Halloween in the ‘40s was a lot less hectic and dangerous than it seems to be today, at least in places. It was an annual event. We all went trick or treating then on to the Princess and the late night, not too late night, movie. Compared to the wild and exceptionally scary movies they put out today what we saw and were scared of was really pretty tame. All of the younger members of the neighborhood would suit up, everyone had to have a costume. Most were homemade and many were exceptional and some quite ingenious. Mine were mostly mundane and functional and easy to make. One year I used a couple of boxes from Dad’s shop and made a car. My head protruded out the roof with my arms out the windows. Actually didn’t look all that bad, but was far from the most outstanding.

We would trick or treat in our neighborhood only. We would not do anything, knowingly, that would harm anyone or any thing. We tried to use our heads as to what our tricks were. Of course there was the old standby window soaping. This was safe and usually not destructive. Although one year I got a tad overzealous in soaping the windows of my second grade teacher, Mrs. Hilburt.. I pecked too hard on the windows with the soap and actually broke one pane. I, of course, was told to fess up and repair the window — which I did the very next day. And at 50 cents a week allowance it took me a couple of allowances to finish the job. Actually, Dad loaned me the money and then withheld my allowance until it was repaid.

Also, there were a few outhouses still in town and they made for some fun just by pushing them over. Of course, one had to be sure that if it was a government outhouse it was bolted to the ground and didn’t tip. One rather nasty trick was to take some manure put it in a sack ring, the door bell, set the paper bag on fire and head for the hills at top speed. The trickee would then open their door, see the flames, and stamp out the burning bag on their porch. And of course they would get the nasty stuff all over their shoes. This was saved for those who were exceptionally nasty to the children of the neighborhood. I remember one year someone ran a buggy up the flag pole at the Belle Gregg School. It was left there for a few days just for fun then retrieved by the owner.

We knew all those who we would trick or treat and they knew us. So we also were not afraid of the goodies we received. We also knew that no matter how often we got to see the grownups we would have to take our masks off. A mask was a necessity, so they could tell who we were. This, even though 99 percent of those we went to already knew who we were and what we would be wearing. And at each and every stop the praise on the choice and construction of the costume would consume precious minutes of our goodie time.

After the trick and treat for an hour or so we went home, cleaned up, and got dressed up. One would always dress up when going out; it was unheard of to not clean up and dress up when going to the movies. Then, on to see the latest thriller. Dracula and Frankenstein were the main attractions in our day. The Wolf Man and werewolves were also a mainstay. Somehow the movie makers would manage to get all of the above in one movie a year for the Halloween showing. At times even Abbot and Costello would be in the movies. These were really great; they would scare you but in a very funny way.

It was not unusual for them to have a double feature on Halloween so they could get the most out of the admissions and concessions for that weekend. And it was always on a Friday or Saturday night. Remember, school days came first and missing because you got scared the night before did not count as a reliable absence. We all walked to the movie and then walked back home. And on the way back home was the time for the fun to begin. The older kids would rush ahead, hide in the bushes or around the houses, and scare the daylights out of the littler ones headed home. I sort of enjoyed the walk home because I liked to try and figure out who was where and turn the tables on them if at all possible. Of course, our parents were on the lookout for us and if we were later than they thought we should be went out on the hunt for us. And heaven help the youngster who forgot to get home when mom and dad thought they should be.

It was fun, good clean not harming fun. We respected our elders and they in turn respected us. Very few things occurred on Halloween that would be considered down right nasty. It was unthought of to even want to do something bad against someone else. Of course, at times the tricks got out of hand, as they always tend to do, but remands were made and friendships were kept no matter what. We had fun, enjoyed the evening and started planning for the next years event that very night.

Watch for Bill Ward’s column Saturdays in the Rushville Republican. Add a comment at www.rushvillerepublican.com.

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