The most memorable Halloween I ever had is a compilation of memories from the three years I lived in Waverly, Tennessee. I lived there in the years between the seventh and ninth grades. Besides where I live now, Waverly was the longest period of time I ever lived anywhere. I left grade school and entered high school there with many friends and a comfort level for belonging that I never acquired any other time in my education history, including college.
These Waverly years were my Elvis years. In 1958, Elvis was just beginning to hit it big and sock hops, TV dances, meeting girls at the movie house on Saturdays, and parties that included playing spin the bottle with girls was the “in” thing in those days. I loved this time and whenever I think about school days or think about my Happy Days times, this period is it.
It was a time I first became aware of fast cars and can still recall the sweet sound of a black 1958 Chevy 409 going through the gears heading out of town, with its 4-barrel wide open and sucking in the cool night air. It would be years before I could duplicate that in my own “hot rod.”
It was a classic time, a time of finding yourself, of discovering where you belong, and of losing your innocence. It was a time of my first broken heart, my first rejection, and my first realization that living in a trailer was not exactly what your new girlfriend’s parents wanted in their daughter’s future. I do not know why people always think that the way a person starts out in life is the place they will remain. In truth, that is rare, more often than not such an environment pushes people to do their best in life.
But this was my life at the time, my comfort zone, and I took everything in and remember it most. I once even sneaked back into Waverly late one night while driving to Memphis. It had changed, but there was enough remaining that I could see me riding my bicycle down its Elm canopied Main Street on the way home.
I remembered sneaking down this street on a Halloween night, hopping from tree to tree until I made it up to a red light. Behind me were two fellow mischievous boys carrying water-filled balloons. We hid ourselves from the oncoming cars and waited for them to stop at the light.
Halloween nights are usually warm and that night was no exception. You could hear rock’n roll and girls giggling coming from the open passenger side window just before we released our barrage of water bombs. Then, just gasps from cold water and screams of surprise!
As we ran, we could hear soft core cursing (not the filth you hear today) and someone calling out one of our names! We lay in the grass beside Warren’s house and rolled with laughter for several minutes. But soon, we were brave enough for another car bombing.
As I drove along I saw a familiar porch with its white washed steps and thick concrete block walls and low hanging flower baskets. It was on this porch and all around the yard where a neighborhood lady created the scariest Halloween she could imagine.
I could see myself walking reluctantly up her sidewalk, past the lighted pumpkins, dummies in rocking chairs with strange noises coming from behind them. Fake spider webs draped her hedges, and hung from the eaves of the house. Little orange and red lights flickered and the “Monster Mash” was playing off in some dark corner of the porch.
Just as you made the first step up, the lady, dressed in a very authentic looking witch’s costume, greeted you, and took your hand as she helped you onto the porch. In order to be rewarded with candy, you had to perform a few rituals. “Now, stick your hand into this bucket my sweetie,” she hoarsely instructed. “Feel the eyes?”
The power of suggestion works greatest on young minds and I could actually visualize the wet gooey grapes as actual eyeballs. I would quickly jerk my hand back and await her next command. “Now feel these cat guts!” Warm noodles and spaghetti in the dark can be imagined as most anything gory!
There were other things to feel as you ran the gauntlet to the candy. However, it was the most exciting times ever for a young boy during his Halloween season.
Last, but not the least scary, was her husband who suddenly rose up from one of the rocking chairs and screamed “Boo!” as loudly as he could. After the jumping around and screaming stopped, he held out his huge bucket of candy, or pointed you toward candid apples (in the days before razor blades sliced into our innocence) and popcorn balls. The two spared no expense.
I do not know if they had children or not, but if they did they probably stayed right there the entire evening and joined in the spooky fun. If not, we were their children for a night and they seemed to love each of us. They took time to compliment our costumes and ask our names and pushed us back out into the Halloween night saying, “See ya next year, my sweets!”
Number two in my memories of Halloween was not in Waverly, but in Harriman, Tennessee where I was by then a seventeen year old in heat!
We were past the age we could legally dress up, but we still roamed the neighborhood streets as the little ones trick-or-treated their way around house to house. There must have been about a six of us teenage boys prowling around on “sort of” dates with our best girls, trying to impress them with our stupid antics.
I was with a girl that was wearing a big white fuzzy coat and her “grand Tetons” as we referred to them were teasing me and calling my hand in the dark as we walked. She wore bras that remind me of Madonna’s gold metal sharp pointed stage bras – sharp enough you could stick paper notes down over to keep them from flying away!
Well, that is another story. Do not know how that snuck in here, but memories are strange roving entities that can materialize anywhere they want.
My attempt at impressing the pretty gal came as an opportunity to pound the rear quarter panel of a slow passing car. I banged the side of the car and fell down in the middle of the road holding my leg hollering.
A man stopped and jumped out of the car and flashed his Constable badge in our direction and wanted to know if I was all right. I pretended things were find and walked off into the dark to escape the embarrassment! He finally drove off after telling everyone to stop walking in the middle of the road.
Everyone got a good laugh at me, but hey, I was a bit of a clown then (and now) and liked it when they laughed, for whatever reason.
As I have stated before, I do not personally celebrate Halloween and the reason is mainly because I think the observance has changed from a celebration of life, where families enjoy it together, to one of evil or death. Life should be celebrated not death. If you carve the pumpkin, welcome the neighborhood children accompanied by their parents, and take the time to recognize each child’s creative effort, as a family, then go ahead, have a Happy Halloween.