Halloween in Groveland not like I remember

October 25, 2007 11:00 pm


Guest editorial

Halloween is upon us again, and Groveland is doing its part in the celebration. Each year the merchants and service organizations get together. There's candy for everyone, a bonfire in Mary Laveroni Park, and a firefighter to keep it safe; there are grown-ups shepherding kids, keeping an eye on them as they wander up and down Groveland's main street, Highway 120. There is even a children's parade, first at the school, later repeated in the park. It's a real community event.

I like the way Halloween is celebrated in our community. Adults make the effort to be sure all children (and grown-ups, too) have the opportunity to "dress up" and join the parade, whether they are kindergarteners or seniors in high school — and know the fun of wandering safely along our main street with their friends. "Trick-or treat" is a greeting, not a threat. Mine is a town where people, of all ages, work together because they care about each other.

It wasn't like that back when I was a child in Oregon. The teachers tried to keep the excitement down by completely ignoring the event. No Halloween parties for the classroom in those days! We were expected to pay attention, get our assignments done, and stay cool and calm. School was one thing — Halloween was another and had no place in the classroom.

But when on Halloween we were let loose at the end of the school day, it was as if its tedium had been erased from our little brains, we were ready to make the most of this brief holiday. Some of us wore costumes, but nothing fancy. This was during the "Great Depression" of the 1930's, and no one where we lived would have thought of spending money on such a frivolous purpose as Halloween.

It was enough that the grown-ups gave us "treats." So we relied on the stack of outgrown or outworn clothes tucked away in the attic. We made masks that fooled no one. My parents required me to carry a flashlight, which was really embarrassing — there were no street lights where we lived, and I'd have loved the excitement of tramping around in the dark.

I recall wearing a "Little Orphan Annie" costume devised by mother, and my little brother was dressed like Cowboy Bill (a hero our father invented for our bedtime stories). He even had a whittleld-out "rubber gun" our father made for him. We hoped for a warm evening (in Portland, Ore. in October?) so we wouldn't have to wear sweaters or jackets, and sometimes we were lucky. I should add that we didn't let rain stop us, and sometimes we came home looking pretty soggy, and mom would make us hot cocoa.

We carried our paper bags through the neighborhood, knocking politely at doors, calling "trick or treat" as we held up our bags, and saying "thank you" as we left. Our mother checked our bags (she was a cautious lady) before we were allowed to burrow into them ourselves, and our "loot" was rationed, expected to last several days.

And that was Halloween for us. We stayed in our own neighborhood, used good manners (lest our folks learn from a neighbor that we'd been rude). And on the first day of school afterwards we spent some of our playground time bragging about all the great stuff we got — even if most of it was simply apples or single pieces of bubble gum.

As for the "trick" part of "trick-or-treat," I can remember only one instance when it happened in our neighborhood. It was a rather rural area, and there was a man who kept cows on his property. My husband, who lived around the corner from our house, years later told me the story. "A gang of boys sneaked into our back yard, found the power box on the porch, and pulled the switch. All our lights went out. My dad went out to see whatwas wrong, and stepped smack into a cow-pie just outside the door. He was furious. He roared into the house, grabbed my BB gun, and dashed after the gang. By then they were gone, and he was mighty frustrated."

This was a most unusual happening for our little neighborhood, and when my father found out about it, it was the last time by brother and I were allowed to go trick-or-treating. (My grandmother remarked, "Good thing. Your kids don't need to go begging for their treats.") She was right. We didn't NEED to go "begging," but it sure was fun!

Mary Kelly has lived in Groveland for nearly 30 years. She is a retired elementary school teacher.