In my opinion, the Washington Township neighborhood where I grew up was the best. Originally most of the land belonged to a farm, but in the early 1960’s some of the farmland was sold to a developer. Thankfully, that developer did things right. He did not try to build as many homes as he could on the property but divided the land into one acre lots and sold them to a local builder who then built according to the specifications of the new owners. They were not cookie cutter homes, although a few were similar, a sign of the times I suppose. Some were split entry; some were raised ranches; and others were just plain ranch homes. The beauty of our neighborhood wasthat it was small enough so that we all knew one another but large enough that we were not living on top of each other. Most of the new homeowners were young couples with families, so eventually there were a lot of kids in the neighborhood.
When October finally rolled around in the early to mid-1970’s my best friend and next door neighbor, Colleen, and I could not wait until Halloween. Our moms usually walked on the road as we walked through the yards, allowing us to knock on the doors ourselves. Watching us interact with the neighbors, they had as much fun as we did. There were no streets lights, so we traveled with flashlights which lit the way to the porches illuminated by porch lights and jack-o-lanterns. Very few cars traveled our road because not many people had discovered it served as a great cut-across between two highly traveled routes.
One year, Colleen’s dad, Ron, put on a very scary mask and hid in the trees between my house and our neighbor’s, and as we passed running through the yards, he jumped out scaring us nearly to death. Letting out high pitched screams, we ran for the hills. Ron; Colleen’s mom, Elaine; and my mom laughed until they had stitches in their sides.
As October approached, we could not wait to go to the store to pick out our costumes. They were packaged in a cardboard box with the “outfit” neatly folded under a hard plastic mask with an elastic band attached. You could see the painted mask through the thin cellophane on the top of the box. The costume was made of very light, scratchy material that we put on over our street clothes. Once we were ready, we would meet at one of our houses and with my little sister in tow off we would go.
“Which way do you want to go?” I asked in a muffled voice as my hot breath bounced off of the thin hard plastic, engulfing my face with steam. We had to breathe through our mouths because there were only pin holes for nostrils. Sharp edges surrounded our eyes, and, if we ran too hard or moved the wrong way, all we could see was the dark interior of the masks, obscuring our view of the houses and road. Sometimes it felt as if we were suffocating, and we had to grab the mask and slide it to the top of our heads so we could breathe in the cool, crisp autumn air.
The neighbors had a field day. Even if they knew who we were, they would ask, “Oh my, I have no idea who you are. Look at these adorable girls and/or scary creatures at our door! Do I know you? Are you friends? Do you live on our road?” We would shake our heads with the answers. We could not let our voices be known for they would surely know who we were. Once they guessed correctly, we pulled our masks to the tops of our heads and grabbed a handful of candy from the giant bowl they offered. “Thank you,” we shouted as we skipped down their steps and readjusted our masks.
Certain houses were dreaded. Not because the people weren’t nice, but precisely the opposite. They were so nice, they would invite us in. There we would stand in their warm, toasty living room with our layers of clothes underneath our costume, our silent hot breath building up steam inside of that hard plastic mask. The heat was almost unbearable. Oh please, just give us our candy and let us go, we would think, we are nearly dying here, right here in your living room, all for a couple delicious pieces of candy. Personally, I hoped this near heat-stroke was not for the dreaded popcorn ball—those things were terrible, tasteless and stale. In future years, we would debate on whether it would be worth stopping by Irene’s, she was the worst, because we knew there would be no escaping the invitation. We always went though; we didn’t want to hurt her feelings.
One farmhouse gave me the spookiest feeling. Because the rest of the homes on the road were so modern, the haunted, eerie feeling was palpable at this stately old house. We approached, opening the creaky wooden front gate, and walked along the bricked sidewalk to the looming front door. Their decorations were always perfect and befitting of the old house. They would peek out their entry door’s side lights before slowly opening the door. We could barely see down their long entryway which was illuminated by candlelight. The flickers of light cast a ghostly glow on the strategically placed spooky decorations, while haunting music drifted from the parlor.
It never took us long to go from one side of the road to the other. We always had to stay on the “flat,” our houses were located on the plateau, and we were not allowed to go down the hills on either side. Not because the neighbors there weren’t nice, they were, but the houses were farther apart and we were surrounded by the dark woods.
We went from one side to the other, only visiting fifteen houses total. Once our bags were filled to the brim, Colleen and I said our good-nights and headed for our respective homes. The first thing I did was dump my candy in a pile on the living room carpet. I carefully picked through each piece. I loved the candy cigarettes, the Milky Way bars, Tootsie Rolls, and Necco Wafers. I piled up the ones I did not like, popcorn balls, bags of chips, Little Hugs drinks. I would trade those with my little sister. I don’t think she had much of a say-so in the “trade.” I gave her the ones I did not like and picked ones that I did from her pile. I was definitely the older and bossier sister.
As we grew older my brother and his friends on the road would go “corning.” Corning was when they would get a couple brown paper bags of feed corn from local farmers. They would husk the corn and shuck the kernels into the bags. Then in the dark of night, they would run around the neighborhood throwing the kernels at the windows of the houses. The kernels made a startling sound as they rained onto the glass panes, alarming the unsuspecting homeowners.
Their parents knew this was what they were going to do and there were always only two rules, well maybe three. Number one: Do NOT corn homes where elderly people live. Number two: Do NOT corn a certain farmhouse. Number three: If you get into TROUBLE, don’t ask to be bailed out.
The farmhouse in question was the original farmhouse on the road. The windows of the house were irreplaceable antique wavy panes of glass and the corn would shatter these windows. If they would have corned the farmhouse, there would have been hell to pay. Thankfully, the boys listened.
One particular year, while they were corning, a neighbor, whom we didn’t know very well, came after them. They corned his house and started to run away, but before they were able to make a quick get-away, the neighbor grabbed Kevin by the neck, arm and shoulder. Kevin managed to slip loose of his grip and catch up to the other boys. They had not gone too far when this neighbor turned on a dime, ran into his house and came back out with a hunting rifle! The boys ran across the street and took cover in the cornfield. When they came home they were scared out of their wits. They described how frightened they were and told our parents that the neighbor had shot numerous times up in the air and had grabbed Kevin. It could have been a disaster.
Kevin’s dad confronted the neighbor about his excessive force with Kevin and also about the gun. The boys were instructed to stay away from their house.
That incident curtailed the corning in our neighborhood for a while, and, from that time on, we stayed away from that neighbor’s house. We did not trick or treat at their home nor did we stop by for any reason. They actually lived one house off of the plateau, so they were never really in our “circle” of neighbors anyway. They were never neighborly, and now we were frightened of that neighbor and suspicious of his wife because she lived with him.
A few years later Colleen’s brother, Ryan, and my brother had a bright idea to go “soaping.” Soaping is when you take a bar of soap, particularly a large, hard bar like Safeguard, and run around in the middle of night rubbing the bar on the neighbors’ house and car windows. Now, looking back I know this was a terrible thing to do, but at the time soaping was the next step after corning. I don’t know where they heard that from, or what possessed them to do it, but they must have known it was something they probably shouldn’t be doing, because this time they did not ask permission.
They snuck out in the night, dressed in all dark clothing and proceeded to soap Tom and Sandy’s windows. They were too loud, and ended up getting caught by Tom. He called our parents and Ryan’s. When I awoke the next morning, Jeff and Ryan had already been up the road for hours cleaning and scrubbing their windows. That was the last occurrence of soaping in our neighborhood.
A few years later, Colleen and I decided to join in on their corning fun. Our hands were red and nearly raw from shucking that hard feed corn, but we kept at it until our bags were full. We headed to the other end of the plateau and corned the house of a family that was fairly new to the neighborhood and had two daughters. Louise was in my class when I attended Paulton Elementary School, but after I transferred to Oklahoma Elementary, I did not see her much. Their parents were extremely overprotective and they lived too far down the road to be playmates on a regular basis.
Why we choose to corn their house is beyond me, but we did. Low and behold it wasn’t but a minute or two until the father of the family was standing on his front porch waving a rifle! We ran for the weeds behind their house. Slowly and quietly we inched our way through the tall weeds, like Snoopy when he is trapped behind enemy lines hunting the Red Baron. If you ever watched It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, which we couldn’t wait for each year, then you get the picture.
Cole and I gave up on corning. Toilet papering we decided was the trick to do! It was practically undetectable until morning and so much fun! We took rolls of toilet paper from our parents’ bathroom closets and stashed them into a bag. When darkness fell on the neighborhood, we set off, dressed in total black, of course! Our target was Colleen’s next door neighbor. We toilet papered every tree in their front yard and along their porch railings and between the two columns on either side. We had a ball. After we looked around at our masterpiece, a light bulb came on in our small little minds.
“We better do our houses, too,” one of us stated.
“You’re right! Then they will never think it was us, if our houses were toilet papered, too!”
It was obvious when the sun rose on November 1 who the culprits were! Twelve hours later, cleaning up the damp toilet paper was nowhere near as fun.
When we were too old to participate in the trick or treating fun, Colleen would come over, or vice versa, and we would watch Halloween movies on TV. One particular evening, we were watching Friday the 13th, a very frightening movie. It was easy for us to become alarmed at the slightest noise or shadow because deep woods bordered our houses on both sides of the road and the trees and bushes near our homes were all great places for the bogeyman to hide and wait. We got an absolute thrill out of watching these movies, which increased our anxiety.
Colleen, my sister, Jennifer, and I were deeply engrossed in the movie, when the telephone rang causing us to jump out of our skin. It was my friend, John. I told him I would call him back during the commercial break. I returned to the living room and a few minutes later, out of the corners of our eyes we saw the outline of a figure on the screen of our front door. Screams like you never heard before came out of our mouths! As the screen door slowly opened, a hand jutted into the living room. Suddenly, Ryan’s voice came out of the darkness, “My mom asked me to bring these coupons over,” he said with a smirk on his face.
“You scared us half to death!” we yelled, before we all burst into laughter.
Ryan left, and we returned to our frightening movie. On the next commercial, I ran back the hall to my bedroom to return the call to my friend like I had promised. Jen and Cole came with me—typical teenage girl behavior. John and I spoke for a few minutes but we did not want to miss the movie, so again I told him I would call him back.
After I hung up, we quickly returned to the living room. As a gory scene was about to occur, we watched in disbelief as the sliding door on the closet just inside the entryway of our front door, slowly slide open to the right.
What in the world? Holy shit, how did Jason get into our living room? He is going to kill us! Those were the thoughts going through our collective heads. As we jumped up, we saw a head stick out of the crack in the open door! We sprang up off of the floor, bumping into each other in our haste, trying get out of the house through the back door.
We could not help but sneak a look behind us as we were running and realized it was Ryan again! He was bent over laughing hysterically. We could have killed him! Both times he scared us nearly to death.
Halloweens on our road were full of fun and excitement. Thankfully, all of the neighbors were kindhearted, and most were very tolerant of our teenage tricks.