Jamison Guice, Campus Carrier features editor

Jana Morning, Campus Carrier asst. featured editor

A year after the Spanish flu, this photo title “The Wholesome Hilarity of Halloween: this group includes members of the faculty, seniors and others,” appeared in the campus publication of the Fall 1920 issue of the Southern Highlander. Photo courtesy of Berry College Archives

Similar to the virus that causes COVID-19, the 1918 Spanish flu rocked the United States as it swept over the country. The flu caused by the H1N1 virus lasted until around 1919. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, the flu infected about 500 million people, or one-third of the world’s population, and killed 675,000 people in the United States. In comparison, COVID-19 has currently infected around 8,680,611 people and has resulted in 225,084 deaths in the United States. 

Even though both viruses target people with preexisting medical conditions, older adults and even young children, they never dampen the Halloween spirit. Now and then, the campus has acknowledged the pandemic by addressing the student body and still allowing recreational activities.  

In one issue of the Berry School News published on Nov. 18, 1918, it addresses the student body and encourages them to keep their spirits up.  

“It is natural to be discouraged in any illness, and particularly with the “Flu,” The Berry School News states. “But remember what Berry has done in caring for you, and show it by doing your best and being faithful in the discharge of all your duties.” 

The article states there are fewer places where the flu has been better handled than at Berry since the campus provides hospitals and nurses for any sick students. In the same issue, but a different article, seniors have “fun and frolic” on Halloween night while dressed as ghosts and elves.  

“The large dining room was decorated with leafy vines, jack-o’-lanterns and miniature ghosts, making a very pretty effect, with only candles for lights,” The Berry School News states.  

The Spanish flu continued through 1919 and so did another year of students celebrating Halloween. The Berry School News issue published on Nov. 18, 1919 described students decorating the gym with autumn leaves and Halloween novelties. Unlike the previous year where the main costumes were ghosts and elves, most students were dressed as bats, cats or owls. 

While there is no mention of the flu in this issue, the seniors celebrated with costumes, music and food like hot chocolate, waffles and marshmallows.  

“Never did a party prove more successful or a general good time enjoyed by all than the seniors’ party…,” The Berry School News states.   

So, even though campus celebrated Halloween a little differently a century ago, they still evoked the spooky spirit. Rachel McLucas, interim director and curator at the Oak Hill Martha Berry Museum, said she was surprised the campus celebrated the holiday that long ago.

“I was pretty surprised there was archives as early as that,” McLucas said. “I really would have thought Berry didn’t acknowledge a holiday like that. Given that its not a Christian holiday, but it seems like it was absoluely acknowledged during Martha Berry’s time.”

Posted by Campus Carrier

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