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Halloween At Jacksonville Grade School

October 29, 2014


Halloween at Jacksonville Grade School, 1956-1960


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Thinking of my grandniece in her monkey costume for this year’s Halloween or of my little friend Harper in her calf costume at “Boo at the Zoo” makes my mind wander back to the “Trick-or-Treat” days of the mid to late 1950s and early 1960s.  While I hear that children’s favorite outfits for Halloween this year are from characters of the movie Frozen, I remember that I dressed as Cinderella when I was in the first grade at Jacksonville Grade School (located in Blanford, Indiana), in October of 1956.


Second grade was a memorable year for Halloween at JGS because I dressed in a shiny coral long dress with matching hat–the flower-girl outfit which I had worn at the wedding of my Aunt Kathy on June 16, 1956–and I won a prize in the costume-judging contest.  I believe that the two mothers who were “room mothers” were the judges, perhaps with the teacher offering an additional opinion.  I was not totally happy with my win for the “most beautiful costume” because my classmate and cousin Carole’s Halloween outfit was a very pretty wedding gown, complete with veil, but did not win a prize.  Despite the judges’ decision, my cousin and I were, as usual, a pair (just five months apart in age):  I looked like the bridesmaid; and Carole was the bride.  Her grandmother Jewel, a very accomplished professional seamstress, should have won a prize since she made the bridal gown, as well as the flower-girl outfit.


For the next year’s Halloween celebration, we two cousins went in a totally different direction:  Carole wore a neat hobo outfit while I donned my older sister’s hand-me-down clown costume.  After a Halloween parade around the two-story brick school and the judging contest each year, all the students enjoyed the usual treat of iced cupcakes, made by the room mothers of each set of two grades.  Of course, we students of Jacksonville Grade School sat at our old wooden “row” desks as we munched on the cupcake treats.


From 1914 through 1961, Jacksonville Grade School had hosted its share of Halloween parties, tricks, and treats; however, most likely, the best “trick” ever played on the entire school was during the final school year for our beloved hometown school.  In October of 1960, my cousin and I were in the fifth grade; my sister, ever the budding teacher, was in the eighth grade.  Mrs. Marguerite Lenderman had been my third- and fourth-grade teacher, as well as my sister’s third-grade teacher; in 1960, Mrs. Lenderman was still teaching these two grades in one classroom.  This artistic and creative teacher cooked up quite an idea for  that Halloween.  Since she and her husband periodically dined at Binole’s Restaurant which was owned and operated by my Aunt Zita, Mrs. Lenderman took this opportunity to tell my sister of the plan–a scheme which only the two of them knew.  On Monday, October 31, 1960, at the appropriate time , the veteran teacher and my sister changed into identical rabbit costumes–only my sister’s was larger because she was already nearing her height of 5’10”.  Besides a fluffy tail, each of the rabbit costumes included a complete headpiece to fully disguise the person beneath the bunny ears.  Unbeknownst to the other 87 students and three other teachers, my sister, in rabbit outfit #2, went to the third- and fourth-grade classroom and sat at the teacher’s desk and pretended to be the well-known teacher.  Mrs. Lenderman, in rabbit costume #1, went upstairs to the seventh- and eighth-grade classroom where Mr. William Payton was both the teacher and principal.  The two rabbits agreed not to utter a sound so that their secret would not be revealed too soon.  The disguise and silence worked perfectly and, indeed, was the best “trick” ever played in the history of JGS.  When Mrs. Lenderman revealed her true identity from her student desk in the eighth-grade classroom, Mr. Payton said, “I thought Mary was taller than that.”


In 1969, Mary Elizabeth, my sister, began her teaching career.  In recent years of teaching at a pre-school in Colorado, she, for the Halloween parties, has donned a special outfit and has carried a stuffed lamb.  Yes, most years, at least one of her four-year-old students has guessed that their teacher is dressed like “Mary-had-a-little-lamb.”


On December 5, 1970–thirteen years and thirty-five days after my cousin pretended to be a bride and I pretended to be a bridesmaid on Halloween–Carole became the actual bride of Tim Morgan.  For real, I was her bridesmaid.  How the world does come full circle!


Watch what you wear on Halloween!  What one pretends may someday become reality.



Happy Halloween to all of my readers and to the alumni of Jacksonville Grade School!

Alice and Zoe


October 29, 2014, Wednesday



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  1. What an interesting trick. It’s a good thing your principal had a sense of humor. Happy Halloween.

  2. Thanks for the memories of many Halloween good times at JGS! The fine teachers you mentioned along with my beloved first grade teacher, Mrs. Pickard, were my inspiration to become a teacher. I continue to enjoy this profession every day with my preschoolers! Just yesterday sweet Lily in my class guessed that I was dressed as “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

    Happy Halloween to you, Alice and Zoe!
    Love, Mary

    • Mary–Thanks for your look-back comment, as well as your up-to-date comment. On a trip to New England in 1979, I remember that one of our tours included Longfellow’s Wayside Inn (Massachusetts), on the property of which was the little schoolhouse which inspired “Mary had a little lamb.” Happy Halloween! A & Z

  3. Carole permalink

    What a memory you have, Alice! I have again learned much from your detailed accounts, especially the rabbit story. Also, coral has returned as a popular color for both clothing and decor; and yes, the world does come full circle in many ways.
    Thanks for including me in this week’s journey. Happy Halloween!

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