Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hallowe'en in Woodbury: Mischief & Mad Dogs

Poster from a Hallowe'en Ball in Woodbury 1939
Poster from a Hallowe'en Ball in Woodbury 1939
It's nearly Hallowe'en, the time of year when the veil separating this world from the next is at its finest. Hallowe'en, a contraction of "All Hallow's Eve" is believed to have originated from the Pagan Celtic New Year's feast of Samhain. In the United States, Halloween began to take hold after the influx of Irish and Scottish immigrants arrived to these shores in the mid 1800s. The first full length book The Book of Hallowe'en was published in 1919 by American librarian and author Ruth Edna Kelley. By the 1930's "Trick-or-Treating" was widespread.

In the 1800's Woodbury society was popularly hosting Hallowe'en parties throughout town. As early as 1906 the city itself was hosting dedicated parades awarding prizes for best decorations, something that happily continues to this day. But this time of year wasn't all fun and games for everyone in Woodbury. Here's an account from 1898 involving mass mischief and a poor dog:

     Well, boys will be boys, on Hallowe’en, and last night was no exception to the rule.
     Loose gates were “lifted,” signs were exchanged promiscuously, and a general shake up was given the old town.
     Masqueraders in grotesque costumes early filled the streets, and corn, shot and gravel were rained on unprotected windows from one end of the town to the other.
     At Armstrongs the boys “whooped ‘er up,” and had a “stavin” time – there is now nothing left of several barrels but the nails.
     The iron awnings in front of some of the stores were used for much mischief. The broken stone put on the streets was scraped up and hurled on the sheet iron sounding like a terrific hail storm.
     And corn – there is enough on the side walks to fatten a large pen of hogs. Some farmer’s field had to suffer.
     This morning householders could be seen philosophically rummaging for front gates, shutters, hitching posts, etc., knowing it would do no good to get angry about it.
     But look at the fun the boys had.
     But when mischief leads any one so far as to smash a large plate glass window, as was done for Jeweller Thoman, it is high time such persons should be confined in a reform school or lunatic asylum. A rigid investigation should follow this piece of deviltry, and the guilty parties made to pay damages. It is utter nonsense to think there is any fun in wantonly destroying property.
     Policeman DuBois also got in a little Hallowe’en frolic of his own. Some one discovered a dog nosing around, and cried “mad dog,” and there was a scurrying for shelter. Policeman DuBois gave him a dose of leaden pellets, and the animal’s brains were beaten out with clubs, stones and bricks. The affair happened near the Hopkins street corner.
Hallowe'en. (1898, November 1). Woodbury Daily Times, p. 1.

Happy Halloween!