I’ve never been big on sweets, unless of course its dark chocolate or cheesecake, and costumes always seemed to get me in trouble, so Halloween was never a really big holiday for me. However, with the changes in my life, I seem to be spending the day looking back wistfully.
When I was a tiny lad, still not that much taller, I think I enjoyed it. We were always quite poor, but on a couple of occasions a costume was purchased for me. I remember specifically a Magilla Gorilla costume that I wore several years. There are also pictures of me in a Deputy Dawg costume, but I only recall that through pictures.
In those days, shortly after the invention of the wheel and when telephones were just for listening to the neighbors on a party line, Halloween costumes consisted of a thin hard plastic mask, usually a cartoon character and this flimsy thing resembling a hospital gown, only black. Looking back, the “gown” usually had frosty white or silver writing on the chest proclaiming the name of the cartoon, as if anyone was dumb enough not to know who the character was.
The masks were flimsy with little holes cut in the nose to help you breathe. Needless to say, by the end of trick or treat time, you had a runny nose, the little rubber thread of the mask had slipped out of the staple and if it was cold the mask had cracked. Good times, mmm boy!
As I got a little older, I got creative with the costumes, making horrifyingly terrible costumes out of whatever I could make from my allowance of fifty cents a week. (That was good back then!) I don’t remember a lot of these costumes; I probably blocked most of them out as being nightmares that are better damaging my psyche subconsciously.
I do remember in the third grade I dressed up like Phyllis Diller. Yes, I was strange even then. My two first crushes were Lesley Gore and Phyllis Diller. I recall making that decision because part of her shtick was being ugly.
As a kid I always felt ugly, was called ugly and thought it was something I couldn’t ruin. So I used my allowance to buy a white fright wig, slipped on my mother’s gaudy housecoat and somehow found a long cigarette holder, her signature prop of the time, and went door to door gathering enough candy in my paper bag to make me puke until Christmas.
I mostly recall it was a time for all of us cousins to get together unreigned. The night to me was always more about laughter than fright. In the dark ages, shortly after the discovery of America, around the dawning of the age of Aquarius and before Madonna unleashed the downfall of music, everyone went door to door at every neighborhood they could possibly canvas. We collected hard candy galore, but just as often home made treats; cupcakes, candy apples and for those who wanted their houses toilet papered, fruit.
Then some bozo started putting razor blades in apples, and LSD in cupcakes. I always felt this started in Baltimore, but then as far as I knew the world dropped off around there. Regardless it kind of ruined the fun. For a few years we weren’t allowed to start eating our treats until an adult looked through it. Personally, I thought that was just an excuse for someone to pilfer the good stuff, but at nine what can you do?
Somewhere around that time I lost interest. When we moved to Tennessee, we lived, and still do, way up on the mountain and never had trick or treaters. I did indulge in costumes a couple of times, always leading to trouble.
Once I dressed up like a tube of Crest for a party in Abingdon. On the curvy mountain creek road between Mountain City and Damascus I had a flat tire. At that time I drove a 1968 Ford Maverick we had dubbed “The Titanic”. Needless to say, the spare was also flat, dry rotted more likely, and I ended up walking three miles in the dark knocking on doors until someone let the life sized toothpaste use a phone.
There was also a Homecoming incident that will forever live in infamy. Let me state emphatically here that I hated high school with a passion. I won’t go into detail, but I was an outcast and really didn’t care. However, I decided senior year that I would go ahead and just get involved in everything so if nothing else high school wouldn't be a total wasted memory.
So Homecoming week each class was given a theme and they had to come to school dressed in that theme. Ours was Longhorns of the future, Longhorns being the team name, whatever. So I went all out.
The night before I platted my hair with Dippity Doo, think slimy hair shellac that smelled like medically enhanced mint. I got up in the morning and let the multiple pig tails out, my long black hair now sticking up in five and six inch pieces all over my head. I put on a pair of yellow swim trucks and a pair of black faux leather knee boots my mother had. I wrapped my chest in Saran Wrap and painted everything that showed green. The crowning touch was a pair of fourteen-inch antennas Shane Moody had made for me.
I hoped in the car and drove to school…and promptly ran out of gas on the way. Fortunately for me, there was a gas can in the trunk, so I just grabbed it and walked to the nearest gas station and was back on my way. No big deal…HA!
First of all, I didn’t realize this was a costume contest. Didn’t know that until the school assembly, where I was announced as the overall winner for the week. I had to get up in front of the entire school dressed as a green saran wrapped red neck, not once BUT THREE EFFING TIMES!!!
Somehow I managed to get past the much too public trauma, until the following Thursday. Thursday is when “The Tomahawk” comes out, the county newspaper. That’s when I discovered as I filled up my car with gas, some one had snapped a picture and sent it in. So there I was, dressed for Longhorns of the future pumping gas with the headline, mind you, “Aliens Invade Johnson County Homecoming”.
Not been much for dress up since…wonder why. Of course, these days unless you get invited to or throw a Halloween party the only excuse for a costume is when you are “allowed” to for work. I never bothered. Usually people would ask what my costume was and I always told them I was dressed as someone who wanted to be there.
So this year, Halloween for me is “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”. A few of my cousins will bring their kids by. Mom and I have made up a few little bags of treats. I actually got Mom started doing that.
When I lived in Rising Sun, I lived in a ground floor apartment that was literally in the middle of downtown. The first year I lived there, I was overwhelmed. I hadn’t had ghouls and Madonna ring my doorbell demanding wrapped candy ever. It made me think of being a kid when I enjoyed the holiday.
I decided after that first year to do what I could to make what rugrats and drunken teenagers who rang my bell relive a little fun. All year long I'd find little inexpensive toys and stock up. I bought those little Halloween bags and filled them with wrapped chocolates and what I considered really good candy.
No bags of mixed Dollar Store candy for my trick or treaters…no no no. I filled my treat bags with full size candy bars and made special trips to Campbell’s store in Oxford where I could still get things like candy necklaces, Pixie sticks and button candy. Each bag got one surprise, a Pez dispenser, a matchbox car or something bizarrely wonderful like toy reindeer that poop Milk Duds.
My house got to be popular, not only for the candy but because when I opened the door I had “Rudolph” running endlessly on the TV, and I put the speakers to my stereo on the porch and started playing Christmas carols. And the kids I knew got special super sized treat boxes, filled with candy, little toys I’d chosen just for them and a book, usually a paperback of a favorite when I was growing up.
I lived in that apartment for ten years. When I gave it up and moved in with my Aunt Irene, it was back to Halloween being nothing.
The first year I lived with her, the Saturday after Halloween I took her to the grocery store. A little boy I’d guess at being around eight kept pointing at me. Finally he ran up to me and says, “Hey, mister, you moved didn’t cha?”
I told him yes. His retort was, “Yeah, I figured. Halloween sucked.”
Come to think of it, maybe being an adult at Halloween isn’t so bad after all.