Monday, October 29, 2018

Monday Memories: Halloween

Halloween was a pretty big deal when I was young. As I’ve mentioned before, I lived on a circle, and depending on who had moved in or out, there were between 15 and 20 kids of trick-or-treating age in the neighborhood, plus others who came from nearby neighborhoods on that night. So it wasn’t uncommon to see several dozen kids dressed in costumes wandering around the circle on Halloween. Almost all the houses gave out candy, although usually one or two didn’t. My friends and I had a great time and I looked forward to Halloween for months beforehand . . . admittedly, mostly for the candy, but I enjoyed figuring out what costume I wanted to wear, too.

One year my mother made me a ghost costume out of an old sheet. That happened to be the year it was cold and rainy, but I went out anyway and by the time I got home my ghost costume was mud up to the knees. Well, like I said, it was an old sheet, so it went right in the trash.

Those good times lasted until I was about twelve. Nobody older than that trick-or-treated in those days. It wasn’t cool. So I became the official dispenser of candy at our house for a few years, until I was in high school and went running around with my friends instead. We were basically good kids so we never really got into any trouble (although there were a few times we came close). One of the local TV stations also showed monster movies on Halloween most years, so I watched a lot of those, too.

One year during high school, a friend of mine decided to dress up as Dracula. He came over to my house to hang around in the shadows near the front porch and jump out to scare the kids when they came up to trick-or-treat. When he got there, he decided to act like he was going to suck my blood, and I put out a hand to ward him off. Unfortunately, his costume had several straight pins in it, and one of them went right into the ball of my hand. We had some real blood that Halloween to go with the fake stuff. But it was a minor injury and the rest of the evening went well. Many scares were delivered to the neighborhood kids.

That was also the evening I tried to get a little romance going with one of the girls who lived on the circle, but there were no tricks or treats in that area.

Halloween was pretty much a non-factor for me during my college years. I’m sure there were parties, but I didn’t go to them. I might have watched a monster movie for nostalgia’s sake now and then. And after Livia and I got married, we lived in the country, so we didn’t have trick-or-treaters to deal with. When our kids came along and got old enough to want to trick-or-treat, we took them over to the circle and I walked around with them and recaptured a little of that old magic for a while. But it was already not nearly as big a deal as it had been when I was growing up. More houses were dark, and there weren’t as many kids out.

We also took the girls to various “Fall Festivals” at church, which by some coincidence just happened to fall on October 31 . . .

Now, I haven’t even seen a trick-or-treater in close to twenty years. I don’t know if the kids who live over on the circle ever get out and do that or not. I hope the tradition lives on somewhere and is as fun and innocent as it was all those years ago. I kind of doubt it . . . but I hope so anyway.


Prashant C. Trikannad said...

James, you paint a vivid picture of your Halloween days. It must have been a lot of fun. Thanks to the movies and magazines, I have a fairly good idea of Halloween in America in the mid-20th century. And that was such a memorable period for so many people, both in the US and elsewhere including here in India. I enjoyed listening to my Dad talk about his childhood days, minus Halloween, of course.

Walker Martin said...

I remember in the fifties and sixties when Halloween was popular with kids and a lot of fun. Now we live in a world where it is just not safe to open your door after dark. In my neighborhood the Halloween tradition has died out. Everyone turns out their lights and stays inside.

Jeff Meyerson said...

Where we live now, almost all the stores and restaurants - even the Chinese take out places - keep buckets of candy and the parents bring in the little kids after school in the afternoon. There is also a fun project where all the local schools have kids make Halloween pictures, and then recreate them on the windows of the supermarkets and other stores that volunteer to have them, under supervision of course. There is a real neighborhood feel. As for other trick or treating, we have mostly single or semi-attached houses, and you see parents or older siblings taking kids door to door late afternoon or evening. We are in an apartment building, and no one has come to the door in years, even the kids who live in the building.

We lived in an apartment in Queens when we were kids, and mostly trick or treated in those few buildings. I remember when Disney ran the Zorro series, my brother and I and a friend all dressed as the masked man, with a younger friend choosing a French chef's outfit. We'd ring the doorbell and announce ourselves as "Zorro - Zorro - Zorro - and French's mustard."

When we moved to Brooklyn, our landlord (and upstairs neighbor)'s son did an annual Zacherle (The Cool Ghoul) thing, in full makeup. He had a skeleton rigged to zoom down the stairs on a wire that scared the crap out of the little kids.

As Bill Crider would have said, I miss the old days.

Anonymous said...

Hey James, thanks for another great post redolent of the past.

Just wanted to write that Halloween night is barely getting started here and it's already packed with costumed little trick or treaters.
I live in a classic 1950's Ozzie and Harriet style subdivision and a second baby boom must gone off as I've got the biggest onslaught of masked toddlers and middle schoolers stumbling to my door that I've seen since I moved in back in 1992.

So at least some of today's kids are making memories not all that different than the ones we made for ourselves back in the misty days of yore.

John Hocking

James Reasoner said...

Thanks, John. It's nice to know that such things are still going on.