A Lighter View… The Princess, the Hobo and the pillowcase

A Lighter View… The Princess, the Hobo and the pillowcase

By Karen M. Morris, Freelance Writer

When I was a kid, Halloween was magical. It was the only time of the year my parents actually encouraged my sisters and me to consume massive amounts of candy.

Mom took Halloween seriously. Her love for Clark bars was legendary and, on Halloween night, she’d haul us all over town so we could openly beg for them. This was a shameless sight. We looked like a gang of munchkins on drugs. Under the cover of darkness and dressed in camouflage, we’d stumble across people’s yards and knock over their lawn ornaments. We were worse than locusts. Nothing could stop us. By the end of the night, we possessed enough sugar to keep us hyperactive till March.

We had three basic costumes. There was your hobo, your princess and your standard pillowcase. Back then, no one bought costumes. Our outfits came from our parents’ closet. My older sister wore Mom’s poodle skirt, feather boa, and an oversized purse that doubled as a treat bag. With some blue-glow eye shadow and red lipstick, she was the princess. My baby sister wore a pillowcase that dragged along the ground with holes cut out so she could breathe. She was the pillowcase.

I was the hobo. Now that was an exciting costume. Mom would rub handfuls of Brylcreem into my short, curly hair giving me that “I just stuck my head in a tub of butter” look. She believed a good hobo was a well-groomed hobo.

Once my curls were slicked down, Mom took her eyebrow pencil and drew a beard and a una-brow on my face. Then she fit me into a pair of her capris and cinched them up around my armpits with a belt. Over the pants, I wore Grandma’s coat (the one that smelled like menthol rub). And for gritty realism, Mom gave me an authentic hobo cap to wear…a miniature, green, plastic cowboy hat that Dad had won at bingo.

After dressing us, Mom would fire up the Mercury wagon, and we’d hit the streets. When she dropped us off, she’d position the Mercury so the headlights would shine on the houses. And, if there were any dogs around, she’d scare them off by honking the horn. Knowing that Mom and the Mercury were nearby made us feel safe. (Today, the poor woman would be arraigned for neglect.)

When our bags got too heavy, we’d run back to the car for new ones. A good night would net us about four bags apiece. People gave us popcorn balls, homemade fudge, cookies, pennies…Lucky Strikes. Our last stop was the rich neighborhoods where we’d get real candy bars from the store. If they had Clark bars, we’d go back to the same house four or five times.

Dad stayed at home to pass out candy. Dressed as a werewolf, he’d growl at the trick-or-treaters when they rang the bell. (Today, he would be charged as a public menace and join Mom in the pokey.) When we got home, we’d dump our bags on the kitchen table, and Dad would sort the candy into two piles … ours and his. Then we’d gobble down cookies, while Dad smoked Lucky Strikes and Mom counted Clark bars.

Those magical days are gone. Today, kids have costumes that look like they came from Universal Studios. The princess, hobo and pillowcase have been replaced with Chewbacca, Gandalf, and Tinky-Winky. Or if you want to be vogue, you can go as a theme. One year, a kid showed up dressed as the rainforest, so I watered him.

Towns have changed, too. They have official hours for trick-or-treating, and some have even switched the whole day to a more convenient weekend slot. Dogs are still running free, but not the kids. They’re leashed to their parents. And everyone carries a flashlight with enough candle power to film the moon landing.

People have become PC. Houses that are dark are skipped. Houses with questionable political signs are avoided. And strangers’ houses, or people who are considered strange …are definitely passed over. In my neighborhood, nobody qualifies for a visit.

Once a tiny bag of candy has been collected, it’s rushed to the hospital for X-rays and labwork. After the treats are declared “safe,” they’re sorted. Everything not perma-sealed is tossed. In less than five minutes, all the loot is eaten…which, by this time, amounts to a stick of gum and a Starburst Chew.

Last year, we had three trick-or-treaters. One was Tommy’s father from across the street. He said it was too cold for Tommy to come out. The other two were almost 30, wearing “wife-beaters” and sharing a cigarette. They stuck out an empty fast food sack for their treats…so I gave them matches.

But, this Halloween, the magic is back. My boys are dressing up as hobos…or was that Hobbits?

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