Halloween in Joplin

General Spook of Goblin-land ordered his army to invade the city of Joplin last night and the order was carried out to the letter,” the Globe cheerily reported the morning after Halloween.

“Everyone was out – young and old. Motor cars heavily laden with masqueraders raced up and down Main Street, causing traffic jams at times, which gave police officers not little concern. Horns were brought into play by children. In the various sections of the city an occasional revolver shot was heard and drivers of motor cars on Main Street added to the fun with blasts from the exhaust pipe of the vehicles.”

Dances were held at the Connor Hotel and Erickson’s Dancing Academy. Even the Joplin Children’s Home provided Halloween festivities for its residents, allowing the seventy-five children who lived there to invite a friend to the home to enjoy refreshments and play games.

The streets of Joplin swarmed with children decked out in a variety of costumes. Rudolph Valentino was a popular choice as was the “negro mammy, whose picture has adorned the packages of pancake flour.” The Globe observed, “Many girls became boys, while the boy got his one opportunity to strut the streets as a girl.” For all of the innocent youth seeking a treat, it seemed that there were even more intent on carrying out tricks.

Joplin police received more than thirty phone calls to break up gangs of delinquents destroying or removing property. The activity was concentrated in an area west of Main Street, between Fourth and Twentieth streets, though other neighborhoods were also vandalized. Pranksters placed “all sorts of objects” in the streets to stop traffic and a gang of rock throwers made a nuisance of themselves. Finding wooden fences too easy to tear down, one group of hoodlums tried to demolish a stone fence in North Joplin. Windows were soaped in residential and business districts. Despite all of the damage, no one was arrested, most likely because Joplin was home to “many potential champion sprinters.”

Happy Halloween – From 1906!

Thankfully, Halloween has for the most part shifted away from the “trick” to the “treat” over the last century. In the cartoon below, we catch a glimpse of some of the mischief that Joplin’s young men got up to one Halloween many years ago.

Joplin Halloween Customs circa 1930s

A Works Progress Administration (WPA) worker in the 1930s observed:

“Some peculiar Halloween customs are annually practiced in Joplin and so long have they been a custom that they are tolerated. Men, women, and children, clad in unique costumes and masked, parade up and down the main business streets until a late hour on the night of October 31. They are always good natured and well behaved, seeming just out for fun. But in the residential parts of town gangs of tough boys and girls, hoodlums, go from house to house, soaping windows, ringing door bells and carrying off or breaking whatever they can get their hands upon, including automobiles, porch furniture and anything left outside. Extra police are always employed for Halloween night, but now enough are on duty on stop the depredations of the hoodlums.”