Old Newport News was a great place to celebrate Halloween. I lived in an older, settled neighborhood where many residents were there for generations. Everyone knew everyone else and it made Halloween fun and safe. We had no Scrooge-type neighbors, all maintained a well stocked candy basket for the kids and they laughed at the costumes and tried to guess who was behind each mask. While we hoped to be unrecognized, it usually didn't work since they knew us so well.
Upon arriving home from school, Mom would give us something to eat for she knew we were too excited for a big meal and also had an early neighborhood party to attend. The party was a neighborhood tradition, we would attend it in costume before trick or treating and that meant we had to get ready right away. Big Sis was the make-up artist and on one special year I was going as Dracula. Dressed in black pants and a dark shirt and wrapped in Mom's black full length cold weather cape from her days at Bellevue School of Nursing in New York, it was pinned at the neck so that I could swirl it around as I approached my next victim. The make-up work by my sister is really what made it work. She used an eyebrow pencil and crushed charcoal to contour large eyebrows, mutton chops for sideburns and topped it off with a black French beret. Once the plastic fangs were inser ted into my mouth, I definitely looked the part and was then off to the party where we bobbed for apples, ate snacks and Halloween cookies and played a few party games. At six-thirty sharp, Dad showed up along with a number of other parents and we were off.
Now my dad loved Halloween and any special day for that matter. I think he enjoyed it because as a boy he never had time for fun, always working or studying and he was now living our childhood with us. And what a surprise it was when he came to the door in a ghoul's mask that was quite realistic. He did admit that when he got home earlier, Mom didn't appreciate it when he pushed his face up into the kitchen door window and rattled the knob. When she turned around with a pot full of spaghetti she threw it into the air and it stuck to the walls. It took her some time to get over that one, but she knew something else would come along to take it's place. That was just Dad.
Living in a city neighborhood, you could cover quite a bit of territory fast and get a lot of "loot," meaning a bucket load of sweet tooth killer. When we got home, Mom told us to dump it out in individual piles on the kitchen table so she could inspect it. Then she told us we could put it back in our bags and keep two pieces for tonight, that was the limit. She gave us a cup of cocoa while we enjoyed the sweets, then told us to label our bags and leave them on the table as we went to bed.
Her final words as we headed up the stairs were, "Don't forget to brush your teeth and say your prayers."
In the morning when I came down for breakfast before school, the bags were gone. None of us would dare ask where they were for we knew that she had locked them away. She would ration the treats out on a daily basis, just a habit she had since she was a poor little girl. And you know what, I still had candy after New Year's Day and yet I was allowed just enough to satisfy my sweet tooth but without making me sick.
It was a different time back then. No one was in danger on the streets, no one stole another person's candy and there were no dirty tricks played on the neighbors. The neighborhood was too close knit for that and our parent's maintained responsibility and provided oversight for what we did. It wasn't too many years later when things began to change. I would have never thought about sassing an adult or talking back to a police officer or a teacher, but the moral teachings of yesteryear started to fall by the wayside. I give my thanks to this day for the teachings of my parents in my formative years and the fun we had as a family unit. It went a long way, with the help of God, to keeping me out of trouble. I believe if we'd learn from those times and try and emulate the concept of following rules and having good manners, we could make it much better today. I know it always served me well.