I never remember seeing costumes for sale in the stores, such as in the old Masons department store on South Noble or in the dime stores such as Kress, Roses, or Woolworths. Perhaps the costumes were there; but if they were, my mother would have considered their purchase to be frivolous spending. We always dressed in the old standby that all children could put together – hobo costumes.
My three sisters and I would search in our chest of drawers for some patched pants, which were plentiful. Also, we would wear one of my father’s flannel shirts and tie it around our waists. Next, we kids would find a stick to carry on our shoulders, and Mother would help us make a cloth bag to hang off the end of the stick.
When I was young, I never saw an actual hobo, but we girls never thought to point this out to Mother.
The candy back then was different. I’ll never forget how excited I was to find the creamy, cherry-flavored candy lipstick in my paper sack, which is what we used for collecting our candy. I have not found candy lipstick like that since I was about 10 years old. Also in our sacks, we would get Necco wafers, Mary Janes, caramel creams, wax lips, wax bottles full of sweet liquid, candy cigarettes, Zagnuts, and Kits and BB Bats (both guaranteed to pull out a tooth filling).
A few neighbors would also place coins or parched peanuts in our sacks.
Trick-or-treating was safe during my early memories. By the time I grew a little older, we heard the horror stories of razor blades and pins stuck in candy.
On Halloween night, Mother made us sisters hold hands. We went alone up and down our street. I’ll never forget seeing all the other kids, most of them dressed also like hobos or sometimes ghosts. The lucky kids were the ones whose parents had bought them witch hats.
There are other memories I have of fall that are no longer practiced. One of my favorites was when Mother made popcorn balls out of sorghum syrup. She would pat them with butter to make them less sticky, and their sweet-sour flavor was great. I remember, too, that popcorn balls were crispy – unlike others I have bought in stores in recent years.
My best friend Nina and I would rake leaves in rows to create the outline of a house full of rooms. We would pretend we lived in this wall-less house.
In a nearby patch of woods, we children would eat what Mother called “hall apples,” which were no bigger than marbles, and we ate muscadines and crab apples.
Children today have their better costumes and a choice of carnivals to attend. They have fall traditions of their own and different candies. They can’t have more fun, though, than those of us who grew up in a simpler time. Fall is fall, and every generation finds ways to enjoy it.
Email Sherry at firstname.lastname@example.org.