[October 31, 2023] “It’s a bonanza!” yelled my brother Philip as he stared into his haul of goodies. He and I looked forward to Halloween because of the chocolate candy, dressing up in a costume, discovering which of our neighbors were generous and which were cheap, and seeing good friends, yet trying to figure out who was underneath each mask. This day was special, so unique it was something to talk about in excited yet hushed tones among our town’s children, or else our parents might warn us about accepting suspicious gifts of candy. Months before its arrival, our school was decorated to the ceilings of our classrooms with pumpkin paper cutouts, corn stalks, a bale of hay, and a drawing by each of us. And, each young boy dressed in scary clothes, girls as princesses, our teachers in witch garb, and all provided by our teachers’ handy works. It was a time for a photograph, later before the big day, and sent home with specially designed Halloween keepsakes for our families. All these years later, I still have one copy on my computer. Luckily, our school principal gave us a half day off from school on Halloween.
Each year, my costume and my favorite to wear was a skeleton. It was an inexpensive costume of a plastic skull mask and a lightweight black one-piece coverall with a white set of human bones cheaply imprinted on its front. Philip and I were in charge of our little sister Terri. We didn’t mind taking her too much; she usually gave up after 20 minutes because she was tired. Or, maybe she had enough goodies, I don’t know. Then it was balls to the wall, my brother and me running like little leprechauns as we crisscrossed lawns, backyards, alleys, local trails, and minor roads. “Don’t cross the railroad tracks,” Mom would say as she cut us off from half the town and the other side of the town’s nicer homes, where our candy haul would surely expand beyond our limited imaginations. How much candy we gathered determined our measure of a great Halloween. Halloween was satisfactory if two Piggly Wiggly Grocery Store paper bags were packed. Philip and I made out with huge bags full; success was nearly guaranteed. “Trick or Treat,” we said at each home, not knowing what it meant or why. Frankly, we didn’t care either. Halloween had no meaning to us other than candy and funny costumes.
Houses in our neighborhood were close together, making it easier because we knew the families and faster, being so close to one another. The dads handed out the candy at their home. Mothers went out with the little tykes, who seemed scared of the older kids dressed in spooky garb. The little ones were often all huddled together, protection in numbers. We laughed, seeing them all bundled up like that. As little kids, we were not that much different just a few years earlier. Our mother told us to watch carefully for little kids walking alone, especially if they looked scared. This could mean they were possibly lost. It would be our job to find out their name and take them with us until their mom or dad found us. “Make them laugh because they will be less afraid of you boys that way.” My Mom was one smart lady who looked out for everyone. We were proud of her, which gave us an advantage since she had confidence in us and did not follow us. The three of us stuck together.
One Halloween, our small town threw a major “scare” party at the old High School building just before it was torn down. Everyone was invited, kids and adults alike. It was great to see so many there. Of course, my friends and I ran all over the school making spooky sounds, “woooo, woooo,” trying to mimic hoot owls. Then we heard a real owl, and we panicked. Then we saw a black cat and ran frightened in the other direction upstairs. On the top floor, we saw bats and screamed; how embarrassing for us boys as we tried to be brave. Maybe we also tried looking up the skirts of the High School girls. I got slapped a few times, and one of their dates said, “Get lost, you little punk.” We lived across the street from the school, so when it was time to go home, I ran into our house in the dark, hiding in my bedroom. When my brother came in, I jumped out and screamed. He was so scared he couldn’t run. He hopped like a bunny rabbit into our Mom’s arms. I felt a bit bad but laughed anyway. All of us kids were wired on sugar and had a hard time sleeping that night. I still made a few “woooo woooo” sounds. Dad said, “Shut Up, Douglas.” It’s best not to risk it anymore. That was a real Halloween to remember.
I still love Halloween. No, I haven’t been trick or treating in a long time now. I would take your dad and Aunt Audrey out on Halloween night until they grew older. Your dad went as something frightening, always spending a great deal of time preparing a high-quality outfit. His costume would have made mine as a boy look bad. We always had a fun time. Halloween was a good family holiday to enjoy.
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