When I was growing up, October had two major events: Halloween (duh) and the Henry L. Barger school carnival. First, let me say a big thank you to all those parents who planned and worked the carnival and to all the teachers who suffered through it. Having planned and carried out several elementary school fall carnivals for daughter Kate's school, I certainly understand the work and love involved.
Each classroom sponsored a different event, and to save my life, I can't remember everything that used to be offered up for our autumnal pleasure. Let's see: I remember there was always a talent show, a cake walk (and those cakes were home-baked, I'm sure), a doll show (where you'd choose your favorite, put a few coins in a jar, and wait to see who the winner was at the end of the night), and the biggest, bestest event of all - the spook house. We had six grades and three classrooms per grade - so by my third-grade-Mrs.-Hinkle-math, that makes for 18 little events. Why can't I remember more? Help me out here, Barger alums!
But it was the spook house by which the success of the carnival was judged. One lucky classroom was turned into a dark, creepy, shivery place (not unlike the way it was on standardized testing day in the spring). Parents donned scary (but not too scary) costumes, spread fake spider webs around, blew cold air on the back of your neck, forced your hand into a bowl of eyeballs (peeled grapes) or brains (cold spaghetti) - in short, all the things that would probably get them arrested these days. But, man, we loved it! The line outside the spook house classroom was long, but you were banned from the "cool corner" for a year if you were too chicken to withstand the mind-bending anticipation.
And strolling throughout the school on carnival night was the Pocket Lady. Our principal, Mrs. McCafferty, had a special dress made for the occasion that had lots of little pockets stuffed with small toys. The dress looked like one of those full-skirted square-dancing dresses; I seem to remember it being a dark orange, but I could be wrong. Anyway, you'd give her a dime or a quarter and choose the cost-appropriate pocket for your surprise gift. Again, this sort of behavior is probably illegal today.
At the end of the October evening, you'd say goodbye to your friends and head home. Tummies full of candy apple and popcorn. Little paper bags fulls of cheap gizmos like Chinese handcuffs or ball-and-jacks. Fun and memorable (even 50 years later). It all seems a quite simple and naive now, I guess.
Still, few thrills in life come close to those childhood spook house shivers.