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Halloween at Boys Town

October 30th, 2015     By Tom Lynch, Director of Community Programs and the Boys Town Hall of History

Boys Town History, Father Flanagan

The Servant of God Edward Flanagan founded Boys Town to be a home for abandoned and orphaned children. His intention was to provide the boys a family-based lifestyle whenever possible. This included the celebration of holidays.

One major fall holiday was Halloween. Being Irish, the Servant of God Flanagan had celebrated this holiday in his native country. Once the Home had moved to Overlook Farm, the Halloween celebrations became a fall harvest event. In the 1920s, the Servant of God would invite neighbors from surrounding farms to join the boys for a large bonfire and the roasting of potatoes. The boys’ band and choir would perform for the guests. On Halloween day, local donors would deliver what the boys called “oodles” of candy and peanuts, rare treats for the youngsters.

In the 1930s, an all-school Halloween party was held for the boys. The high school freshmen were required to dress in strange costumes and a prize was given for the most outstanding costume. The boys had peanut races, a three-legged race, tugs-of-war between grades, a Wild West contest for the grade school kids, a tunnel race, a leap frog race, a potato race, and an apple-dunking contest. After all this activity, the boys enjoyed popcorn and apples.

For the older boys in the 1940s, there was an annual Halloween dance. Girls from local high schools were invited to attend and the Boys Town orchestra provided music. By the 1950s and 1960s, each Boys Town cottage and dormitory would hold its own Halloween celebration. Party rooms in each dorm or cottage were decorated with Halloween displays oftentimes made by the students. The boys would play games and have a rare treat of candy.

As the Home transitioned to the Family Home Program in the 1970s, staff members maintained many of the old Halloween traditions begun by the Servant of God Flanagan. Today at Boys Town, the younger students march in a costume parade and celebrate at parties at school or in their Family Homes. The children also get to go trick-or-treating in the Village, which is a special event for those who have never had the opportunity to do so in the past.

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