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Monday, October 31, 2005

On Halloween We Went Begging

It is a beautiful Southern California fall day. The sun's crisp bright golden light is dancing all through the Pepper trees in my side yard. I wish this day was a lazy one but that is not to be. There are pumpkins to carve and pumpkin seeds to roast. A trip down to town is necessary to buy some raw peanuts to boil and some tiny sweet pumpkins to stuff and bake for dinner. Tonight is Halloween.

Earlier this morning, while I was at my Dishpan post, I found myself drifting back to the Halloweens of my childhood in Michigan. It is so pleasantly warm today, perfect weather, but this was not the case where I grew up. Many times the fall air in Michigan was beginning its march toward winter and that required costumes be planned with extra room for sweaters and jackets underneath.

There are other differences between Halloween in the 50's and 60's in Michigan and the celebration that takes place today. We made our own costumes, for instance. The store bought costumes back then were made of cheap, shiney fabric that almost always tore before the festivities were over and the masks were brittle. Most mothers considered it a waste of money to BUY a costume.

We kids loved to plan our costumes. Sometimes it took weeks to assemble and accessorize the costume of your dreams. The easiest to make was a ghost costume from an old white sheet. What a treasure an old pair of long pants became when they could be cut up to make pirate pants and the jewerly boxes of moms, aunties, and grandmas were sure to contain the hoop earrings, necklaces, and bangles required by a gypsy. Scarves became sashes, cardboard and foil were fashioned into knives and swords, boxes and old TV antennas morphed into robots and the grown-up females in the family painted eager faces with their eyebrow pencils, eye shadow, and lipsticks. The parade of popular homemade costumes at the time included: princesses, ballerinas, fairies, angels, mummies, Frankenstein, bums, beatniks, clowns, cowboys, cowgirls, Indians, and of course, Zorro!

We also made most of our decorations at home and in school. When the manufactured ones showed up in the stores in mid October they often were not needed. Nowadays, commercial Halloween begins mid July so by the time the actual holiday rolls around everyone is sick of it.

We didn't "Trick or Treat" back then in Detroit, we went "Begging". No one would have ever been so rude as to ring the bell and yell "Trick or Treat". I've have always thought of "Trick or Treat" as an implied threat. "Gimme sum candy or I'll do sumpthin' to you". That's just not nice!

When darkness finally fell on that magic night we'd grab our old pillowcases and run out the door. Large groups of kids would walk together from house to house. The adults never came unless the kids were toddlers. We didn't ring bell or knock on doors. Merry bands of costumed "beggers" would climb the steps at each house, stand on the porch, and call out, "Help the Poor!" When the door opened we opened our pillowcases to recieve the full-sized candy bars and boxes of candy that were given out in those days. And, we always said "thank you" before going on to the next house.

Sometimes we got money - pennies, nickles, dimes, and the occasional quarter. Twenty five cents was a fortune to a kid back then! Comics, candy, movies tickets, and cherry phosphate cokes at the soda fountain were suddenly possible. There was a bar up one long block and a short one over where we went begging every year. The bar owner saved shiney pennies all year and on Halloween he put them in a large glass jar. Every kid was allowed to stick their hand in the jar to get a fistful of those pennies, and back then, we still had penny candy.

When it got colder, our feet got tired of walking, and our bags were too heavy to carry much longer, we went home. It was usually sometime between 8:00 and 9:00 at night. Then came the fun of dumping the pillowcases out and examining our own personal hoard of sweet treasure.

I think that "Begging" was not only fun but taught us as well, that sometimes in life one gives, and sometimes one is in need and receives. That is what I think the ancient Celts may have meant by the custom.

"Help the Poor" was on everyone's lips after Hurricane Katrina but most Americans, known for their short attentions spans, have already forgotton not only Katrina's victims but those of Rita and Wilma. Many hurricane victims will need help for a very long time. We can all "Help the Poor" by refusing to tolerate poverty and the excuses for its existance given by the corporate ruling class in this country. We can also send whatever we can spare to the organizations that are still housing, feeding, and clothing our fellow citizens.

I dedicate this Halloween post filled with Michigan memories and love and hugs as well, to my aunt and uncle whose home in Chokoloskee suffered some damage from Hurricane Wilma but not as much as others. Tonight, they are doing what I was doing after the Cedar Fire two years ago, they are at a community gathering in Everglades City handing out candy to the children who were victims of the disaster. It's Halloween ironic.

As for me,
I'm waiting for the Great Pumpkin with my Blog Dog, Millie.
.....................Kitchen Window Woman...........................


Blogger Pat Kirby said...

The costumes available in stores are pretty cool, but still have an artificial cheep look to them.

I prefer the homemade variety. Seems like just going to the store and picking up a costume takes all the fun out of Halloween.

7:03 AM  
Anonymous auntie said...

Thanks for the dedication and kind thoughts. I have some wonderful memories of taking you "begging", especially when I was too big to put on a costume and get treats. YOU were my Halloween.....an extension of my quickly escaping childhood. Off we would go into the usually cold and sometimes damp Michigan night with your bag which you would share with me, the "big" kid.

Last night there were several groups of children who came up for treats who were not in costume, had no treat bags and were barefoot. I presume the hurricane problems took priority over Halloween this year. But our little community did not cancel the evenings festivities. The mayor BBQed hot dogs over in the city park, kids carved pumpkins and candy was abundant. It was just what we all needed.

7:32 AM  
Blogger Kitchen Window Woman said...

The costumes at the store now are pretty good compared to the cheesy ones back then. I agree that it takes the fun out to buy one.

We used to always have a costume box when my kids were growing up it was filled with old clothes, pieces of home sewn costumes hats, old costume jewelry, hats and props. Many times the kids would just play dress-up to become whatever they wanted to be that day.

2:00 PM  
Blogger Kitchen Window Woman said...

The above message was supposed to be addressed to you...boy am I tired today.

2:01 PM  
Blogger Kitchen Window Woman said...

I remember going "Begging" with you when I was little. The last time, I was already old enough to go out begging on my own but that night my mom went into labor and went to the hospital so you took care of me. She gave birth to a baby sister the next day. I also remember being a witch when I was very little with a black cape and skirt made out of crepe paper, a mask and a hat.

I am glad that the children were able to eat and enjoy themselves last night despite the disaster. Do the kids need shoes?

2:05 PM  
Blogger Unadulterated Underdog said...

I miss the Halloweens of my youth because they always involved a trip to the mall to look at Halloween memorabilia a few day before the holiday. It was always fun to trick-or-treat. In my case, it was mostly trick as I always managed pretty good costumes. Now, at 25, those days seem so ancient now but they are a fond memory I shall carry with me always.

4:11 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Nice post. Brought back lots of halcyon memories of early Halloweens, and Fall evenings in general.

11:48 AM  
Blogger Beatlesnumber9 said...

Oh, I remember those Holloween days. You're going way back, even before people put razor blades and needles in the candy.

I remember my grandparents talking about their good old days, and my parents good old days. Looks like it's our turn.

They really were simpler good old days, weren't they?

12:25 AM  
Blogger Kitchen Window Woman said...

I think that almost everyone has fond memories of Halloween. There was a sense of freedom on that special fall night - a chance to experiment with being something or someone else and getting to go out to "play" at night, too!

I am going "way back" to the time before razors in apples and poisoned candy. Another thing that NEVER happened back then...There was no smashing of pumpkins! I find it so strange that someone would STEAL a carved pumpkin from someone else's porch to destroy it on the sidewalk or in the street! I guess they don't think of the poor little kids who made those pumpkins. It seems such a MEAN thing to do!

Yeah, it is our turn now, to tell stories of the old days.

12:15 PM  
Anonymous auntie said...

No, KWW, the children here do not need shoes....it is more of a "cultural thing" that kids AND parents run about barefoot, even into the little grocery store. It is also not unusual to see trucks with enormous rebel flags flying out behind them. Oh, by the way, everyone here has only good things to say about FEMA. Bush LOVES rednecks! Everything and more are provided.

On Chokoloskee the congregation of the Church Of God were told in no uncertain terms to vote for Bush because he is anointed by God. This is not a sophisticated, well informed or well educated populace in general. It is many pockets like this in our country that got Bush elected.

Nope, no shoes needed, just some education.

1:56 PM  

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