Monday, October 11, 2010

A Halloween Remembered

When I was about 8 or 9 years old, my family spent Halloween at my Aunt and Uncle's house in Indianapolis. I loved visiting with my cousin JC, who was a month younger than I was, and his sister Lois who was grown up and married. Some of my older cousins who lived nearby took my brother (who was 8 years older than I was) out on Halloween. They were going to some haunted house and out driving around.

I was so disappointed I had to stay home, even though JC was there to play with. It just didn't seem fair. Lois saw how unhappy I was and she asked my mother if she could take JC and me trick or treating. I had never gone in my entire life. We always gave to others who knocked on our door in Cincinnati, but my mother was always afraid something would happen to me. It took some convincing but Lois brought my mother around.

Now that I was going, I then was even more desperate. We had not costumes. But leave it to Lois who could always wring sunshine out of any rain cloud. JC actually found two old masks. One was an old man's face and he had something like the Wolfman. Lois found an old blanket and pinned it around my shoulders and found something like it for JC.

Then she and her husband Gene packed us in their old car and took us around the neighborhood. My family lived in a poorer section of town. We stopped in at another cousin's house and then moved farther and farther away. My pillow case that I carried to hold the treats was filling with suckers and all sorts of cheaper hard candies. I loved the assortment.

As the night wore on, Lois and Gene decided to drive us to the "rich people's" houses. These were mainly just plain suburban track homes, but they gave away little chocolate candy bars. This wasn't new to me because we had Milky Ways and Snickers at home a lot. But it was heaven for JC. I even traded my candy bars for his suckers.

The final stop of the night was very special. Gene drove us way out on the edge of town somewhere. He stopped at this big lot with a two story house in the middle of it. It was newish. Lois then turned to me and said, "Now you go up to the door and say Trick or Treat like you've been doing but add this. Say, 'If you don't even have an old biscuit for us, you have to play 'Who Shot Sam.'"

I said, "Who Shot Sam? The country song on the radio."

She was grinning. "Just go say that."

I shrugged. I'd heard that song on the radio a lot. My dad was a big country music fan.

We walked a long way across the lawn to the house and JC knocked on the door. "You say it," he urged.

I shrugged. "I wonder why Lois wants us to do that."

"You never know what Lois is thinking."

So I knocked and this woman came to the door, and I repeated what I was supposed to say. She said, "What?"

I looked at JC and repeated it, but added, "You don't have to do it though."

She leaned back into the house and called her husband who came to the door. She asked me to repeat the message. The man laughed and leaned out the door and yelled at Gene and Lois in the car, laughing all the while and waved them in. But they didn't come.

JC and I looked at each other and started to go back to the car. The man and his wife called us back in and invited us into their home. The woman explained that Lois and Gene were friends of theirs and told us to sit on their couch. The man had escaped to a back room and came out with a guitar. He pulled up an ottoman and sat in front of us and played and sang "Who Shot Sam" for us.

I was awestruck. We'd had an old beat up guitar at home but nobody could play it. My mother sang old murder ballads and gospel songs sometimes. And once I'd heard my dad's uncle and aunt play banjo and fiddle but not sing. I'd never heard anybody play a song that I'd heard on the radio before.

The couple gave us cupcakes and sent us along our way. Back at my aunt's house, JC and I poured out our candy bags and divided up the goodies. I loved the assortment of little pieces of candy and JC was beaming with a load of candy bars. I ate my cupcake with the echoes of guitar and a country voice singing a song just for me.

The next year or two I went trick or treating around our neighborhood. But never ever did I have such a wonderful memory as that very first Halloween begging night.


Lin said...

Lois sounds like a smart older sister with a heart of pure gold. As somoene that never made it out to actually trick or treat until I walked my own children around, I am so glad you have such a good memory.

Well done, Janie.

Mary Andrews said...

Nice.What a great atmospheric recounting.

--Nostalgic Mary Andrews

Pat Dale said...

Nice scene setting, Janie. I can almost taste that cupcake. Reminds me of my childhood, when my folks would take me to certain houses where the people had neat treats. Never figured it out that they knew where NOT to go until I was a parent and had kids who wanted to go trick or treating. Great memories!
Pat Dale

Janie Franz said...

Lin, Mary, and Pat,
Thank you all for stopping by. I hadn't thought about this for a long time. I'm glad I had the opportunity to share it.

There is an interesting postscript to this story. My cousin JC passed away from brain and lung cancer a year ago this summer, quite suddenly.

I still have some great memories of him, including one almost 20 years ago when my children were small. We'd visited JC and his family of two rambunctious little boys and a little girl. My son had bought a wooden gun that shot rubber bands at some tourist stop on our trip. JC was fascinate with it and got into a game of shoot-'em up with the boys. I remember seeing this 40-year-old man chasing these little boys around the outside of his house with this rubber band gun! What a sight!