New to the Punahou Carnival in 1962 was a game that still graces today’s midway, albeit with some updates. Provided at little cost, it was a money-maker from the start. And its appeal; obviously timeless!
After the 1961 Punahou Carnival it was clear that one of the two bean bag booths needed to go. But what to offer in its place?
The Carnival “big wigs” that year were overall chairwoman Mrs. Alex Waterhouse and student co-chairmen Kale Okasaki (1963) and Warren Heiser (1963). There was also “Carnival granddaddy” Leo Piper (Buildings and Grounds, 1946-1965) and dean of the sponsoring Junior Class, Tom Metcalf (Elementary and Academy Teacher, Dean 1950-1990). Working together this group would raise a Carnival gross of $57,025; most of which much would go towards funding student scholarships.
Just two months before the February 9 and 10 event, Warren Heiser had an idea for a booth replacement. He shared his idea at the December 14, 1961 meeting of the Carnival Coordinating Committee:
Warren Heiser suggested a new booth … and presented an outline of requirements.
Object: to hit the face of a student target with a blob of starch. Such a booth was a money-maker at the recent university carnival. A suitable name would be needed and an ample supply of student volunteers—possibly officers of student organizations. Clearance with Mr. Curtis will be needed. Mr. Metcalf saw no objection, other than that the starch might find its way out on the Midway.
As late as January 12 no booth name had been chosen. Its Carnival debut would be advertised in the January 1962 Punahou Bulletin as a “dandy newcomer, the ‘SOCK-O’ offering the joy of tossing a blob of starch at campus dignitaries (yet unnamed!).” It took until the opening of the Carnival for the booth to bear its ultimate moniker: “The Splat Trap.”
The Splat Trap was an immediate hit. Skills Division chairwoman Olive Bonar reported that it attracted a large audience. Her suggestion for even greater success in the 1963? Sign up “big wheel” students: “Popular students, leaders, football players, student officers make most appealing targets.”
Student chair Barbara Lam (1963) reported the importance of getting these students scheduled, “GET YOUR TARGETS LINED UP AS POSSIBLE.” With two traps and 1.5 hour shifts, 16 targets were needed each day. She advised, “It is better if you find targets who have to work (people on the swimming and basketball teams as well as those in the variety show don’t have to work). If you get really desperate for targets you can find volunteers around the carnival (7-8 graders are usually willing).”
Running the booth was straightforward. Put some starch in a cupcake holder, hand it to the customer, and let them have at it. Parent chairs Mrs. Paul Chun and Mrs. Durdan emphatically stated in their booth report, “Play it again!” They liked the Splat Trap so much that they volunteered to chair the booth again in 1963.
The starch used was made on Thursday night and stored in the walk-in refrigerator in the cafeteria. It was mixed to the “consistency of poi” and tinted with food coloring.
At the booth the starch mixture was poured into cupcake holders. Because it was hard to handle and because the targets had some mobility Lam reported that, despite the close proximity of the customer to the target, “the game was neither too difficult nor too easy.”
But those who make the change from observer to paying ten cents for two cupcakes of goo are doing so because there’s a person in the trap that they want to target. Noted one booth chair, “We put the names over the loudspeaker if someone has a lot of enemies.” Lists would eventually be posted at the booth advertising the scheduled appearances of notable individuals.
And then there are the parents who relish the chance to aim at their children. Honolulu Advertiser columnist Bob Krauss described his enthusiasm for the game in his February 8, 1969 column (“Punahou Carnival Fun (or is it?): A Go at the Goo (Splat!) Trap). His target? His stepson, Robert Mickelsen (1970).
I handed over $1 worth of scrip and picked up a cupcake of goo. After allowing for the wind and the twinge in my hip, I let fly. The cupcake sailed about a foot over Rob’s head. The next one missed his left ear. I tried again. The blob curved off to the right.
Five minutes later I owed the management $3.75 and I hadn’t laid a speck of goo on him.
“Why don’t you slide under the counter and get in closer?” said one of the booth mothers helpfully.
So I crawled under the counter and took a stance about three feet from his nose as Rob protested. “No fair! No fair!”
I splattered him three times. But, somehow, it was like cheating at solitaire.
Teachers, administrators, and staff would eventually join students in the Trap. One frequent target was Bob Torrey (Academy History teacher 1959-1998). He remembered that the goo ” … didn’t fling or carry well as it was put into little muffin papers. Because of its globular shape it just was hard to aim and throw. I got Al Harrington (Academy History teacher 1967-1971) to spend lots of money trying to hit me.”
The Trap would net $279.38 for Punahou in 1962 and untold thousands of dollars since then. At its 1962 debut it was the thirteenth most popular game of the eighteen midway offerings when measured by money raised. In 1963 it would rank ninth.
But don’t expect to experience the thrill of flinging goo when Punahou Carnival 2016 opens tomorrow. The goo is gone. A footnote to history. Cleaning up the targets took time, time during which no money was earned.
Today’s Splat Trap has evolved into a water balloon fight (see video below) with those seeking revenge against their enemies relegated to other outlets. Hey, there are always such possibilities at the Sound Booth. Let’s see, “Will ‘J’ please stop kissing ‘Y’ on the Ferris wheel!”