One of the greatest days in a kid's life would have to be Halloween. It was so much fun to dress up in a cool, or scary costume. In school, the anticipation of it was wonderful; it was like a holiday that no adult ever recognized. Halloween was that one special evening that belonged to kids. Night, candy, scary things, ghosts and goblins, and neighborhood ritual all comprised this beloved event that came every October 31st.
The streets in autumn, strewn with fallen leaves of varying colors were quite magical, and the feeling of fall, and the Halloween spirit, stayed with me all through the month of October.
October was a month where the weather had turned much cooler, and neigbhboring fireplaces scented the air. On cold days when my nose ran and the season's chill reached down the back of my neck like ghostly skeleton fingers, I had fun playing outside. October was a special month, more so because it brought us Halloween upon its conclusion. It was such a wonderful time of year, where monsters, ghosts, candy, and festivities all come together on one fantastic night.
The days grew shorter, and the precious sunlight began to dissipate slowly, but it didn't matter because October meant moving closer to the holiday season. Once Halloween was finished, then came Thanksgiving and ultimately Christmas the most cherished holiday I can recall.
Hallway Decorations at School
School always recognized Halloween as something special, and the teachers usually set us about the task of creating something special, or celebrating with some unique Halloween activity. Sometimes the teacher would read a quick ghost story, or have each of us stand and talk about our costumes.
Halloween Arts & Crafts
One of my favorite memories was of the Halloween of 1962 when I created a really cool Halloween picture out of construction paper. There was a fence with a black cat on it, and a yellow moon.
Arts and crafts in school were my favorite things as I would try to depict as many things as possible in my construction paper renderings. Armed with kid scissors, white paste, crayons and colored paper at my disposal, my creativity was unleashed.
I can recall one Halloween in 1962, when I went as a hobo. My Dad burnt a cork to use for my whiskers, and my Mom made me a "hobo bundle" to carry over my shoulder. Trouble was, I had to carry that bundle and my Halloween candy sack. For dinner we always had these festive treats like hot dogs with melted cheese or something special that just us boys liked. Food with yellow, orange and black colors was served on Halloween night. She even made this really cool orange cake that was made into a jack-o-lantern, and used Hershey bar squares to do the face with. (Note that this was a time when Hershey bars came molden in squares).
Then came the gearing up for going outside and heading off into the dark unknown. We used to use pillow cases for trick or treat bags. They were durable, and would hold up under the tremendous candy strain! At first, the streets were filled with kids and parents tagging along. Doorbells were ringing in tandem, and treats were dispensed by neighborly hands.
It was incredible to have all that candy! The miniature candy bars were the perfect sizes because so many more would fit in the bag. It was great to unload and dig through the treasures that I'd collected on my Halloween quest. There were lots of penny candy items, and that was great, for the people would just grab a handful and toss them into the bag, or better yet, let us grab! I remember getting Dubble Bubble gum, Red Hots, Smarties, Dots, Jujyfruits, Pom-Poms, Sugar Babies, Sugar Daddys, Black Cows, and some houses even dispensed dimes and quarters into our bags!
To this day, I can still hear the familiar voices that echoed such greetings as: "Oh my, what do we have here? A mummy? Oh my!" or "Who is this behind this ghost mask?" This was all part of the ritual. It was normal and to be expected. But, venturing out farther, where streets weren't as familiar, was what the real thrill of Halloween was all about.
Some houses gave out unique halloween treats such as caramel apples and popcorn balls. Those were the best of all! I can recall a rather dark house with an old wooden stairway leading up to it. The porch was huge, and the light was on. It wasn't a scary house or anything, but inside, they were giving away these really cool noismakers! I received one exactly like this one in the picture. I remember some of those days when Trick-or-Treating was such a grand and celebrated event. One of the local corner stores was also giving out full-size candy bars. I never forgot that. I got a Nestle's Crunch out of it. People usually gave out the smaller sample size candy bars that came in the variety bags such as Baby Ruths, or Butterfinger's, or Hershey's, so a full-size candy bar was a special treat.
I can almost feel the cheap thin plastic of the masks that were sold at the local grocery store. Pirates, witches, ghosts, and skulls as well as plain old boy and girl masks, or superhero masks hung by their thin elastic bands from a shelf hook.I remember how Mom would ask me "what do you want to be this year?" A mask was included in the weekly grocery shopping.
Of course, wearing them was a different story; they were sweaty after a bit, stifling, and it felt hard to breathe. When you're a second grader, the masks hand down a bit, obscuring your vision. You struggle to peer out of the plastic eyeholes, straining your neck to look upwards as the Halloween candy is stuffed into your bag.
The Neighborhood "Haunted House"
We all had one; every neighborhood had a haunted house on its street, or within walking distance. It was mandatory-especially in October to have a creepy house with an even creepier legend attached to it. These "haunted houses" were always named after the residents who haunted them. And of course, my brothers, or my friends all had to dare me to go past the most dreaded house on the block: the "Anderson House". In our neighborhood, it was the "Anderson house", just off the bumpy dirt road about 4 blocks away from the school. Halloween just wasn't the same without the horror, the terror, the demented curiosity of the neighborhood haunted house. Yes, those were the days, and I miss them every year come Halloween.
The fun haunted houses were the ones that you paid admission to go into. They were basically a guided tour around narrow hallways, stairs, and claustrophobic entrys. As kids, my friends and I always tried to create our own haunted houses to scare the girls or other kids with, but basically we were only successful with haunting a small room. I learned the trick of hanging peices of fishing line from the ceiling to create the effect of cobwebs. I remember one haunted house that we paid to go to. It was pretty fun with only a few real scares. The real trick to a haunted house was having someone disguised as some sort of monster or creature that blended into the scenery. Then, when you least expect it, they lunge out at you.