Back when I was young, there were no Halloween costumes for which to shop. No superstores, no online shopping.
Halloween was then, quite quaint.
We made our own costumes, or more truthfully, mom did. A ghoulie was dressed in tattered old clothes, with white flour caked on the face, a ghost was an old white sheet with holes cut out to see. A witch was a black dress and cape, a straggly wig, and a broom. A pirate was a pair of cut-off khaki pants, a torn plaid shirt, a bandana, and an eye patch.
Back then you’d find a cowboy or Indian, not now.
Houses were closer together back then. Mr. Levitt designed them like that, for convenience I imagine. There were rows of houses and scores of kids who poured outat dusk, when the shadows lengthened. Kids gathering in groups of six to ten, and swarming like a flock of swallows, or worse, like a biblical plague, lighting for a moment at one door then the next.
Your favorite candy was always a Hershey or a Mars bar and if you were lucky, you got the really big bar, not the pop-in-your-mouth kind they sell at stores by the bag full. Stories spread quickly of who had the best and likewise who had the worst. Steer clear of the penny candy and the mean guy who flicked his finger with a snap in the paper bag we carried, he pretending he was giving when really he wasn’t.
And who doesn’t remember the brown bag, loaded with loot, ripping and tearing, candy showering all over the lawn? The mad dash of dirty dogs to grab what they could.
Back then, Halloween lasted for days.
Back then, when I was young, we played pranks. No, not the overturned outhouse that our parents claimed they did. Our trick was the tiny brown bag with a fresh dog turd, lit on fire, left at the door step, set aflame, door bell rung, and, quick, flee into the dark. Did we really do this or was it all a big dream.
Back then, Halloween was just for kids. Parents stayed at home, tending the fire in the hearth, stirring the chili in the pot, and listening from a tune from Fantasia, no doubt Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain; praying and hoping their neighbor’s trees would be draped in toilet paper come All Saints Day morn.
Not their own.
And we kids, when we were done, took our loot to our rooms and our beds, separating our candy, gloating with brothers and sisters over who had the best and who had the worst. Tired as we were, we stayed up late in the night, until dad thundered, enough fun, lights out!
Under the covers, head on the pillow, before we slipped into slumber, we uttered one final prayer:
From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!