and all ages in between.
Here is Webster’s’ definition of social: ”relating to or involving activities in which people spend time talking to each other or doing enjoyable things with each other.” I didn’t make that up but if anyone ever attended a Halloween social they know Webster hit it right on the head. Since it was still a time of year that people could venture out and not have to be bundled up the majority of the community was there in attendance. The children came because they could wear costumes and win prizes and play games. The parents came in most cases because their children wanted to go and so they could visit with friends. The junior high and high school kids went so they could hang out with their friends and have fun.
Fun was varied at the social. There were booths that sold cookies and brownies. Some sold slices of pie or cake. There was apple cider and candy apples and popcorn balls, there were hot dogs and barbeque. (other than the hot dogs all other items were baked or cooked at home by the ladies of the PTA. Try finding that today.)
There were games such as the fish pond, make a basket, bobbing for apples and more than I can recall but the big game was the Cake Walk. People paid a quarter and got in a circle in the middle of the gym that had squares with numbers in them. When the music started all the participants walked the circle and when the music stopped they did also. When a number was called out the person standing on that numbered square won a home baked cake, a pretty good return on your investment. However, there always seemed to be one person who would be on the winning number constantly. (Who needed six cakes?)
There was a jail which made a large amount of money. They used four or five high school guys of good size as the jailers. The object was to go to a jailer and pay them to arrest a person. They would round them up and place them in the jail. That person got out by paying bail. That person would then find out who had him jailed and have him arrested in return. This really was a simple game of tag but the kids loved it.
A hallway that ran behind the stage in the gym was where the Haunted House was located. Many liked it but it wasn’t too scary. It was sponsored by the PTA and it is hard to be too scary when sponsored by a group with a G rating. I do recall a kissing booth for a dollar. There would be a very pretty girl seated in a booth where she could be seen but not reached. A boy paid his dollar and as he leaned in for a big kiss a hand came out and delivered some Hershey’s Kisses. This didn’t go well as fool me once shame on me fool me twice shame on you. It died from false advertising since there was no competition.
With the men going outside so they could talk and have a smoke without screaming kids and while all the games were getting their fair share of play and the foods consumed, the main event began. That was the costume judging. Each age group was brought up on stage and a panel of judges picked a first, second and third place winner. The master of ceremonies did all the talking.
One year for some reason there was just one little boy entered in one of the younger age groups and this was of little interest since there no competition but the announcer began asking the little boy questions that convinced him was a big part of judging the winner. He was so into all this that he became very serious and the crowd could see just how concerned he was becoming about if he was going to win or not. Finally Ron Louderback, the announcer, yelled in a loud and excited voice that the judges had picked him as the first place winner. The little boy jumped up in the air for joy and the entire crowd erupted in a deafening cheer for him. It was the highlight of that year’s social.
This was how the annual Halloween Social went each year at Felicity, There was a good evening and a grand time. The reason I’m telling this is that I don’t know about the city schools, but out in the country in every rural community there was then and there is today a Halloween Social . This may sound a little bit prejudiced but country people know how to enjoy themselves even with a glass of apple cider and a slice of pumpkin pie and a whole lot of being social.
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and likes to share stories about his youth and other topics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.