My high school, Music & Art, in New York City (no, not the ” Fame school”), was well-known for the imaginative Halloween costumes of its students. After all, this was a school full of artists and creative people! I found out about M&A’s Halloween spectacular soon after I started there in 9th grade and as the holiday got closer and closer, the pressure started to mount.
I don’t know how I got the idea, but I finally decided my costume would be a school late pass. Yes, one of those little slips of paper you’d get from the principal’s office and give to your teacher when you were late for class. It had a bunch of bureaucratic jargon at the top of the slip, a large title, “LATE PASS,” some lines where the reason for your lateness was filled in, and more official language at the bottom.
At home, I took a pass and sized it up to sandwich-board size, making sure to get all the proportions right, and imitating the typeset lettering as well as I could. This was all before computers, so I really had to be inventive, using my calculator and ruler to figure out the correct multiplier to keep the dimensions consistent. Once I had created my masterpiece, I punched a couple of holes in the top, ran some string through them, and wore the pass like a sandwich board. I was a huge hit at school! It was definitely a one-of-a-kind costume and the other kids (and teachers) were bemused at my idea — and execution of it.
After that, I decided I had to be some kind of school-related card for my costume every Halloween. My sophomore year I was a Delaney card, which was a tiny card used to track students’ contact information and attendance during the school year. Pretty weird, and once again quite popular with the other kids.
Junior year I was a subway pass. That was a fun one to do, as each month’s pass was color coded (October 1983 was grey), and there was a cool water-marked code, “R-1,” stamped on each card. Not to mention the logos of the Board of Ed and the MTA. By junior year I had developed a reputation as the kid with the school card costumes, and I remember posing for a lot of pictures that Halloween as we paraded around the street in front of the school.
My senior year we moved to a new building, down at Lincoln Center, and we merged with Performing Arts (yes, the “Fame school”) to become a new entity, LaGuardia High School. But the Halloween tradition continued, and that year I was a school ID, complete with bar code, my student ID number, and the new LaGuardia logo. When we showed up at school each day the card was fed into a card reader, and it had a bunch of cool little holes in it; I duplicated those as well. Altogether, it wasn’t a bad reproduction. And with that final success I ended my high school Halloween career.