Scaring Up '60s Memories of Carpenter Capers Around Halloween

Playground fun was all the rage, especially those Carpenter School Halloween carnivals!

One of my favorite holidays when I was growing up was Halloween. The chance to channel my inner Clark Kent or Godzilla was an opportunity I could rarely refuse.

We got into form for the holiday by producing theatrical plays during the summer on the playground at Carpenter Avenue Elementary (now

In the school auditorium, we'd audition, plan our costumes and rehearse our lines until our day of reckoning, when we'd perform our play in front of the entire schoolyard crowd.

Our production, titled Blood vs. Coke (whatever that meant) entailed all sorts of monsters, vampires, ghosts and goblins. We’d play off scenes from those creepy movies that we used to enjoy at the Studio City Theater, like Bride of Frankenstein, Them, The Haunting and The Crawling Eye.

Being the tallest, I naturally played Frankenstein, peg neck and all, with my arms outstretched as I lumbered about, stiff as a post.

My pals Robbie and Daryl Armstrong also participated, no doubt borrowing their theatrical skills from their father, the renowned R.G. Armstrong, a popular character actor who starred in many movies.

My sister Teresa and our pal Dennis also participated in this production with their endless ghoulish talents. We all loved being on stage, and the backdrop of the playground was a perfect venue for our activities.

As summer waned, Carpenter began preparing for its Halloween carnival, which was a memorable festival for the school. Swarms of students and their parents would congregate on the asphalt to enjoy all the activities.

I remember trying to win a goldfish by tossing air-light ping-pong balls into one of the glass bowls. The ball would bounce around like popping popcorn, and if you were lucky, it would finally settle into one of the bowls. Then, you’d take the goldfish home and promise to love and feed it until it eventually died and you were forced to flush it down the toilet.

The school also hosted a wild fun house, where you’d stick your hand into a vat of “eyeballs” (they were actually peeled grapes), but the shrieks from all of us certainly had everyone believing otherwise. EEEEEEEWWWWW!

Then there was that skyscraper-high thingy with the bell at the top, which brought out the macho in all of us. Your athletic prowess would be measured as soon as you swung your hammer down. If you were lucky, you’d hit the bell and win a prize.

Or how about that water chamber with some clown dangling on a stool over the pool? Throw the softball and if you hit the lever, he’d be dumped into the drink, only to climb back up on his perch and wait for another ball to drop him into the tank once again. I used to pretend he was one of my teachers.

Ah, Halloween was so safe back then, trolling the neighborhood for Snickers bars, Milky Ways, Abba Zabba, Hershey bars and an occasional apple.

When we’d get home and unload our bounty, I’m sure my mother soon began planning our next visit to the dentist.

Mary McGrath November 21, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Betsy! I've been trying to find you! If you scroll through some of these stories, you'll see some photos of you with Robbie Armstrong, Barbara Saltzman, etc. Where are you now, and are you on Facebook? Or, send me your email at grathy@aol.com and we can converse further...So many memories!
teresa mcgrath November 21, 2012 at 05:43 PM
you can reach me betsy at bone1953@msn.com, and on facebook under teresa lillian mcgrath
Betsy Cutter November 21, 2012 at 07:49 PM
I will email you both. Great minds think alike. Been trying to find you two for a long, long time! Finding you all and others is like coming home.
Mary McGrath November 21, 2012 at 09:15 PM
I'm on Facebook as well. You'll see tons of photos of the family, grammar school, etc. I'll check out your profile Betsy. I saw Mr. Moore at a fundraiser for Carpenter Ave. about 8 years ago. That was such a shock!
teresa mcgrath November 21, 2012 at 09:50 PM
homecoming for thanksgiving....fine timing betsy....we're friends with suzanne waisbren, jim debree, plus others...more will come to mind....


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