Being in school any later in the day than is necessary, isn’t the desire of many children. However, turn back the clock fifty years to the 1970s; Chrishall Primary school, on October 31st, after 5pm was the place to be.
Earlier in the week, Sheila and Colin Nelson would encourage their pupils to create flying witches and paperchain ghosts, which would then adorn the walls.
We would finish school in the afternoon, returning home with anticipation of the evening to come. No Trick or Treating for us; it hadn’t really begun here then.
Halloween costumes would have been created using plenty of black and green crepe paper for pointed hats, adorned in foil stars and moons. Old shawls, white sheets and curtains would have been skilfully refigured into cloaks, ghosts, and witch and wizard outfits. There were very few shop bought items.
Then, off we went at the magic hour, carrying our lanterns which would be lit later. These lanterns would have been carved from easy to obtain vegetables like parsnip, turnip, swede, or even a large potato. Only once do I recall an actual pumpkin making an appearance! I recall my Uncle Perce bringing me a turnip from the farm he worked on at Heydon. It was a very difficult thing to hollow out.
The Juniors classroom would have been cleared of desks and chairs to allow us to play games. I think we must have eaten the party food in the Infants classroom. There were sandwiches and iced buns with cherries and sprinkles, presumably made earlier in the day by our parents and maybe the school dinner ladies (Mrs Negus and Mrs Heath), all washed down with squash.
Then the games! Apples tied onto long strings would be swaying from an old room divider frame, ready for us to try to grab with our mouths; not easy with your hands behind your back. I especially recall us all lining up with a partner to skip up and down the hall to The Grand Old Duke of York. Thundering feet and flying cloaks as we skipped and twirled.
Before too long our parents began to gather outside the playground railings. Meanwhile, inside, we lined up with our lanterns waiting excitedly for Mr Nelson and Kath Cranwell, our school caretaker, to light our candles. No fake candles in those days just a nightlight or a carefully wedged household one. Once lit, we would carefully parade around the dark playground, lanterns swinging gently.
It was so exciting and magical – a fond memory for many; despite the lack of photo or film evidence, it really did happen!
Sharon McGinty (nee Rose).
(Editors Note: we do have one film of this event and you can see it here: Halloween video).