Sunday, October 27, 2002

Small town Halloween

Whatever happened to Halloween? Yeah, I got older. But it seems like it's not as much fun for kids nowadays either.

I was in a small town where everybody knew everybody, at least in the neighborhood. You could start a day early and keep going a day late with most houses. For atmosphere, we even had a graveyard nearby stretching for several blocks and a couple of ill-maintained houses that for our money could well have been haunted. Oh yeah, we had the scary old lady who had to talk through a hole cut in her throat.

No parental escorts for us - we just marched up and down the streets, probably covering about a 20 block area of modest single-family homes. Daylight saving time gave us plenty of time after dark, and we'd stay out pretty late for a bunch that usually had to be in bed by 8:30 or so.

For loot there were a lot of popcorn balls and fruit, an occasional grab from a bowl of hard candy, or oddball stuff from those who had forgotten or had been sucked dry already. But most of it was miniature candy bars.

Groups of kids would cross paths once in a while, but there wasn't any trouble that I recall. Until we got older, that is, and that was when you figured the harvesting was over.

But then whole new opportunities arose for mischief bordering on delinquency. We'd go to the neighbors and note that we sure could use some eggs, toilet paper, shaving cream, soap et al, noting how it would be dishonorable to use them on the people who gave them to us (they knew if they didn't supply us, their neighbors would). We figured out about how much of the stuff we could carry without attracting suspicion ("No sir Mr. Officer, we haven't seen anything"), where we could ditch it in a hurry, and where we could stash it along the route. Thus did otherwise dead-end kids learn negotiation, game theory, procurement, logistics and project management (no, this isn't on my resume).

Old-timers (other than our parents) had classic stories of mischief. About all of them told stories of tipping outhouses. Usually this was done with a Model T, which subsequently got stuck in the "honey" (it must have been honey, because the guy who scooped it out and carried it away drove the "honeywagon"). Others told us of filling a paper bag with "honey", putting it on someone's doorstep and setting it on fire, in hopes that the resident would come out and stomp it out. We loved that idea, but never had the nerve to try it.

At some point many of us were dragooned into escorting the youngest kids, who of course would try to escape supervision ASAP. For the rest of us came cars, alcohol and girls - Halloween was for kids.

Alas, Halloween just isn't the same. And probably never was.

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