Halloween as a kid on west 12th holds a bitter-sweet taste in my mouth.
I really loved the idea of a scary night, and me , being afraid of my own shadow as a kid, found everything pretty scary. Please remember we are speaking of another time. The big time horror movies that you are probably thinking of had not even been thought of as yet. Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Friday the 13th, Scream, etc were many years down the road. In hindsight, this is probably good, in that if I had seen anything like them as the “scared of everything” little kid I was, I would have been scarred for life! ( no cute comments Robert!)
No, for us, it was Frankenstein, the Werewolf , The Mummy and Dracula. Seeing those old films now, it is almost comical, but they scared the crap out of me then. Also, my elementary school always allowed the kids to dress up on Halloween . The classroom was decorated with spider webs, skeletons and scary faced pumpkins.There was always a flying witch on a broom for good measure. The Halloween masks were laughable by today’s standards. Hard plastic , small.. (very small )slits for the eyes, so small that one would spend most of the evening tripping off curbs and running into walls. The worst part? you could hardly breathe. One would have to lift off the mask periodically just to get some air. The alternative being passing out from lack of oxygen. What fun!
I never had a scary Halloween mask nor costume. My mom didn’t want me to be one of those “scary creatures”, but somebody good instead . Truth be known, she probably knew that if I did have a scary mask and accidentally looked at myself in the mirror, I would most likely pass out from fright. Nevertheless, a good guy costume it would be for me.
Now, let me preference this by saying that I “dressed-up” once … yes once in my entire childhood. This is not because I didn’t want to, I always wanted to be like the other kids , but, as mentioned in previous postings, my mom was very overprotective and I was rarely allowed to do anything other kids were allowed to do. I wanted so badly to Trick or Treat… but was never, not once, permitted to do that. Anyway, back to my “good guy” costume.
Davy Crockett was very popular at this time, much of it due to Disney’s wonderful TV mini series : The Legend of Davy Crockett . It starred Fess Parker as Davey and Buddy Epstein (of Beverly Hillbilly fame) as his fictional sidekick, Russell. I was absolutely enthralled by the show . It was only four episodes, but for me it was epic . It chronicled the life and times of Davy Crockett and concluded with the heroic defense of the Alamo. This was also the birth of my lifelong fascination with the history of the Alamo and the bigger than life historical characters associated with it. But, Davy was my hero and that’s who I wanted to be for the one dress up day I ever participated in as a child.
Mom and Dad got me a Crockett trademark coonskin cap,easy to find in all toy stores during this time. Mom also pieced together a jacket that looked adequate as Davey’s buckskin shirt. I was thrilled to be my hero and mom was happy I was not some evil monster. I believe I was the only “Davey” in the school photo that day, which made it better for mom in that all the other boys were evil monsters. One of the most popular songs of the time was the “Ballad of Davey Crockett” and its catchy tune played all day in my head.
A brief tradition ( I guess it’s oxymoronic to say a tradition was brief, but this lasted perhaps two years) that developed while living on 12th street was a Halloween visit from my Aunt Ruth, Uncle Vincent and Cousin Chris. After a light meal at our place we all walked to Aunt Mildred’s apartment on Charles street. I have no idea how or why we started doing this. Probably mom started it to make an alternative to the deadly Trick or Treating that was going on. Another Disney classic that was at the height of popularity during this time was The Legend of Sleepy Hallow: the story of the Headless Horseman and hapless Ichabod Crane. If you have not seen Disney’s animated version, do it.
This will come as no shock , but the Headless Horseman frightened the crap out of me. However, on our walks to Aunt Mildred’s apartment, Chris and I would pretend we were being pursued by the Headless Horseman. As we ran along the cobblestone streets, I was certain that if I dared look behind me, The Horseman would be right at my heels. Naturally, Uncle Vincent made things worse by constantly crying out to us: “he’s getting closer!!! Go faster!!!” And faster we would go, frightened , excited and happy, all at the same time.
My last major childhood memory of Halloween again involved my cousin Chris. Uncle Vincent had a good job , and thus Chris always had the best of everything.While my mom threw together something that resembled a buckskin shirt, Chris had a buckskin shirt that would make a Mule Deer envious. One year he came dressed as Paul Revere. I swear his costume would have impressed Paul himself. Everything from hat to boots. I think the costume probably cost more than all the uniforms in the British Army that Mr. Revere was warning the colonists about! I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t a bit envious , but in hindsight, it was just one more reason I could “look-up” to my older cousin.
And besides… Paul Revere was no way as cool as Davey Crockett.
“Born on a mountain top in Tennessee;
Greenest State in the land of the free…
Raised in the woods so’s he knew every tree,
He killed him a bear when he was only three;Davey, Davey Crockett,
King of the wild frontier..”