Lanai Road PTA Resurrects Halloween Event : Carnival Returns to Its Old Haunts

Times Staff Writer

The Lanai Road Elementary School Halloween carnival is back.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, the annual Halloween carnival at this tiny Encino school was the biggest event in the neighborhood. Mothers baked pies and candied apples, and created homemade costumes for their kids. Dads built game booths, put together a haunted house and dressed up as the Wolfman and Frankenstein’s monster.

The highlight of the evening came when large bed sheets were hoisted above the playground, secured to playground equipment, and a scary movie was shown, much to the squealing delight of the children.

The aim of the festival was to keep the smallest children off the street and raise money for the school. But a side benefit was bringing a sense of family to the hillside community.


“The carnivals were huge. They were really spectacular,” said Joyce Lober, who will be working in a carnival booth tonight, just as she did when her children attended Lanai years ago.

Fiedler Recalls Festivals

“I cooked hot dogs, hamburgers, I even remember the live goldfish we brought home,” recalled Rep. Bobbi Fiedler (R-Chatsworth), whose two children attended Lanai.

“That was a quiet neighborhood,” said Fiedler, who has moved from the area. “Most of the families moved into the area for the school. The school was the center of our children’s activities.”


But the good times were abruptly stopped when mandatory busing started in 1978. Parents from Lanai were at the center of the anti-busing movement, and, when busing started, many abandoned the public system and enrolled their children in private schools.

In 1977, the year before busing started, there were 602 students at Lanai. In 1981, the year after mandatory busing ended, only 239 neighborhood youngsters had returned to the school.

This fall, 406 students were enrolled at Lanai, which now has kindergarten through fifth grade instead of kindergarten through sixth grade. About 15% of Lanai’s students are bused to the school as part of the district’s voluntary integration program, or because schools in their home districts are crowded.

When the dust had settled from the busing battles and enrollment started to climb again, parents began to talk about reviving the carnival. But there was a major stumbling block--the school district would not provide transportation home for the bused-in students.


“The district will provide buses for after-school activities, but, because the carnival is a fund-raising event, the district won’t give us buses,” said Stephanie Horowitz, co-president of the Lanai PTA.

The lack of buses did not deter the Lanai PTA, and last year the carnival made a successful comeback. About 1,200 persons attended and the PTA raised more than $3,000. The group used the money to buy the school a public address system. Also, every teacher was given $100 to buy classroom supplies.

Jack-o'-Lantern Contest

This year, preparations for the carnival began Thursday with students in every classroom carving pumpkins for a jack-o'-lantern contest. Today, each class will hold a Halloween Party.


And tonight, when the festivities begin at 5:30 p.m., everyone will be helping--just as in the old days.

At the close of school, parents will begin building temporary booths on the playground and quad area. Parents, former students and parents of former students will be inside the booths. And the security force patrolling the parking lot and the perimeter of the school will be composed of dads.

Encino residents did not forget Lanai students who do not live in the neighborhood. The PTA has worked to get parents of bused-in students to form car pools to bring their children to the event. Because many of the the students live in the area near Western Avenue and 3rd Street in central Los Angeles, Horowitz said, she believes many of the children can come together.

And many of the neighborhood children have invited bused-in friends to spend the night so they can go to the festival together.