Thursday is Halloween which brings back great memories of my childhood. Memories of an easier time when a plastic mask and what would become pajamas after trick or treating was enough to make a kid happy.
When I grew up Halloween was about the carnival and trick-or-treating. When I grew up, Halloween was about kids, today things are very different.
During my prime Halloween years, 4, 5 and 6, we lived on “Needy Creek.” The real name was Valley Street, but we have called it Needy Creek for my entire life.
Back then Halloween costumes were easy. A plastic mask with pre-cut eyes that didn’t fit any human face held together by a rubber band that would break when placed on the human head. If by chance you were fortunate enough to get the mask in place, your hair would then tangle into the band and result in a pair of scissors and mini-bald spot by evening’s end.
If money was tight a sheet with holes cut in the eyes made a great ghost or Little League football, basketball and baseball uniforms would convert any child’s dreams to the pros.
As a child in God’s Country, Halloween began on the Saturday before the big day, in the old high school gym which would be transformed into a ghoulish fall festival. The event was be hosted by the Senior Class each year as a fund-raiser for the Senior Trip to Washington DC later in the Spring.
Simple games lined the perimeter of the gym. The apple bob, fishing for prizes, floating ducks and more. The entire center of the gymnasium was dedicated to the cake walk; a version of musical chairs that would end in the last person standing winning one of the many homemade cakes or pies baked by parents of the senior class.
A kissing booth hosted by cheerleaders was always a favorite and the haunted house that took over the dressing rooms was more spook than scare, but for an active 6-year-old with vivid imagination those scares would keep me awake for night on end.
Each year the entire town would come together for the Halloween Carnival. Whether you had a Senior in your house or not, the carnival was an important community outing.
Halloween would come later in the week and was a very different event than the carnival.
Starting as soon as school was out, I would jump back into my costume from Saturday and head out with my friends from house to house.
Turned loose on the neighborhood with a plastic orange pumpkin, we would go from house to house collecting treats and doling out very few tricks.
As a neighborhood gang, we would go up and down the street laughing, yelling and cheering along the way. Parents kept a watchful eye as they sat on porch fronts and peered through the kitchen window to ensure we were safe.
At each home the parents, who helped raise us as the neighborhood kids, expected a thank you for each treat and without a second thought they received those thanks.
Once the evening’s activities were brought to an end by parents calling us home, the candy was poured out on the kitchen table and segregated for “now” and “later” treats.
As I grew Halloween became less about dressing up and joining my friends trick or treating and more about passing out treats. With mama and daddy being teachers our house was a prime location for tiny guests in cheerleading, soldier, Mickey Mouse and goblin costumes for several hours each year.
Mama and daddy would love on each family that came to the door and I would distribute the candy, it was a tradition that lasted until I went away to college.
About the time I left home, adults began to take the fun of Halloween away from the kids and make it our own. Going from a night of frivolity to one of revelry, the holiday lost its innocence and sadly seems to become more and more “adult” each year.
Saturday night I was able to recapture some of those childhood memories at my work’s BOO BASH. While we cater to the adult fun as part of the event, for over two hours I helped judge adorable children in costume contests as they paraded across a stage.
Ninja Warriors, Princesses, Captain Hook, super heroes, cupcakes and more whimsical characters than you can imagine brought back the spirit of Halloween, the one I loved as a child and the one I long for today.
Happy Halloween everyone… may your inner child capture your spirit and bring a sense of joy to each and every little goblin you meet!