Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

It's Halloween again. After living in a neighborhood with virtually no children for three years, we again live in an area with kids, and this evening we'll have quite a few folks come to our house for goodies. 

We live in St. Louis, which seems to have a unique Halloween convention: kids tell a joke when they trick or treat.  I'd never heard of that before. A local author, interviewed on this morning's news, said that the custom may have originated from the Irish who settled the city.  

Our neighborhood has good sidewalks, but my childhood neighborhood had none. So I usually trick or treated with a buddy who lived on my hometown's First Street. First and Second Street were part of a nicely quiet neighborhood, safe-feeling with well-lit sidewalks, and somewhat set apart by the widening of Third Street (Kennedy Blvd./U.S. 40-51). After gathering our candy from neighbors, we watched the premiere of "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" on his family's color TV.

I should add that my hometown is small, 5500 at the 1960 census (these memories of mine are from the mid- and late-1960s), and First through Eighth are the major numbered streets: there is no Ninth, and Tenth is just a few blocks long. I tell this to my friend who works in Manhattan, just to give him a chuckle.

Another year, my church had a "Trick or Treat for UNICEF" program. We fanned out along Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Streets and collected change. What a nice way to instill social awareness in little kids!  I've a memory of standing on a house's porch at Eighth and Jackson, waiting for friends to catch up from another house---a weird memory, why was I standing on someone's porch? When you're a little kid, the concept of "trespassing" is rather vague, particularly on Halloween.

One of the highlights of childhood Halloweens was the local parade, when kids gathered in the parking lot of the county courthouse, on South Seventh Street, and marched straight down Gallatin Street (the main drag) into the downtown. The kids with the best costumes got little prizes. I don't remember if I ever did, but the idea of walking in the middle of the street was a huge thrill!  Vandalia's business district was busy and quite a few stores were open in the evening.

My daughter, whose field is actually theatre costume design, enjoyed trick or treating for many years. Over the years she was Disney's Jasmine, Pokemon's Pikachu, the Phantom of the Opera, and lots of other characters.

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