Halloween in Libertyville During the Depression and WWII

Halloween has always been a fun time for kids to dress up, go trick or treating and enjoy a prank or two. However during the trying times that the Great Depression and World War II presented to the people of Libertyville, Halloween provided a welcome diversion. Putting on a silly costume of a witch or goblin took their minds off of the chaos and uncertainty around them.

halloween from paper

Halloween Picture Appearing in the Oct 13, 1933 issue of the Libertyville Independent Register.

By and large, Halloween is regarded as a day for the children. Starting in 1932, the Libertyville Independent Register newspaper started what would become a tradition that would last for years. The newspaper collaborated with various local businesses, schools and law enforcement in setting up a Halloween Parade. At 6:45, the kids met up at a predetermined place, usually around Town Hall, and with a police and/or volunteer escort, they would walk down to another spot, such as the LaVilla Theatre. (The LaVilla Theatre was the local movie theatre before the Liberty Theatre opened in 1937.) At the theatre, the kids would have their costumes judged by panel of judges, usually school administrators or businesspeople. The kids would then have the chance to watch a movie; for instance, in 1935 they watched “Charlie Chan in Egypt.” The only thing the children had to do was show up to the event in a costume. Best of all, in a time of economic hardship, it didn’t cost the families anything. Many parts of the community were involved, as businesses would donate party supplies, the LaVilla Theatre showed the movie, and the schools would get the word out. The Parade was a huge success and only grew through the years, often having 300 kids or more participating.

classroom costumes

Picture of Children Participating in Annual Parade Appearing in the Nov 5, 1936 issue of the Libertyville Independent Register.

While mainly for the kids, Halloween was celebrated by people of all ages. As they are now, Halloween parties were very popular in the 1930s and 1940s. The parties were held in public places but also at private residences decorated with spooky decorations. Not only that, some went as far as having festive foods and some party hosts submitted some Halloween themed recipes in the local papers. Way before the era of the selfie and social media, people would submit the happenings at their parties to the local paper and would include a list of the people who attended. Interestingly, if someone couldn’t or didn’t attend, they may not be called out by name, but the fact that someone didn’t attend was sometimes mentioned, almost as a way of telling that person that they really missed out on a good time.

halloween party

Picture of Halloween Party Appearing in the Oct 30, 1930 issue of the Libertyville Independent Register.

Halloween has always been a time for a few well-meaning pranks such as window soaping. However, like many things, there were times when people took things a bit too far. Every year during this time, police would issue a statement that they hoped that people would enjoy Halloween but not be malicious or mean spirited. Extra patrolmen were sent out to keep an eye out for shenanigans. In 1939, a group of boys doused cars with paint, but by and large, people abided by the law and behaved themselves.

halloween party 2

Picture of Halloween Party Held at the Timmerman Residence. Appeared in the Nov 3, 1938 issue of the Libertyville Independent Register.

For the duration of World War II, things took an interesting turn. As with most everything else in that time, Halloween was linked to patriotism and winning the war. Good patriots wouldn’t disturb the sleep of the workers who were getting a good night’s rest to fight the good fight. A.E. Suter, President of the Libertyville Board of Trustees and Joseph Saam, Libertyville police chief, both made such type of statements, urging vandalism to be stopped. Sometimes this worked, sometimes not so much. In 1943, it was reported that Halloween was enjoyed by all and destruction of property was held in check. However, the following year village officials were treated to a group of boys who tampered with the horns of some cars. When they were approached by police, the boys ran, broke a window to the New Castle Hotel and tried hiding on the second floor of the hotel before they were caught. Also, there were some grass fires started and two caps removed from fire hydrants on Milwaukee Avenue sending water everywhere. Someone went so far as to stretch a clothesline between two posts over an electric railway line, disrupting the connection and stopping the railway car.

halloween tavern

Halloween Ad From Local Tavern Appeared in the Oct 28, 1937 issue of the Libertyville Independent Register.

Despite the occasional destruction of property, Halloween was a fun way to put the problems of the world aside during the Great Depression and the Second World War. Between the children’s parade, parties and overall fun for the event, Halloween brought not only enjoyment for individuals, it also helped bring the community together as well.

Sources

“Happy Games Best Feature of Hallowe’en” Libertyville Independent Register. October 10, 1930, p. 6.
“Intriguing False Faces For Halloween ‘Eats’.” Libertyville Independent Register. October 30, 1930, p. 6.
“Plan Halloween Parade for Young Folks.” Libertyville Independent Register. October 22, 1932, p. 1 & 10.
“Children Have Big Halloween Parade.” Libertyville Independent Register. November 2, 1932, p. 1 & 8.
“Police Will Curb Hallowe’en Pranks.” Libertyville Independent Register. October 26, 1933, p. 1 & 6.
“Children In Halloween Celebration.” Libertyville Independent Register. November 3, 1933, p. 1 & 12.
“Small Damage By Pranksters on Hallowe’en.” Libertyville Independent Register. November 3, 1933, p. 1.
“Goblins and Ghosts March Early Thursday.” Libertyville Independent Register. October 24, 1934, p. 1.
“Plan Special Patrols for Hallowe’en.” Libertyville Independent Register. October 24, 1935, p. 1 & 12.
“Halloween Offers Popular Party Season.” Libertyville Independent Register. October 31, 1935, p. 8.
“Hold Parade for Children in Costumes.” Libertyville Independent Register. October 31, 1935, p. 1 & 12.
“Annual Party For Children To Be Given.” Libertyville Independent Register. October 5, 1936, p. 1.
“Plans Underway For Oct. 31 Party.” Libertyville Independent Register. October 8, 1936, p. 1.
“Hallowe’en Setting for Party Held Last Night.” Libertyville Independent Register. October 21, 1937, p. 8.
“Hallowe’en Setting for Party Last Night” Libertyville Independent Register. October 21, 1938, p. 8.
“Observe Hallowe’en at New Play Center.” Libertyville Independent Register. November 3, 1938 p. 1.
“Halloween Observed with Parties Over Weekend. “ Libertyville Independent Register. Nov. 3, 1938, p. 4.
“Big Halloween Party to Draw 500 Children.” Libertyville Independent Register. October 26, 1939, p. 1.
“No Rough Stuff Please, Says Druba.” Libertyville Independent Register. October 26, 1939, p. 1.
“Vicious Pranks Climax Night of Mischief.” Libertyville Independent Register. November 2, 1939, p. 1.
“Halloween Parties Make Season of Witches, Spooks & Goblins.” Libertyville Independent Register. November 2, 1939, p. 6.
“‘All Quiet’ on the Hallowe’en Holiday; Vandalism Waning.” Libertyville Independent Register. November 4, 1941, p. 1.
“Hallowe’en and Patriotism.” Libertyville Independent Register. October 29, 1942, p. 1.
“Parent Teachers to Hold Harvest Party.”  Libertyville Independent Register. November 5, 1942, p. 4.
“Police to Enforce Orderly Halloween.” Libertyville Independent Register. October 21, 1943, p. 1.
“Soft Pedal For Halloween.” Libertyville Independent Register. October 28, 1943, p. 4.
“Hallowe’en Most Orderly In History of Village.” Libertyville Independent Register. November 4, 1943, p. 6.
“Hallowe’en Vandalism Won’t Be Tolerated, Police Head Warns.” Libertyville Independent Register. October 12, 1944, p. 1.

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