Halloween in the 1940s would be unrecognizable from present day Halloween. Today the holiday is a multi-million—or dare I say billion—dollar industry. Take costumes. Every year party goers and trick-or-treaters get more and more creative, and costumes hit new highs pricewise. Decorations? Jack-o-lanterns. Cobwebs covering bushes. Ghosts hanging from trees. Let’s not forget about the “treat” industry. Candy sales are through the roof and keep dentists busy for at least a year.
In earlier years it became dangerous for children to collect candy from strangers. Churches and other organizations began to have group treats. Trunk or Treat in church parking lots. Haunted houses abound. These are good and keep children safe.
Once upon a time the grownups didn’t get involved. Hark back to the early 1940s when I was an adolescent—still in grammar school. We lived on Foster Street in Lake Charles. There were children living in nearly every house in the neighborhood. Across the street from us were two brothers—Robert and John—three or four years older than me. My mother had no problem sending me off with them to ring doorbells, knock on doors, or scratch on window screens before running away to the next house for more of the same. No treats for us. Just pure unbridled fun.
The last activity—for me, anyway—was our annual trek through the cemetery next to St. Patrick’s hospital, which was located across the street from our house. We ran through the graveyard, being careful not to step on any graves as per my grandmother, and wended our way among the headstones from one end to the other. Someone spotted a grave with a hole in the corner of the cement cover. It was decreed by one of the older ones that we all had to have a look—no exceptions. Not even my seven-year-old self.
It was dark, of course. No streetlights in the graveyard, but someone had a flashlight. I shined it into the hold, peered in—and jumped back. A skull was grinning up at me. I decided it was time for me to call it a night.
Our houses were right by St. Patrick’s so I was a couple of minutes away. The Sherwoods left me at my house and went on to ring more doorbells.
Here’s what I remember about the next morning—All Saints Day. Our next door neighbor’s porch chairs atop the telephone pole in front of their house. Since I don’t know for sure who did it, I’ll not offer my opinion, but I’ll always remember tricking with the Sherwood boys.