Black Cat Carnival

by Helen Nolden

The following article was written by Helen Rice Nolden for The Valley Star, Velva

October 19, 1994

Years ago, when I was a child, and then in high school, we didn’t go trick-or-treating like the kids of today.  For months, the school was getting ready for our carnival to be held in the old high school auditorium. 

It was a family affair.  Parents, little kids, high school kids, aunts, uncles and grandparents attended.  A lot of work went into this event. 

We set up a lot of booths.  All of them were decorated with colorful crepe paper.  What a colorful time!  We had a fish pond, beauty shop, a penny toss, toss the goose, bingo, and lots of other booths, too.

We always had a nice program.  One year, we did a take-off on a show they used to have on radio, called The Dr. I.Q. Show.  My nephew, Francis Aisenbrey, played the part of the doctor.  We gave a Milky Way bar as a prize for correct answers to the questions. 

One time we had a minstrel show.  We blackened our faces, told a few jokes, sang duets, and had a chorus. We even had a Mr. Interlocoter.  Usually, we sang the old songs that most everyone in the building knew.  There were some instrumentals.  At that time, we had a school band that was made up of a few of the high school students who played for dances and for such occasions as the Black Cat Carnival. 

The whole auditorium was decorated in orange, black and green.  There were witches, goblins, ghosts and other scary things all over the place.  I remember the grade children cutting colored paper a few weeks before the carnival.  It made great confetti.  Every time they had a few minutes, they would cut paper and put it in little bags on their desks.  Later, the teachers would give them to the upper classmen.  They would bag it to be sold at the carnival.  You didn’t waste a thing back then; in the thirties and early forties. 

There were food booths with hot dogs, popcorn balls, candy and other edibles.  We had coffee, tea, juice and pop.  There was bobbing for apples, peanut rolls across the floor, egg-in-a-spoon races, cakes races, etc.

Up in the balcony they had a tea garden.  It was decorated in oriental fashion.  We had very colorful lanterns hanging from the ceiling over the tables.  They served delicate cookies and cakes and mouthwatering pies.  The older women enjoyed the tea garden.  They could sit up there, have a lunch, and watch their children at the same time. 

A king and queen candidate were chosen from the four high school classes.  This was done a few weeks before the carnival.  Each class sold tickets for their candidates.  If I remember correctly, a dime bought ten points.  They sold tickets up until the last few minutes.  There was always a scurry at the king and queen booth at that time, as boyfriends, brothers, relatives and friends were buying votes for their candidates.  In my senior year at Anamoose High, Marian Leintz and Robert Keszler were crowned at the close of the evening.  Their crowns were made of gold-covered cardboard.

I always enjoyed the carnivals.  The doors opened at 7:00 p.m. and closed at midnight.  I think the carnival was so much better than having the children running from door to door begging for candy.  I can’t believe the size of some of the bags they bring. At our carnivals, there weren’t any bullies taking candy away from the smaller ones.  They didn’t have to plow through slush and cold.  The only thing to worry about was being covered with confetti and streamers.

Prizes were given to the ones who dressed up for the night.  It also seems to me that all the little ones got a prize.  No one was left out.  The ghosts, witches, and black cat decorations were also given to the little ones to help decorate their homes. 

The woodworking class put up the bingo stand in the middle of the hall.  The businessmen of Anamoose, Drake, and Harvey gave most of the prizes.  The home-ec class donated all the baked things. 

I don’t remember when they stopped having the Black Cat Carnivals, but they should have kept something like that going for the little ones.  We didn’t need a lot of money to do these things back then.  Everyone pitched in.  It was a community mingled with the school type of get-together.  Everyone took part.  It was clean and, I thought, good!


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