Halloween was simpler in the old days

by Bob Huber

Editor’s note: Bob Huber’s column, which is usually published on Mondays, is running early this week because of the topic:

When I was a kid, the joy of Halloween ranked second only to Christmas. It was that wonderful night of the year when we could be ghosts, goblins, and other evil things, and at the same time extort candy and tear down our neighbors’ mail boxes.

Of course, in those days costumes weren’t fancy. Wal-Mart hadn’t been invented yet. Our disguises were made of gunny sacks or frayed bed sheets and were worthy of awards only when neighbors couldn’t pick us out of a lineup.

Back then, modern Halloween dangers didn’t exist. Oh sure, there were a few perils, like bullies who mugged us and stole our candy, and college guys who dumped ice water on us from their rooming house windows. But those were petty annoyances.

The bullies were local hoods of Neanderthal ancestry who roamed my hometown on Halloween, shouting, “Hey, kid, lemme see your costume.” When we innocently approached, they reached out like grisly Hollywood monsters and stole our loot.

College guys, meanwhile, played their annual game of “Drown the Little Buggers.” They received varsity sports awards for that activity in those days.

One time when the situation got extreme, I asked my cousin Herman to join us and be our shield against evil doers. Herman was several years older and weighed 300 pounds.
He eagerly agreed, because he liked to thump evil doers. He dressed as an icebox.

So when he was drenched with water at a college rooming house, he stood still a moment, a bemused look on his face, and stared down at his squishy, size 17 tennis shoes. Then he let out a mournful groan and rumbled inside the rooming house to pose questions about this phenomenon.
When he found the answers lacking, he fostered his own little Halloween game — “Bust the Heads of College Wise Guys.”

But Herman eventually grew too large even for his icebox costume, and he lost interest in simple pleasures like thumping tormenters. My friend Smooth Heine and I had to overcome Halloween hazards on our own.

All this took place as I reached my mid-youth crisis, an inspired moment when I told Smooth, “I’m staying home this year. It’s no fun without Herman whacking guys.”

“But this may be our last crack at evil fun,” Smooth said. “Next year we’ll be too busy fantasizing female body parts in junior high school. Besides, I have a plan.”

I knew Smooth spoke the truth about junior high, but I also knew that his best laid plans often sucked weenies. Still, I went along, because old age was creeping upon me, and I wanted to garner a final bag of candy and tear down at least one more mail box.

So on Halloween night when we ran into a gang of older thugs and they asked, “Hey, what you got in the bags?” I tried to run. But Smooth yanked me back by my gunny sack and held out his loot dramatically.

He told the thugs, “Here, take my goodies, but please, don’t force me to reveal where we got the candy bars. It’s a secret.”

“Candy bars?” said the chief hood, a buffalo shaped guy named Gunter Hogmore.

He wasn’t as big as Herman, but he could have fooled me.
Smooth held out a crumpled Baby Ruth candy wrapper and said, “Yeah, a college guy down on 12th Street said he felt bad about throwing water on us last year, and he’s atoning for his sins with candy bars.”

I rolled my eyes and sighed. Everyone knew that the rottenest college guys lived on 12th Street. One of them, a football giant, even liked to stomp kids if they complained.
But I underestimated the greed in Hogmore’s heart. He paused only a moment, then turned and ran toward 12th Street. The last we saw of him and his gang was a blur of fists and elbows as they struggled with each other to reach 12th Street first.

The next day we ditched school to avoid Hogmore. We hid in the Heine barn, giggling and surviving on our Halloween loot. Later we heard that Hogmore, wearing soggy shoes, had sought us for discussion purposes, but he spent the day aimlessly bumping into walls because his eyes were swollen shut.

You guessed it — that college guy who liked to stomp complainers turned out to be my cousin Herman, now a football player for the local school. He prompted Smooth to say, “What goes around as an icebox, sometimes comes around as a refrigerated truck.”

Bob Huber is a retired journalist living in Portales. He can be contacted at 356-3674.