Autumn brings long ago Halloween memories

Susan Manzke

As I crunched through fallen leaves in my yard today, memories of long-ago Halloween adventures filled my thoughts.

Susan’s sister, Karen, a cat, and Susan are all decked out for Halloween.

As a kid, this holiday was tops on my list of special days, except for Christmas. It was a day when we could go around our country neighborhood and beg for candy and no one objected.

Our costumes were mostly homemade. Mom gave us old clothes that were adapted into Halloween clothes. Sometimes we were lucky to get an old costume from our Chicago cousins who had outgrown the holiday.

Makeup might have been Mom’s lipstick. If a beard was needed, all we had to do was to char the end of a cork and smear that on someone’s face.

One year, I wore a special real Japanese Kimono. My Uncle Ray and his new Japanese wife brought it home for me after his service in Japan (that’s where he met and married his wife)—I wish I knew what happened to that lovely outfit.

On the big day, my sister, Karen, and I were joined by cousins George and Chris, and neighbors Marilyn and Donna. The six of us started at our own homes and then ventured to others farther afield.

Houses were not close together, so there was a lot of walking through crunchy leaves.

Our journey was mostly in the dark, with flashlights. There were few streetlights to brighten our walk.

Susan wearing an authentic Kimono from Japan, given to her by her Uncle Ray when he was serving in Japan in the mid-1950s.

If a house had any signs of life, we went knocking and chanted the usual “Trick or treat.”

Back then we were lucky if we got store-bought candy. Some of our treats were homemade. There were cookies, caramel apples, and popcorn balls. No one ever thought that any were from bad people who would give us something that would harm us. We even reached into our bags to eat a snack in the dark. The world has changed greatly since those innocent days. No one would do anything like that now. These days many kids limit their trick-or-treating to their neighborhood and the homes of relatives.

Once, we ventured to a house that sat back in a wooded plot. Some of our group weren’t sure if we should stop there. It looked spooky.

We finally mustered our courage and went down the dark walk and knocked. It turned out a lovely old couple lived there. They were so happy to see us that they gave us extra candy—we weren’t expecting such a warm welcome.

Childhood friends, Marilyn and Susan

When Karen and I got home, we dumped out our hoard on the table. We weren’t looking for any sinister items. It was time to see what we liked and what we didn’t—Mom and Dad got the Mounds bars filled with coconut and anything else that wasn’t to our tastes.

My sister and I also did some trading—or snitching from each other—boy could she yell if I got one of her favorite pieces.

For the rest of my life, the crunch of fallen leaves will rekindle my memories of Halloween for me. The only thing that would make those images more vivid would be the smell of burning leaves. Setting fire to a pile of leaves is frowned upon these days because any extra smoke would add to climate change. I do miss that smell so much that I’ve considered burning one leaf—and only one. If I closed my eyes and sniffed, I would be taken back to the late 1950s and wonderful childhood memories.

Newspaper clipping about a local Halloween party. Susan is in the back to the left of the nun.

Happy Halloween!

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;;;