I loved Halloween when I was a kid! What kid doesn’t, right? You spend a couple of hours dressed up as an imaginary creature or entity, often someone or something outside of your comfort zone, and at the end of the night, you’ve got a bag full of candy and an apple or two—and maybe a few pencils (drats!). The last time I went trick-or-treating was October 31, 1966. The Peanuts animated TV special, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, premiered that fall, and I was bound and determined to go from door to door in our neighborhood as a Christmas package. My funeral director dad brought home a very large, heavy cardboard box that had once surrounded a brand-new, never-been-used casket. (Pretty cool, huh?) We cut it in half and covered one of the halves with Christmas wrapping paper. Under the oversized bow was an oversized “gift card” that said, “Merry Christmas from the Great Pumpkin!” Very clever!
So, how did I “wear” this box? Well, I balanced it on my head which worked just fine—mostly. The (open) bottom of the box was only a few inches above the ground. There was a small “window” near the top of the front side I could look out as I shuffled along, and I’m pretty sure I had a partner who helped me navigate the sidewalks and curbs. (Going up and down steps was out of the question.) I don’t remember if my partner carried my goody bag or if it was somehow connected to the outside of the box. It was exhausting, but no one knew who I was and that was my goal for my last trick-or-treating experience. Sadly, there are no photos from that night to share with you.
(Sally, Mary, Pamela, Jan)
It’s been a while since I’ve dressed up for Halloween—forty-one years, to be exact. We were in Iowa City then, and one of my University of Iowa library colleagues (Bob) and his wife (Florence) threw a big party. Library folks can be hardy party-ers. It was a blast!
Halloween makes an appearance in my novel, My Mother’s Friend—two appearances, actually. The story spans the last four months (and seven days) of 1944 and almost all of 1945 (plus a few days in May 1991), so I got to write about that fun holiday twice. Phee Swensson, my protagonist, has three younger siblings, and her ten-year-old twin brothers, Gus and Tris, and some of their classmates, are invited to Paul Zetterholm’s house for a party. The following is a brief excerpt from Chapter 12. It’s Tuesday, 31 October 1944. Paul’s mother, Edith, is Phee’s piano teacher, and his father, Harold, is the Swenssons’ family doctor.
Halloween in wartime was different, but still fun. In Algona this year, the city fathers decreed that trick-or-treating from house to house would not take place. Kids were disappointed, as were many adults who enjoyed welcoming the cleverly costumed children onto their porches and into their living rooms. The ongoing sugar rationing meant handing out candy, fudge, and cookies to neighborhood youngsters wasn’t possible again this year, so families found alternatives to the traditional holiday experience.
The twins and several classmates were invited to the Zetterholms’ for a party tonight. Paul and his parents had gone all out to decorate the already-scary-enough basement in their home on North Jefferson. Over the weekend, they carved a dozen jack-o-lanterns, and courtesy of farmer Ted Ogren’s nearby cornfield, there were dried corn stalks propped up in each corner and tied around each pillar. Harold supplied rolls of gauze so Edith could “spin” spider webs, and she and Paul cut spiders from black construction paper she’d saved over the years just for Halloween. But the crème de la crème was Skelly the Skeleton. Harold brought him home from his office earlier this afternoon. Paul was sure their party was the only one in town with a real live skeleton on display to scare and amaze. They hung Skelly in the farthest corner and placed a small lamp on the floor behind him, backlit for full effect.
I’m afraid my husband Joe’s memories of Halloween are not as happy as mine. When he was six years old, he was hit by a taxicab about a half a block from his home on Halloween night. He spent over a month in the hospital with a broken jaw and a concussion. Poor kid! (He sucked his Thanksgiving dinner through a straw that year. Ugh!) It was a miracle he wasn’t killed. If he had been, I’m confident you wouldn’t be reading this blog at this moment.
But years later (1974 to be exact), Joe was a great sport when we threw a big Halloween party at our apartment in Falls Church (VA). Joe went as me (sort of—not really—he’s six four) and I went as him (ditto—I’m five eight—once again, no photos of me). I bet our army friends who were there remember that night. We sure do.
Blessings to all.
Dear Faithful Sally’s Soliloquies Followers,
I’m going to take a couple of weeks off to catch up on some things that really need my attention. So, you won’t see that friendly email from me again until Wednesday, November 17th (I hope). Thanks so much for your patience. I will miss you.
Have a great Halloween. Eat a Snickers for me. (I can’t eat chocolate. Boo hoo!)
Sally Jameson Bond is retired and lives in Southwest Virginia with her husband and two dogs. My Mother’s Friend is her first novel. You can find her web site here: www.sallyjamesonbond.com.