how to have a halloween party in london, ontario, 1924

London Free Press, October 29, 1924.

Halloween has snuck up on me this year. Not until the last week or so has it felt imminent, with decorations finally making their way onto local lawns. Celebrations feel like they're slowly making a comeback, and probably won't kick into full gear until next year (fingers crossed).

Digging into my files for a quick post, I found a few pages I gathered from the London Free Press published in 1924 which offered party suggestions under the sort of ornate banner newspapers loved in the post-First World War era. 

London Free Press, October 29, 1924. 

A festive table setting to set the mood for your Halloween dinner party.

The main article on the party page, which winds all over it, provides pointers on how to have "an electric Halloween celebration." It begins with some safety advice:

The success of the Halloween party depends largely upon decorations and lighting. A Halloween without the lighted Jack o' Lantern would be like Christmas without a tree. But one must be very cautious about the lighting. The candle placed inside the hollow pumpkin or in one made of papier mache is always a dangerous form of illumination, therefore a small electric bulb placed inside the lantern is safer and can be made more effective if the bulb is coloured -- red or orange.

London Free Press, October 29, 1924.

The bowls used in indirect lighting may be decorated by cut-outs arranged on the inside and showing in outline through the frosted glass. Witches riding on broomsticks, cats with humped-up backs, hobgoblins and elves are easily procured and very effective. The strings of electric bulbs that were saved from the last Christmas may be festooned across the mirrors and over the pictures and masked with autumn leaves whose gay tints are made more brilliant by the bright light behind them. Those to whom the spoils of the woods are not available may purchase leaves of paper with colours copied from the hues of the forest.

London Free Press, October 29, 1924.

At an entertainment of this sort elaborate refreshments are out of place and those served should be suitable to the season. A buffet supper is most appropriate. It should consist of ripe native fruits and nuts of various kinds, candies and cakes. It is always fun to roast chestnuts and toast marshmallows -- if you are not lucky enough to have an open fireplace the electric grill will prove just as good. The young hostess who does her own work or who has but one servant can solve the problem of running back forth from the kitchen to the dining room with food by bringing her percolator and chafing dish and placing them on a small table near the sideboard. Here she can make her coffee and Welsh rabbit, which is always a welcome and tasty dish.

I wonder how many London, Ontario homes in 1924 suffered the hassle and indignity of only having one servant on hand.

London Free Press, October 29, 1924.

London Free Press, October 29, 1924.

A quartet of examples of proper Halloween party invitations. When Martha Porter says that "choice Spirits" will be at her party, does she mean spirited friends, or is it code for illicit hooch? If the latter, we can guess where Ms. Porter might have voted a week earlier in a provincial referendum on maintaining the Ontario Temperance Act

London Free Press, October 29, 1924.

Using candy-making as a lure to buy gas appliances. Because Halloween just isn't Halloween without plenty of taffy to go around. 

London Free Press, October 30, 1924.

The next day, the paper published a roundup of tips and traditions. The cartoon I removed showed the old racist stereotype of large-lipped blacks scared by ghosts, which was not the only instance of such imagery appearing in the Free Press that season -- on the party page, the largest ad, supplied by Brunswick Records, showed a stereotypical black man bashing a mule in the butt with a club to promote the song "Go Long Mule" by Carl Fenton's Orchestra.


London Free Press, October 31, 1924.

On Halloween day, more party suggestions, this time with recipes. 


London Free Press, October 31, 1924.

Finally, some romantic Halloween thoughts to contemplate while carving your Jack o' Lantern.

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