Monday, October 29, 2018

Some Punta Gorda Halloween History

Halloween has long been a popular holiday in Punta Gorda.  Perhaps one Halloween tradition that most are familiar with is the Punta Gorda Masons  gift of free ice cream treats to Trick or Treaters every year in Gilchrist Park.  

This tradition started with Albert Gilchrist, a Mason in early Punta Gorda and the only Punta Gordan to become Governor of Florida, didn't have children of his own.  He loved kids though.  When he walked down Marion Avenue, he frequently gave kids pennies he kept in his pocket so they could buy ice cream or candy from the local store near his apartment above his realty business.  But he forecast a day when he wouldn't be able to give the kids this present.  So  in his will, in addition to generous bequeaths to numerous local charities, for example,  funds benefitting he local high school, funds for poor children, he specified something very special to be used on Halloween.  He set aside money to be used for ice cream.  The Masons kept the money and use the interest on it to buy ice cream for kids every Halloween.

But  Punta Gorda had many other ways to mark the night.  Some stories include pranks by youngsters - ringing church bells for instance. But for the most part it involved parades, contests and dances. For years the town had an annual Halloween parade down Marion Avenue.  There were also contests where queens and princesses were selected from the local school children followed by a Halloween dance at the Woman’s Club.  The photograph above was a parade sometime in the 1950s.