What not to be for Halloween when attempting hijinks with friends

Published 1:12 am Friday, October 30, 2015

BY Pam Stone

I happened to be in the right place at the right time, last week, to help judge a children’s Halloween costume contest that included more than 50 entries. First prize was a generous gift card, so the competition was keen, and for all the rest, much to their dentists’ delight, were tubs of candy to be given away so that everyone went home with something, especially, high blood sugar.

It was very tempting, indeed, to choose the toddler dressed in what looked to be a professionally-sewn Godzilla costume, although I suspect his mother wasn’t appreciative when, at first glance, I supposed aloud it to be a “North Cakkalakki Ditch Dog, generally a Pit-Chow mix?”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

And the little girls, dressed as princesses, were adorable, but I had to cast my vote for ‘Robot Boy,’ who showed great creativity with a homemade costume crafted from cardboard boxes and flexible drainage pipe, garnished with silver tinsel. Honestly, all he would have to do is wave his arms and yell, “Warning, warning, Will Robinson!” and you’d swear the cast of ‘Lost in Space’ would come running.

Robot Boy also lent me a wave of nostalgia that took me back to elementary school in our North Georgia suburb, the day before Halloween, 1972. Ours was a joyfully ‘Charlie Brown’ existence – no adult supervision, really, whatsoever.

Like the cartoon, we neighborhood kids went out in twos or threes or great hordes, graduating from carrying hollow, plastic, Jack-o-Lanterns to carry our booty home, to later, empty pillowcases. By the time we pilfered pillowcases from the linen closet, we were in our early-teens and couldn’t be bothered with a costume.

Three years in a row I smudged charcoal on my face with a battered hat over my stringy, straw-colored hair and went as a ‘hobo.’ Don’t ask me why a ‘hobo,’ nowadays, frankly, referred to as ‘the homeless,’ would have streaks of charcoal on their cheeks and chin, but in those days, for whatever reason, it was considered as essential as the red bandana tied to the end of the stick I carried.

But in 1972, just beginning my 13th year, my best friend, Jennifer, and I, decided we would go as a pair of dice. Sheets of white poster board were purchased and dotted black with poster paint before finally being taped securely together with arm holes cut out on the sides so that when slipped over our heads, although incredibly uncomfortable and viciously chafing our armpits, we really looked like a giant pair of ‘Boxcars.’

In every neighborhood, there’s always one bad element: the boy who wreaks havoc as he leads his nervous disciples to toilet papering a yard or bashing mailboxes, before being packed off to military school by frustrated parents. In our neighborhood, his name was Chuck, and as we all filed down the shoulder of the road, skirted by thick woods on either side, Chuck, announced he had brought along a packet of firecrackers and “it’ll be so cool to throw these under cars, just as they pass us and then run in the woods,” because who could possibly catch a bunch of kids in hundreds of acres of which we knew every trail, every nook and cranny?

Naturally, we all thought this was a tremendous idea although I was roundly told to “Shut up, Stone,” when I warned I had seen on the news that Pintos were blowing up all over the place and if a Pinto drove past, we should probably let it go.

As planned, we lay low in the culvert on either side of the road (although surely a pair of dice could be seen jutting out) and Chuck lit his first firecracker from the tip of his Marlboro, and threw it, like a hand grenade, from the ditch just as the first car drove over it and was well down the street before it finally went off. Realizing his timing was flawed, he lit the second several minutes later, as a Grand Torino approached, held the thing as long as possible, and then flung it in the road a split second before it exploded, directly beneath the car.

The red brake lights, the only illumination in the dark, lit up our astonished faces as the car screeched to a stop and a man leapt out of the driver’s seat, screaming obscenities, and chased us down the street with pre middle-age speed, as one by one, like deer, we plunged into the woods, hurtled down an endless hill, Jennifer’s costume torn away by branches and briars, revealing a black leotard and Jennifer’s surprisingly developing bust, but my own, bright white poster board cube held me captive and I knew, I just knew, as everyone else was far ahead, I would be grabbed, like Scout, trapped in that giant papier-mâché ham in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and killed, or worse, turned over to my father.

It takes great stamina to be a delinquent, and this I didn’t have as, arms stretched out to the side as I ran, I could neither shield my face from low hanging limbs or break my fall each time, which was often, when I tripped over a root or rock and was sent crashing to the damp forest floor.

“What was I thinking? What was I thinking?!!” I thought as my arm was nearly dislocated by a small sapling which flung me around in time to see the other kids disappear into the gloom and our assailant give up the chase and head back to his car, engine still running, in the middle of the road. Sitting down, panting, I rolled around on the ground until my costume finally fell apart and having escaped its confines, back tracked to see if I could retrieve any candy that might be in the general vicinity after dropping my pillowcase God knew where.

All I could find were a couple of candy cigarettes and a packet of dreaded Necco wafers, which, after squinting hard and making sure they weren’t Sweet Tarts, threw back down. I remember enormous relief from not being caught and no fear of being alone, deep in the woods. I knew a trail I could pick up, a little ways away, and the film, ‘Halloween,’ hadn’t yet been produced, so there was no fear of being stalked by Michael Meyers as I made my way home.

When I entered the kitchen, around 9, I could hear my parents watching ‘Mannix’ in the den.

“Did you have a nice time?” asked my mother.

“Where’s the candy?” asked my father, who always took all the Milky Ways.

Not a clue, I thought, relieved. No cops had made the rounds to ask if anyone had a kid dressed up as a die who was trying to blow up cars.

“It was O.K.,” I said, then added, “I left it at Jennifer’s,” and went to my room. Lying sprawled across my bed, pulling thorns out of my hair, I thought, “Next year, a hobo.”

Definitely a hobo.