I remember it like it was yesterday. The year was 1987. I was
sitting in Mrs. Patterson’s second-grade class at Brownell
Elementary School, sporting a tiger outfit and counting down the
minutes. When we finished our spelling tests, it was time for our
class to join all the grade levels on the blacktop for the
I remember it like it was yesterday. The year was 1987. I was sitting in Mrs. Patterson’s second-grade class at Brownell Elementary School, sporting a tiger outfit and counting down the minutes. When we finished our spelling tests, it was time for our class to join all the grade levels on the blacktop for the Halloween parade.
Leading the line of kids dressed in a wide variety of costumes was our principal, Mr. Rich Imler, donned in his traditional vampire attire.
At 24 years old and with a party-laden college past, I can’t remember much. But the image of my best friend, Megs, walking behind me in her bunny costume with pink fuzzy feet has stuck with me, as has the taste of the spider cupcakes one of the room mothers brought to our party.
I can also remember the bunny rabbits we made out of dish towels in sixth grade just before Easter, and the stained-glass windows we made with tissue paper in fifth grade around Christmas time.
I’m not bringing up holiday celebrations in schools to tick anyone off. I know there has been wide debate over this issue in Gilroy for years, and I’m not about to get into the political or religious issues surrounding a few cups of punch and holiday-themed napkins.
What I will say is that it’s too bad that the children in public schools in the South Valley today won’t have the experiences and memories that I and so many others my age did. Sure, current students might have computers with Internet access in each classroom, and some of them might even carry around cell phones so their parents aren’t late picking them up.
But they’ll never be able to sit in a coffee shop at 24 years old and reminisce with their best friends about dancing to the “Monster Mash” with Mr. Imler, or winning the cake walk at their school’s Halloween Fun Night.
I mean, it was what my siblings and I – and thousands of other Gilroy kids – looked forward to from the first day of school on. After trick-or-treating through the neighborhood and swapping Snickers for Kit Kats with my brother, my parents would pack the two of us and my sister in the car and let us loose in Brownell’s auditorium.
Before the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, the school put together in the locker rooms the scariest haunted house, and you never knew what teacher or sixth-grader was going to pop out of a coffin or wall. One of the things that made the night so fun is that the students weren’t the only people who dressed up. Parents, grandparents, teachers and friends would get decked out and join in the fun. Bobbing for apples, getting my face painted and falling asleep on the car ride home were also part of my agenda that night.
Never during my 12 years of Halloween parties as a student did I feel like I was participating in something evil. The “dark” messages of the spooky holiday never persuaded me to study witchcraft or worship demonic spirits. Halloween class parties and parades weren’t about anything religious or evil. They were about letting kids have fun, and for one day of the school year, those students could dress up as a tiger, a princess or anything else they wanted to be. Choosing a costume required creativity, and designing a costume was an outlet for self-expression.
Aside from academics, school is a place for children to develop their character as individuals and learn essential social skills that, believe me, come in useful later in life. Every time I flip on the news or thumb through the paper, I read about how kids aren’t “making the grade” or aren’t performing their best.
What ever happened to having fun?
You’d be surprised what a party-favor bag filled with candy corn and a parade around the blacktop can do for a child, and what special memories it can create.