Everyone you meet in the greater Tri-town area will sigh, gaze at the leaves and declare: “This is my favorite time of year.” And they are correct — autumn brings crisp fall nights and sunlight streaming through red, orange, golden leaves.
There’s no more pond swimming (for most of us), but there is plenty of apple picking, cider doughnuts and pumpkin pie. Though the dreaded reinstatement of standard time isn’t far away, here comes Halloween to give us a spark of joy.
When I was a child in Lunenburg, you might see “store bought” costumes (purchased from Kings, Sears, Woolworth, Bradlees and Zayre). But many kids made their own. Kimber Cole, formerly of Lunenburg, got creative one year in the 1970s: “I was a laundry basket and got a lot of extra candy for being creative.”
Other folks reminded me that a ghost costume was always popular, since you can wear a warm coat under your sheet.
Fellow Lunenburger Amy Lantry Jue comes from a large family and all the children would pool their candy for the family after trick or treat. By the time her youngest sister was the only kid eligible to trick or treat (Lunenburg set the limit at age 13) the older kids had “grown accustomed to a certain amount of candy in the household to consume after Halloween — and we were determined to that she was going to supply it,” she explained.
Amy and her brother put their sister in a wagon and pulled her from house to house. “We ignored her whining of how tired she was and told her ‘just one more street or house more!,” she said. “We would even carry her up to door when she couldn’t walk anymore.” Despite baby sis’ being told she was “responsible” to provide candy for the entire household, she “was not traumatized, and still enjoys Halloween today!”
Retired Sentinel journalist Andrienne Clark of Fitchburg, grew up in Clermont, New Hampshire in the 1940s. Back then, there was no “trick or treat.” Instead, teenagers would “ring doorbells and then scribble on the windows with a candle, which made a big mess.”
Storekeepers downtown would later spend hours the next day, cleaning wax off their shop windows. Finally, the town “came up with a solution, which was offering ‘treats for tricks,’ so people wouldn’t damage your house.”
Simone Blake, a retired librarian, grew up in Fitchburg and also remembers the prevalence of pranks, versus candy in the 1940s.
“Kids would throw toilet paper on the trees, and smash pumpkins. Once, a group of girls from St. Bernard’s and I were walking up Second Street. I was wearing a nice jacket that got egged. I was furious — the egg didn’t come off, and since my parents didn’t have a lot of money I felt really badly that that happened,” Blake said.
Legendary broadcaster Sherman Whitman, who can be heard on K-Zone notes: “When I was living in Roslindale, I made the front hall look really haunted. I had coolers filled with dry ice, just to get a big cloud down the steps to the sidewalk. I made my face look gruesome with liquid latex and put a blood spot and put a blade through my big bald head. The kids in my neighborhood loved it, but the parents would say ‘you’re not going to that house.’ And the kids would say, “See ya.”
In Uruguay, the English private schools brought in the tradition of Halloween, said Dr. Alejandra Hernandez of Fitchburg.
“It slowly became more commercial,” she explained, and though it is still a holiday for children, adults love the holidays also. “Halloween parties are organized by different bars or dance clubs so it’s an excuse to party.”
As for children? We surveyed some fifth graders at Reingold School.
Oaklyn Rodriguez will be a demon, Lillian Norton will be a “ghost face,” Amira Torres Casey Rice will be a bat, and Juan Cordoba, age 10, has a different costume every year. This year, you’ll see him as a ghost from “Ghostbusters,” and he’d be happy to receive Twizzlers in his bag.
Sally Cragin is an award-winning journalist who lives in Fitchburg. Email email@example.com to receive the “Reveille,” a free, downloadable PDF of area events published weekly.