How Fred Hunt Saved Halloween

In the early 1900s, Halloween in Mansfield was a bit more disorderly with teens, and probably some who were old enough to know better, vandalizing property and engaging in other pranks.  It got so bad that the mayor at the time, T.R. Robison, published yearly proclamations in the newspaper to discourage anyone with these ideas.  The proclamation in 1901 warned “all persons against destroying, removing or concealing property of any kind or description belonging to another.  I especially mention vehicles, bicycle racks, signs, billboards, and small outbuildings of all kinds,” there was apparently a habit of tipping over outhouses.  The proclamation concluded that “anyone caught destroying or removing property will be punished.  Enjoy yourselves, but not at the expense of others.”

The proclamation seemed to do little to deter the pranksters as the November 1, 1901 edition of the Mansfield News reported many of the previous night’s antics.  These actions included the wagons of various businesses, including the ice plant of Hudson Uhlich, being stolen and driven into the creek.  Several pieces of lumber were taken from fire station No. 2, at the corner of North Main and Olive Streets, and stacked in front of doorways and windows.  A reformation service at St. Johns Church was even disrupted by “young folks” throwing corn and rice at the windows and into the vestibules.  The Slough Brothers, Frank and Charlie, had acquired police uniforms and were terrorizing kids on the west end and a number of porch chairs were taken and placed on telephone poles.

This behavior continued throughout most of the early 1900s, with the following year having much of the same.  The home of Miss Susan M. Sturges, whom was known to have a dislike of tobacco, was decorated with many tobacco advertisements and the stone wall in front of George Rhein’s residence was dismantled and the stones were rolled onto the sidewalk and street.  By 1910, the police department had plain clothes officers patrolling the city putting a stop to such antics, though telephone poles were still decorated in the morning.

This was the norm until Fred Hunt pioneered his “safe and sane Halloween celebration.”  In 1913, Hunt had a costume contest at his news depot.  Participants only had to show up in costume to be judged.  He also included a ten piece band and a parade which included the local news boys.  The following year, Hunt threw his first Halloween celebration, which included a parade and dance.  The year after that, the paraded was heading by a 20-piece band followed by masked and costumed participants.  Merchants reported that in 1915 the sale of costumes doubled that of any previous year.  By 1922 the parade had grown to include a 40-piece band which made its way through the business district.  The streets were “jammed” by 6:30 for the 7 o’clock parade.


Ad for Hunt’s 1913 Halloween contest

Sadly on August 3, 1937, at the age of 53, Fred Hunt died after suffering a stroke.  A touching tribute appeared in the Mansfield News Journal that day, which spoke more of the character of the man than of his many accomplishments.  “He might have been called the father of Mansfield Halloween celebrations.  He might have been called the original newsboy’s friend.  He was both of these, but everyone called him ‘Fred.’  Everyone knew about the Halloween celebrations.  Most everyone knew about what he’d done for newsboys.  But it was still just ‘Fred’ because Fred himself sort of overshadowed his own accomplishments.”  That Halloween nearly 1,000 people participated in the annual parade, which included the Senior High band, the girls bugle and drum corps and a 35-piece accordion band from Smart’s Studio.  Fred Hunt was still remembered that night.  The grand prize was given out in his name and Hunt’s News Stand, which he operated for over thirty years, was closed with his picture in the window, draped in black.

hunt photo


The Mansfield News. 29 OCT 1901. p 2.
The Mansfield News. 01 NOV 1901. p 6.
The Mansfield News. 01 NOV 1902. p 6.
The Mansfield News. 01 NOV 1910. p 4.
The Mansfield News. 31 OCT 1913. p 4.
The Mansfield News. 01 NOV 1913. p 4.
The Mansfield News. 29 OCT 1914. p 7.
The Mansfield News. 31 OCT 1914. p 7.
The Mansfield News. 01 NOV 1915. p 7.
The Mansfield News. 01 NOV 1922. p 12.
The Mansfield News Journal. 03 AUG 1937. p 1.
The Mansfield News Journal. 30 OCT 1937. p 1.

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