Halloween, Then and Now

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween used to be safer. At least, that's my thinking. When my children were trick or treaters, I had no fear of letting them trick or treat without a guardian. Yes, at first I went with them, but later they were allowed to go without me. They had their instructions, their plastic Halloween pumpkins and masks. They were not to leave the neighborhood, to stay close to home.

I didn't worry that their candy treats were unsafe, that some pervert had poisoned the candy, to do harm. No, I had no fear of that; no need for warnings.

Yes, there were pranksters on Halloween night. The biggest prank was soaping car windows or house windows. And there was the proverbial hanging of toilet paper in trees outside targeted homes. Sometimes there were Halloween parties held in various homes or churches in the community. There would be bobbing for apples, ghost stories, games and Halloween costumes.

For me there was one memorable Halloween. I was invited to a house party among some of my classmates. But I had no costume. My mama knew how much I wanted a special costume to wear that night so she bought some shiny black material. Since my mother wasn't handy with a needle, she asked my neighbor to make a witch costume for me. My neighbor agreed, but she would have to hand stitch the material because she had no sewing machine.

She made the long full skirt and a matching top, but it hung limply on my skinny body. So she took a bunch of newspapers and made a pleated paper bustle. Then she sewed the bustle beneath the skirt material and the witch dress took shape, standing out in the back. I was very happy with the way I looked. A pointed hat completed the costume.

That Halloween night my friends oohed and aahed over my blockbuster outfit. Then, to cap it all off, I won FIRST prize for best costume. My prize was a supersized chocolate Hershey bar. For me, that was the best Halloween candy of all.

But there was that one Halloween night when things went badly wrong.

Some of the high school boys banded together one Halloween to pull some pranks in town. They wound up at the railroad station where railroad cars were parked. The night watchman spotted the boys trying to get into a boxcar and warned them to leave the premises. But they didn't leave. He fired a warning shot, but one of the boys, Buddy, was shot in the leg. Nothing like that had ever happened in our small town, and it rocked the town.

Until then, Halloween had been safe. I had heard tales that in years past, teenagers had overturned outhouses and vandalized. They had thrown raw eggs onto parked vehicles, too. But townspeople considered that more than a "trick." Those antics were not condoned.

In recent years, safety is stressed each Halloween. There are rules and safety measures that trick-or-treaters are advised to follow. There are curfews, precautions that are to be adhered to.

So, this Halloween it would be wise to read and follow those rules.

Remember what happened to Buddy.

Happy Halloween!