November 2nd, 2008

ozarque figure

Halloween, back in the very-long-ago day...

When I was a little girl -- we're talking late 1930s and early 1940s -- Halloween was a very big deal. All the holidays were momentous then; we didn't have television, we didn't have videogames or any other part of the Internet, we didn't have cell phones, and most of us had very few toys and books. We kids sort of lived from one holiday to another, and the holidays punctuated our year for us. We started planning and getting ready for Halloween in early September.

If you were a toddler, you went trick-or-treating with an older child -- a sibling, if you had one, or a neighboring older child. If you were a school-age child you went with your friends, and you didn't have to have any grownups along. You could stay out as long as you wanted to -- or until people started turning off their lights -- and you didn't have to be afraid of the candy (or other treats) that people dropped in the brown paper sack you were carrying. The pinnacle of Halloween mischief in those days, in the timewarpy town where I lived, was a really repulsive trick: turning over outhouses. [I never heard of anybody falling into the nasty hole that created; people knew to be wary.]

Most of us didn't have store-bought costumes, although we did have store-bought masks from the dimestore; choosing your mask could take an hour or more. We used old clothes, and sheets with holes cut in them, and tablecloths and curtains with holes cut in them, and we made our own costumes from scratch. The exception to that was the occasional child who had a cowboy outfit from a previous birthday or Christmas and hadn't outgrown it yet.


A few things I remember fondly...

The Hostess Cupcakes with chocolate icing that had orange and yellow icing-curlicues on their tops that we got at the Halloween parties we always had at school, and the little paper cups full of candy corn...

The smell and the feel of the brand-new construction paper that the teachers passed out to us for cutting out many, many autumn leaves and pumpkins -- to make borders all around the classroom doors and windows, and all around the blackboard...

The taste of a mug of hot cider with a cinnamon stick in it to stir with...

Sitting down at the table at home after trick-or-treating was over and carefully inventorying our treats, and reciting the list out loud... "three popcorn balls, nine suckers, four pieces of bubble gum, twenty pieces of CrackerJacks, five Tootsie Rolls, two apples, two balloons, three boxes of raisins..." and comparing what you had with what your brothers and sisters had...

The terror that grabbed you when some big kid jumped out of the bushes at you shrieking and screaming and howling...


Halloween... it was wonderful.