The observance of Halloween in the Baltimore of the 1930s was a different affair from today's.
Police issued guidelines detailing how the holiday would be celebrated. Crowds of trick or treaters jammed Baltimore Street for the annual Halloween-night costume parade. And the week preceding Halloween was always punctuated by acts of mischief, duly reported by The Sun.
In 1930 City Police Commissioner Charles D. Gaither, apparently fearing that criminals in disguise would mix with the crowds, included this warning among the year's guidelines:
"No. 1 on the list of rules and regulations is no masks. This applies to clowns, harlequins, columbines, cowboys, Colonial Dames, Mexicans, spooks, skeletons, soldiers, sailors and marines. It applies, in fact, to anyone and everyone."
The Sun added, "The Police taboos will apply to any Halloween celebrant who appears in public with a bean-shooter, any Halloween celebrant who appears in public with a six-shooter, any Halloween celebrant who throws flour or confetti or bricks."
The arrival of Doorbell Night, Chalk Night, Mischief Night and Moving Night -- all during the week before Halloween -- meant that homeowners had better be prepared for some high jinks and other acts of deviltry.
The Sun observed wryly: "If dwellers in suburbia do not experience again their usual Halloween troubles, then the Great American Boy is not the healthy specimen that he used to be."
City police were not so forgiving and warned violators that, if they were caught destroying or defacing property, they would most likely "haunt" the city jail for 30 days.
Downtown residents complained vociferously that year about their milk bottles being removed and smashed.
"Miscreants balance milk bottles on door knobs and then ring the bell," said The Sun. "When the door is opened the bottle drops and is shattered."
For many years, Baltimore Street had been the "favorite stomping ground for Halloween celebrants in fancy costumes," reported The Sun in 1930.
"Baltimore Street, from Eutaw to Holliday, was jammed, street cars and automobiles were diverted, motor cars clogged Charles Street, from Baltimore to the Washington Monument, and additional traffic police were assigned to important intersections regulate the crowds and carnival makers," reported The Sun in 1930.
A Sun reporter observed that "except for a Hunchback of Notre Dame, a Roman Warrior, an Abyssinian Monarch in a multi-colored robe and jeweled turban, a knight in armor and a Czarina in regal robes attended by her court, there were no eye-arresting costumes in the Baltimore Street festival."
By the late 1930s, The Sun was lamenting the forsaking of Baltimore Street as the venue for the traditional Halloween parade.
"Gone are the days when the downtown main street was jammed with maskers for the annual festival. And there is a reason. Nowadays, the Charles Chaplins, Colonial Dames and Spanish troubadours stick closer to home," said The Sun in 1939.
"Only on Pennsylvania Avenue were the old traditions carried on with the old-time fervor. The principal thoroughfare of the Negro section was seething with a mass of humanity estimated by police as the largest in the last four years. The costumes were as varied in color and design as enthusiastic imagination could devise," said The Sun.
Of course, there had been no let-up in the high jinks. In 1938,
The Sun reported that a gang of teen-age boys in Towson had succeeded in blocking a street with a wagonload of fodder that they turned sideways. Not content with this, they moved on to the Towson Courthouse and proceeded to "bowl" with the 1812 cannonballs stacked there.
"While the police were answering a call some boys took a board from the scaffold on the Towson Courthouse and used it to jam the horn of Chief Judge T. Scott Offutt's automobile which was parked outside," reported the newspaper.
Halloween 1946 was one of the last attempts by celebrants to restore Baltimore Street to its former Halloween glory.
"Thousands of young and old, invading Baltimore Street from Paca to Gay, last night made a vibrant but ineffective attempt to revive the spirit of prewar Halloween carnivals."
The newspaper explained that neighborhood parties in Waverly, Hampden, Highlandtown, Pimlico and Hamilton had supplanted Baltimore Street.
Pub Date: 10/27/96