We would go shrieking up city streets in stiff gauze costumes from the Five-and-Dime. I was a WAC one year, and wore that costume for months later, despite the painted gilt flaking off my captain's bars.
I was Wonder Woman once, but my magic bracelets were lost somewhere between E. 97th and Lamont Ave. I was Rapunzel in an old lace curtain, a ghost in a tattletale grey sheet.
Our masks tasted of sizing starch as they melted around our wet mouths. Our pillowcases were full of little cavity-makers: licorice whips, bubble gum, candy apples. We even got pennies sometimes!
The candy I loved best had a soft caramel circle with a white sugar center-we called them Bull's Eyes. Your teeth ached for a week after an encounter with them.
In my jacket pocket was a secreted piece of Lifebuoy soap. When I got up the nerve, I would soap the window of the neighborhood grouch.
"Gettin' a little big for trick-or-treating, aren't you?" was his gruff question one Halloween as he eyed my height against the doorway. He tossed a candy in my pillowcase, but that was the last time I went out as a child with the ghosts and goblins of Halloween.
I was forced to move into a different world, one that held no lace-curtain princesses. The grown-up world had no defenders of justice or tinfoil-helmeted knights. But that was only for a short time-a fairytale dream's time.
Soon there were children of my own to dress for the Ghostly Night. Each year I sewed a new costume and passed last year's down to the next in line. There had been a succession of leprechauns, lions, gridiron heroes, cheerleaders, mummies and minstrels.
My own visions of past Halloweens were resurrected in their happy faces as they growled and shrieked and acted out their scary parts for the night.
There was cider and home-made doughnuts on the table, candy bars by the door, with a roll of nickels for back-up in case we ran out of items behind Door #1....
Trick-or-treaters always came before I was ready. Dinner dishes sat crusting on the table as the doorbell announced troupe after troupe.
My own little band of mummers had been dressed since three o'clock and begging to leave ten minutes after that. They whined with impatience as they heard more and more doorbell ringers. The loot would be all gone!
I grabbed my coat and off we went. At first they were very polite walking up the sidewalk to a porch, ringing the bell, saying "thank you" and coming sedately down the sidewalk.
After the first five houses, the pace picked up as other groups passed them by. By the time the end of the street was in sight, they were running pell-mell across lawns, leaping off steps, and I jogged to keep up, shouting warnings to them they ignored.
They were giddy with greed, and I was a cumbersome anchor to their swashbuckling piracy. "Let's go home now," I would shout. "Ah, just one more street, Ma?" they would beg.
When their legs--if not their avarice-- admitted defeat, we would shiver home to dump the "loot" on the dining room table. Each child guarded his private horde behind arm walls, elbows out. First came assessment of the goods-- later, trade negotiations.
When they were small, they were suitably impressed by a modest assortment. As they grew in age, they also grew more critical, trading off candy and rudely comparing the largesse or stinginess of our well-meaning neighbors.
Learning to be sharing and giving, they would dump all the hard candy and bitter things into a bag for school-for the missions. I can only guess what hell they-- bloated with sugar and jumping with sucrose nerves-- created in the classroom for teachers for the following week.
Looking through photo scrapbooks I see them again, standing in their make-believe glory, big smiles and big bags full of licorice whips, bubble gum, Bull's Eyes-nickels.
No more nickel-and-dime stuff now, though. Trick or Treaters will accept quarters only, thank you. The price of Halloween has gone up. There are pumpkin patches aplenty-they sprout overnight about the end of September at every available crossroads.
There are friendly ghost lights to string across your porch, and witch's cauldrons to plug in and bubble with noisy brews, and all sorts of gimcracks to make the spectres rise and banshees howl.
Halloween has gone Hollywood. Halloween
as gone commercial.
Even the ubiquitous pillowcase has gone upscale. I just mailed a $3.00 Glow in the Dark Trick-or-Treater's Loot Bag to our grandson in Texas. He already had one, ho-hum.
Well, there's no sense being a grouch. I might get MY window soaped with Lifebuoy--or is there a Picture Window Soaping Kit out there for sale? Probably.
Back to Top of Page
Back to Memories