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Past Halloween adventures provide sweet memories

Susan Manzke
Susan’s dad, Chuck Paska, and his Halloween friend. When showing this photo, Chuck always pointed out to friends that the one on the bottom was the dummy.

Halloween has a different feel this year. Many children won’t be celebrating it at all, or have very little trick or treating. No matter how it is today. Spooky festivities these days would be quite different from the time my cohorts and I were children.

The little community where I grew up, Lincoln Estates, Illinois, was thought to be the poorer area of the surrounding towns. We didn’t buy costumes. We created them. There were many a hobo with charcoal face whiskers, ghosts under old sheets, and others wearing an old dress. Many times, you couldn’t tell who was who.

Trick or treating was extra special for us. Still, hardly anyone came begging for treats at our house. You had to be a relative or close neighbor to come up our drive. Our house was set back off the road, with trees lining our driveway. If you didn’t know better, you would have suspected it was haunted, or at least very scary.

Since we didn’t have a lot of visitors, Mom would splurge and get regular-size candy bars to hand out. And after handing those out, we still had a few for lunch desserts.

I don’t remember Mom or Dad walking with us kids to go out on Halloween, except when we were tiny and then we only went to a couple of our neighbors’ homes.

As we grew, an older cousin would herd a few shorter cousins down the road. After that, the herd was on our own.

We did a lot of walking on those Halloween treks. Houses weren’t close together and quite a few were just like ours, with a dark yard and kind of spooky.

I remember our group from 78th Avenue debating who was going to walk up first to this dark house. Instead of one leading the way, we went into huddle mode and went up together. It turned out an old couple lived there and they were thrilled that we had come knocking on their door. And they had the best treats of the night.

Some people who didn’t want to ruin our teeth gave out apples. (Even back then in the late 1960s, we had to be wary apples might be boobytrapped, but none of those turned up in our trick or treat bags.)

Some people made homemade caramel corn or popcorn balls. Others gave out home-baked cookies—no parent would allow a child to accept homemade goods these days, not unless it was from grandma.

I remember the smells of Halloween. Leaves were burned in yards back then. If I detect the scent of smoldering leaves today, it sends me back to when I was ten years old. The crunch of thick masses of leaves under our feet was part of Halloween, too.

Mom sent us out with a snack in our pocket. That way if we got hungry, we wouldn’t be tempted to reach into our bag for the unknown—I once heard the big guys had soap that looked like candy that they slipped into a few bags.

Decorations weren’t much, except for carved pumpkins with candles inside. There were no big blow-up figures, and if there were no one would have been able to afford them.

At home, we had glowing pumpkins, but one year, Dad built a dummy and set him up near our front door. That stuffed man sat there for a lot longer than Halloween, too. Dad liked the way anyone coming up to our house always stopped when they saw him—I think some even swallowed their gum. Even coming out of the house and forgetting about the dummy startled me. He was just so unexpected.

Ghosts and goblins spooked Susan Manzke's horse Goldie decked out has a flower. Manzke, wearing a butterfly costume said she missed out on treats having to take the frightened horse home.

One year I rode my horse Goldie for a while on Halloween. She was a flower and I was a butterfly. That didn’t last too long as ghosts and goblins scared Goldie. She returned to her stall for a treat of oats while I ran to catch up with everyone else—I missed some good treats because of Goldie that year.

Good memories were relived today. I hope next Halloween our world will be close to normal so ghosts and witches can again trick and treat without fear.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54265; sunnybook@aol.com; www.susanmanzke.net/blog