By: Local Historian Laureate Harry Sanders
Hallowe’en has been celebrated in Marda Loop just about as long as the district has been part of Calgary. South Calgary, as the neighbourhood was originally known, was annexed in 1910, and the earliest-known account of Hallowe’en festivities is from 1915. That year, the St. Mark’s Anglican Church Women’s Auxiliary held a Halloween social in the parish hall, “which was prettily and appropriately decorated for the occasion,” noted the Calgary Daily Herald. “Miss Fuller, as witch, created much amusement with her tea cup fortunes,” the Herald added.
In 1917, the South Calgary Presbyterian Ladies’ Aid held a “grand Hallowe’en Concert” at King Edward School on the big night, complete with a musical program. Grander still, perhaps, was the St. Mark’s Good-Time Club Halloween Social in 1919, also held at King Edward. “Fun and frolic [were] the star features,” the Herald observed:
About 150 young people congregated in King Edward school, and many fun-provoking games were indulged in. Mr. Stanley Johnson was the winner of the cracker-eating contest, and Miss Muriel Pearson winner in the advertisement guessing competition. After refreshments were served, dancing commenced, and this concluded a joyous Hallowe’en party.
In 1923, the South Calgary Community Club’s Halloween dance at King Edward had an all-star panel of costume judges: Mayor George H. Webster, Alderman Annie Gale (the first female city councillor in Canada, who lived at 1717–27 Avenue SW), and City Solicitor Clinton J. Ford, who later became chief justice of Alberta.
We have a first-hand account of Halloween in the 1930s from John W. Grant (1922–1988), who grew up in the extant house at 2032–34 Avenue SW. In 1975, Grant wrote “Vignettes of Old South Calgary,” which was published as part of the Century Calgary Historical Series in recognition of Fort Calgary’s centennial. Grant wrote extensively about the experience of childhood in the neighbourhood, including Halloweening:
Then we had Halloween to look forward to. I have no particularly pleasant memories of this supposedly gay time. By six o’clock in the evening it was getting dark, so you dressed up in one of your sister’s old dresses, smeared some lipstick on your mouth and sallied forth equipped with an old flour sack in which to place all your loot. As I recall it, the evening’s take was never too impressive because the groups of houses were too far apart and one soon got tired and cold. It was always cold as I remember it.
Many Halloweens came and went from that time until my wife, Kirsten, and I moved to Marda Loop in 2000. By that time, there were very few children in our part of the neighbourhood, and King Edward School closed not long afterward. Our son, Jonas, was old enough to go Halloweening a few years later, but he might have been the only child on our street to do so. Our late neighbour Stu Eggleston, who had lived on our block since the early 1950s, had a strong reaction: “Where have you been!” Stu then disappeared for a moment and came back with a massive bag of candy and gave it to Jonas. His long wait was over; children, and Halloween, had returned to our corner of the city.
Want to learn more about the area?
The Marda Loop history project wants to gather and share the history of our great neighbourhoods in and around Marda Loop and we need your help. Do you have old photographs? What do you remember about going to school, getting your first job, and playing sports here? Do you remember what it was like here in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s? Have you heard old stories? Do you know old-timers?
We’d love to hear from you! Submit your story and check out our history page: visitmardaloop.com/history