Once upon a time Halloween was a most enjoyable and safe holiday for children. My childhood memories of Halloween trick or treating in the late 1940s through the early 1950s are among the happiest that I have. It was the one time of the year when all the kids in the neighborhood could roam from house to house and stay out very late (even on a school night if that was when the holiday fell) without any adult supervision. The most fun, along with collecting candy, was trying to fool the adult neighbors as to who we were when we knocked on their doors. And oh what candy! My favorites were peanut butter logs, peanut butter kisses, candy corn and wonderful homemade popcorn balls. Nothing to worry about—it was a time of fun and freedom.
Strangely though, the first Halloween that I can remember was very scary. We lived on an Oklahoma farm with Kerosene lamps for light and a coal-burning stove for heat. On that typical evening of the last day of October, my little brother Mike and I were seated on the divan with our mother between us. Our father had not yet come home from work. Mother began to read one of our favorite stories, The Poky Little Puppy. The story scared me because I felt sorry for the puppy who was always late coming home and missing his supper. I wanted him to be safe and sound at home with his brothers and sisters.
Suddenly, someone knocked at our door. That in itself was strange. Certainly our father wouldn’t knock. Mother went to the door and we heard her laugh. Then—a monster walked into the living room! My brother and I huddled together and almost cried at the sight of this strange apparition. “It” was dressed in shirt and jeans and boots but its head was made out of a paper sack with the eyes cut out. We started to cry because we had never seen anything like that before. We couldn’t understand why our mother was laughing. The monster said, “Boo!” and we jumped. He sounded like our twelve-year-old cousin who lived up the road on another farm but we knew it wasn’t him because that wasn’t his head. Mother gave him an apple and the monster left. We were happy to see him go and hoped that he wouldn’t come back. But we couldn’t understand why our mother didn’t return to finish reading the story. Immediately, another monster came into the room and we both screamed and began to cry. The monster was dressed like our mother but had a paper sack head just like the other monster. It also spoke with our mother’s voice. Finally this monster left and our mother came back into the room, saying there was nothing to be afraid of. She said that people dressed in costumes on Halloween and tried to scare other people, especially children. She didn’t fool us—we knew that two monsters had visited us.
First Published in Seasons for Writing October 2002