Halloween Hijinks Historically

November 13, 2016

With Halloween approaching, I found myself in a discussion with my friend about how Halloween has changed since “our day.” During my hour of yoga practice today, I continued to mull the subject over in my mind and at lunch afterward, I got some input from some other friends, one a genuine expert on Halloween hi-jinks.



Nowadays, kids often have very elaborate costumes bought by their parents (or sometimes made by them) and people my age have to be told what they’re dressed as. Take my three great-nieces. I’ve seen their costumes and they look absolutely adorable in them, but I have no idea who they are dressed as.


And Trick-or-Treat is not just one night of spooky fun. Today I saw elementary kids all dressed in their costumes, walking around Trenton, trick-or-treating some friendly businesses. On Saturday night, the community will have Trick-or-Treat Alley on the square where many businesses and organizations will set up booths for our candy-hungry kids.


Many churches have already had Trunk-or-Treat, which I think started as a “safe alternative” to Trick-or-Treating and in this day and time, it might have been a good idea, but I’m not sure it’s an alternative. I think it’s just one more opportunity to wear that great costume and collect more and more candy. I heard someone say that they didn’t remember Halloween lasting for a week when he was a kid. Is it any wonder we’re finding leftover Halloween candy under the kids’ beds in June? They can’t even eat it all.


And Halloween is no longer just for kids. I remember the first time I saw adults in the workplace dressed for Halloween. I had gone to a dermatologist to have a mole removed and the doctor came in on October 31 dressed in shorts, a Hawaiian shirt with a lei and flip-flops on. It seemed off, somehow. But I guess it’s all in fun, and I don’t really have a problem with it, but I will be dressed as a retired schoolteacher come Halloween night.


I like a good Tootsie Roll myself, but holidays have always been kind of low key in my family. When my son, who is a twenty-something now, was young and went trick-or-treating, I began scouting Wal-mart for pajamas that could double as Halloween costumes. He had some nice black ones with a glow-in-the-dark skeleton on them, a Robin costume/pajamas with a detachable cape, Wolverine, etc., etc. He was all right with that and it was cheap and practical. And he carried that skull bucket every year. I kept it in the closet with his sturdy Easter basket that lasted for all his egg-hunting years as well. He mostly went trick-or-treating with his cousins right here in Cloverdale, maybe venturing to Rising Fawn.


Now, when I was a kid, things were very different. We couldn’t get a cheap costume at the Walmart. As my friend said, we had to go to the ragbag. She said her costumes usually involved wearing some of her daddy’s old overalls. I think I was a witch every year. Somewhere I found a long skirt and I just wore it every year with slightly different accessories. The thought of actually spending money on a Halloween costume was out of the question.


Other popular costume choices in our day were ghosts (cut two holes in an old white sheet), gypsies (use the witch costume, but add more jewelry), cowboys (strap on your little brother’s toy six-shooter and holster and put on your cowboy hat) or scarecrow (daddy’s overalls with some hay sticking out of them). If you spent any money, it was for a plastic mask, maybe Frankenstein or something. They probably didn’t cost more than a dollar or two. However, you would need a friend to help steer you around, because you really couldn’t see out of the holes well enough to keep from tripping or running into something.


We usually had some kind of party at school where we got cupcakes, but we didn’t dress up. I know. Sad, isn’t it? We went trick-or-treating on Halloween night and that was it. No community treating, no trunk or treat, no grown-ups wearing costumes. We only went to houses of relatives or people we knew right here in Cloverdale. And we never got any razor blades in our apples or LSD in our candy. Some kids did the invasion of the sub-division thing, but not us.


We enjoyed it, though, and got what we thought was some pretty good stuff. When I was in about the sixth grade and my brother a year younger, Daddy told us we were too old to trick-or-treat and that was it. I think that really meant he was tired of taking us. We did occasionally dress up a little to go to our Papa Hawkins’s house. As an old man living alone, I guess most people thought he wouldn’t have candy, but he was always prepared, so we would call our friends and tell them to go, so he wouldn’t be disappointed. He actually had a sweet tooth and kept candy 365 days out of the year, although his favorites ran to orange slices and marshmallow peanuts, while chocolate is my friend.


One reason we only went trick-or-treating in Cloverdale is that when I was a child, we didn’t venture through Rising Fawn on Halloween night. Not unless you wanted your car egged or a flat tire. Yes, for years, Rising Fawn was a hot spot on Halloween night. I remember my daddy coming home from an out-of-town job one Halloween, and he got hit with a few eggs. He wasn’t the scary type, so he put on the brakes and started backing up for a face-off, but the perps scattered pretty fast. Hay bales were burned in the road and maybe a tire or two. The white picket fence around the Cureton House always suffered damage as well.


I learned today why those mischief-makers never seemed to get caught. My source, who will remain anonymous, but has a Jr. after his name, said they hid or escaped through the culverts under the highway in Rising Fawn. As for why these hijinks finally fizzled out, he thought they were running out of excuses to tell their wives and kids about where they were going on Halloween night. In other words, they grew up.


Now, this is a historical column, and I’ve taken you back through three generations of trick-or-treating. But there’s more. My daddy, who grew up here in Dade County, had some stories about Halloween. They seemed to concentrate mostly around tricks and they were creative. No one seemed to give a flip about candy. One of the things they did every year was to take a wagon apart and reassemble it on top of a barn. Wow! Think about it. They had to be quiet, they had to know how to take a wagon apart and put it back together, and they had to not fall off the barn or get shot.


The story he told that I will never forget, though, involves the annual tradition of knocking over the outhouse at Fricks’s Store in Rising Fawn. Although I remember the story, I don’t remember all the details clearly. I know that Daddy was involved and Roy McMahan, but I don’t remember if Roy was the perpetrator or the victim.


Anyway, on this particular Halloween, some of the usual crowd decided to go down to the old outhouse earlier and they picked it up and set it behind the hole that it normally covered. Then, when they went back that night with the rest of their buddies, they hung back while their buddies took a run at the outhouse to knock it down. I think I can leave details of the results of that to your imagination. That was either the best Halloween trick or the worst, depending on your perspective.


You may wonder why I had this Halloween article published after Halloween, rather than before. Well, as a teacher, I have experienced a few Halloween tricks. I’ve had my yard rolled a few times and once found a dummy sitting in the rocking chair on my front porch the morning after Halloween. I was pretty creeped out to learn that it had been put there while I was sitting in my recliner watching TV, clueless to the mayhem that was going on just outside my window. Of course, I learned pretty quickly the next day who did it. It was my principal’s son and his friends. He is now a minister.


Compared to my Daddy’s tricks, Halloween these days is pretty tame.  We are just a bunch of Halloweenies on a sugar high. But I waited until after Halloween because I didn’t want to give anyone any ideas and I didn’t want to wake up Tuesday morning and find my Buick on top of the garage.


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