Saturday, October 6, 2007

Ghosts, Goblins, Tricks and Treats: Childhood Memories

As a child growing up in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, Halloween ushered in a fun and magical season. In the Deep South, the air would finally cool off somewhat and the trees would put on a spectacular display of vibrant yellows, golds and reds. With the passing of October 31, that meant Thanksgiving Day’s cornbread chicken and dressing with all the trimmings was not far away, and of course jolly Santa in his sleigh at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade ushered in the Christmas season.

Halloween festivities during those times included the annual Halloween Carnival at the local grammar school. This gala event was attended by the whole community and featured all sorts of exciting games and fun, including bobbing for apples, the balloon pop and the musical cake walk featuring some of the best tasting and most beautiful cakes home-baked by the local moms. There were always many tasty treats for sale including my favorite – popcorn balls. Popcorn balls were prepared from a mixture of popped corn, peanuts and cooked sorghum molasses. The sweet and crunchy concoction was molded into balls, cooled and hardened.

It was also the time to help transform the orange pumpkin into Mr. Jack o’ Lantern and pick out a costume. It was definitely a treat to go to the Ben Franklin Five and Dime on the town square and browse through all the plastic masks finally choosing just the right one. If one was lucky, there might be some extra funds left over to buy some candy corn, tasty red wax lips, licorice-tasting black wax moustaches or a wax panpipe filled with a colorful and sweet liquid.

Trick or Treating culminated Halloween week. It was a time you could put on your plastic “false face” and pretend to be a pirate, Dracula or even Frankenstein and go out with your paper sack ready to haul in a plethora of sweet and tasty treats.

Usually parents would drive the children around town. Back then, there were only two plotted subdivisions in town. The older section of town included the Googe Addition created during the early 1920’s, but south of the town square was the new Magnolia subdivision where neat houses were constructed close together in an orderly fashion, one street after the other. It was a youngster’s paradise for Halloween trick or treating.

I distinctly recall one Halloween with a group of fellow neighborhood kids. Going house to house in the dark, I lagged behind the older ones. Running, trying to catch up with the older kids, I took a shortcut through someone’s side yard and tripped over someone’s television antenna guide wire going full speed ahead, giving the antenna a good swift whirl. With the Dracula plastic false face flying and my paper sack full of Halloween bounty exploding over the lawn like colorful confetti at a New Year's Eve party, I was simply devastated. Although the only thing hurt was my pride, I called out to my friends to wait (and of course they didn't) and opted to lag behind even further, carefully picking up each and every single piece of that precious candy bounty I could find by the moonlight.

I’ve often wondered what the occupants of that house in Magnolia subdivision thought when their Sing Along With Mitch or Have Gun Will Travel on their television screen suddenly switched to a noisy fuzzy snow on that Halloween night. For me it definitely wasn’t a treat, but simply an unintentional trick.


footnoteMaven said...

Welcome to the COG!

I enjoyed your Halloween submission and have enjoyed your blog since being directed to it by Terry Thornton.

Do all Southerners have that easy writing style that is such a pleasure to read? I'm certainly beginning to think they do.


Janice said...


I very much enjoyed reading your story. Those five and dime stores were wonderful, weren't they. Today we have so-called "dollar stores," but their inventory doesn't seem as enticing.

And welcome to the COG!


Bill West said...

Hi Bob!
While I grew up considerably further north of where you did,I have a lot of similiar memories.

One major difference was that in
the late 1950's I lived in Boston in a neighborhood with triple decker apartments and we kids usually got quite a haul on Halloween!

Welcome to the CoG!