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Halloween - Not Like it Was - But Still Fun!

Today's children will never know the joys and thrills that my friends and I enjoyed when we celebrated Halloween.

Back then, we didn't have to worry about someone putting poison or drugs in our candy. We may have checked an apple for razor blades but most of the apples were given to the adults anyway. We would never have dreamed that a stranger could be watching and waiting for a chance to grab a child to do God only knows what to them. We lived in gentler and less cautious times.

I remember my friend Carolyn and I walking for what seemed like miles in our quest for a bag brimming with treats during those Halloweens that occurred on weekends when I would be at my grandparents. I don't think there was a house in West Raven whose door we didn't knock on. A couple of Halloweens we even walked up Mill Creek.

I don't remember the two of us wearing elaborate costumes. I just remember that one Halloween was glorious. It wasn't cold and the moon provided us with plenty of light so we didn't even have to carry the extra burden of a flashlight.

If memory serves me right, that was the first year that we were allowed to go without an accompanying adult. No two little girls could have felt as free and invincible as the two of us did that night. We were expecting a new adventure around every corner and at every door.

In those days it was not unusual for my Grandma to have more than 200 trick-or-treaters come through the gate, up the sidewalk and across the front porch to knock on her door. The costumed children were not hauled around in cars as so many of them are today, but walked through the neighborhood. The smaller children clutching the hands of adults and all the rest of us out on our own, feeling very brave and believing that we could handle anything.

I remember that on that special moonlight Halloween night there was one older lady whose house was one of the first we visited. She had not remembered that it was Halloween and had no candy when we knocked on her door. She would not turn us away empty handed - so we left her front porch eating a donut covered in powdered sugar. You had to eat treats like that at once because they made an awful mess if you allowed them to be dropped into your bag.

There were only a few donuts left in the box and Carolyn and I both hoped that no one would get upset that she had no candy and soap her windows or give her a hard time.

Another year, I went out with Nancy, my neighbor in Lake Park. I was in fourth grade and she was in third. We had planed to wear matching Frankenstein costumes and masks, but the weather was rotten that year, rainy and cold and we ended up with our hated all weather coats (which matched) over the top of our costumes.

We stomped and fussed and begged our mothers not to make us wear those long coats with their heavy lining, but like the dutiful mothers they were, they would not give in. We talked at great length about waiting until we were out of sight and then taking them off and hiding them in the bushes or in a neighbor's trash can, but we gave up the idea as the rain continued and we knew that we would get soaked. Not that we were the least bit concerned with being wet but we knew it would be a dead give away to our mothers that we hadn't worn the coats.

One of the ladies on our block, Mrs. Compton, had made pop corn balls and as soon as the other children knew where we had gotten them they made a bee line for her house. What they didn't know was that she was only giving them to the children that she knew. Everyone else got a regular treat.

Nancy and I made our rounds through the neighborhood in record time and then enjoyed all of our treats for days after Halloween - especially the chocolate bars.

I vividly remember one Halloween. I was sick. In fact I was so sick that I didn't even care that I wasn't getting to go out with my friends in the neighborhood to trick-or-treat that year. Group after group of costumed kids came knocking on our door as Mom handed out bag after bag of candy.

I sat in one of the rocking chairs in front of the fireplace wrapped in a fuzzy blanket and watched the different groups of children for someone that I might recognize. One boy, who wore only soot for a mask, grinned when he saw me.

When he spoke I immediately recognized him as a boy in my class. He was the one that I am sure many teachers hated to see enter their classrooms - because he was behind the others in reading and math and never seemed to catch up - he caused problems by being disruptive and down right mean.

We all thought he was tough and while many of the boys looked up to him, he did not have many friends in the class. When he asked if I was not going out trick-or-treating, my Mother explained that I was sick and couldn't. He stood there a minute in the open doorway and then handed Mom his bag of treats. "You can have these for when you feel better," he said to me. With that he was gone.

I couldn't believe my good luck or the fact that he had given me his bag full of candy - much of it chocolate. However, when I finally got to go back to school I learned that he hadn't gone without. He had taken several bags of candy away from little kids on his way home.

Then came the year that my friends and I were too old to go Trick-or-treating. One set of friends - twins - eased the pain of growing up by having a Halloween costume party. The party was held during the day, but we didn't mind. We were still getting to plan and plot over our costumes.

I worked very hard to construct my costume. I cut and sewed and patched. When I was finished I looked like a first class hobo. Two of the girls had dressed as Frankie and Johnny and preformed to a pantomime the song.

I was surprised and shocked when everyone voted on the best costume and I won. My prize was a gold charm bracelet with a little golden rabbit on it.

The world and Halloween had changed by the time my children came along. We only took our oldest child, Sarah, around to four or five houses right around ours. The first year I pinned pink ears and a tail onto her white fuzzy snow suit. Then I came up with a way to get out of even doing that.

I told my children that the Great Pumpkin was real. Yes, that is the mythological character that Linus waits for in the Peanuts cartoons. The catch was, he would only come and bring a present if the child didn't go out on Halloween. That was Linus's mistake because he always went out and waited in the pumpkin patch.

That worked for years and years. Of course as the kids got older the small stuffed animal or game ended up being a new Barbie for the three girls and later even included makeup. It was a bribe and it was worth it not to have to risk life and limb walking out on the Baptist Valley Road while they knocked on strangers' doors.

Now, Emily has missed out on the tradition of the Great Pumpkin. We take her to do her trick-or-treating at the Malls. It is relatively safe and we don't have to worry about where the candy came from.

I got away with a couple of easy costumes such as a witch or simply drawing whiskers on her face and letting her wear her sweat suit that looked like a skunk. Now she always wants an elaborate costume - usually the newest Disney movie heroine. She has been Esmeralda and Megra and one year she wore her pageant dress and was Miss America 2010.

This year she will be a butterfly because she has started taking dance and I had to spend a small fortune on the outfit and three different pairs of shoes - tap, ballet and jazz. So for a very small price I found a butterfly costume that can be worn over one of her leotard and tight sets.

Most years we meet up with her little friend Nathan and they go through the Malls together. Or rather he goes where Emily tells him to go. This is not to say that Nathan is meek or mild but he has learned a very valuable lesson - let the girl be the boss and just follow meekly behind - it saves time because you don't have to argue. While the Malls are safe, I do regret that Emily will never know the thrill of taking off up the street with Nathan or one of her friends to go trick-or-treating all by themselves. Not all changes are progress.Tazewell County Free Press Oct. 1998

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