February of 1942 was a grim time for presenting the Chickens’ Ball. Pearl Harbor had been bombed in December and reports of enemy subs off the coast cast a grey shadow over this production. At first, Civil Defense Director, Julius Edling told General Chairman, Eleanor Lane that the Ball would have to be cancelled. Later it was decided that if black-out curtains were installed at the Central School gym and an announcement made before the performance regarding emergency procedures, the show could go on as scheduled.
It wasn’t easy to convince the Board of Trustees that they should spend approximately $500.00 for the curtains, but Mrs. Lane’s persuasive faith in the undertaking won the day.
Before the show began, Mr. Edling made the following announcement: “Ladies and Gentlemen, you must not forget that we are at war. In the event that there is an alert, no one will be permitted to leave the auditorium except the Block Wardens.” The understandable concern of parents in the audience for the welfare of children they had left at home could easily have destroyed the evening for all, but the plucky residents had come to see the show and they stayed to enjoy and applaud, laying aside for awhile, their everyday worries.
The 1942 dedication most appropriately said: “Dedicated to the people of San Carlos – who as citizens of our great country realize that laughter is not carelessness, that sympathy is not weakness, that loyalty is not stupidity and that willing cooperation builds greater strength than coercion.”
The auditorium at Central had none of the stage trappings it boasts today, so in the early years, everything had to be improvised. Curtains were borrowed from the Community Church, crepe paper was stretched over wooden frames to form a stage and each basketball backstop was cleverly decorated as a light post. Life size silhouettes cut from tar paper were placed at each post, of a man who became a little more tipsy at every lamp until at last, the post was literally holding him up.
Further efforts to disguise the gym included Gibson Girls, Can-can Girls and a moon, painted by Beverly Wheeler. (George Seely also helped out with an eagle.) These, along with the eucalyptus curtains made in 1940 gave great charm to the atmosphere.
The Community Club presented a slap-stick wallpaper hanging scene that became so exuberant that Bill Penaat had to run home to shower off the buckets of paste that covered him so he could return to the Ball to run Spider Kelly’s Bar.
First prize in 1942 went to the White Oaks Improvement Club for their Apollo Quartet, while the Masonic Club took second prize for Eight Fetching Femmes. Third prize went to the American Legion and Auxiliary for Tin-Type Types. Howard Demeke’s original quartet from San Francisco State College, sang between the acts.
Source: 1968 Reflections