As Halloween comes around every year, I
naturally think about all the fun I had in Newark, dressing up for
school parties and roaming the neighborhood in search of treats.
My earliest recollection of the fun day involves wearing a tiger
suit to school—think it was the first grade maybe—complete
with tail and headgear with pointed ears. I remember zooming through
the Abington Avenue school playground and feeling this neat “twang”
as someone stepped on my tail, neatly separating it from my beloved
costume. Can’t be much of a ferocious tiger running around
all day with your tail in your hand.
After that my costume was pretty much a variation on a common
theme, the down and out man—hobo, beatnik, and pirate. It
was cheap and effective, got the goodies, with no tail to lose or
expensive costume to get ruined. Guts and gore, as it is today and
was to a limited extent back then, was not my speed.
Not too many elaborate Halloween lawn displays back then either.
Today, folks go all out for show. I have seen some streets so mobbed
with traffic and kids coming to view the eerie displays that afterwards
the neighbors who put it all up were forced to move lest their enraged
neighbors make it possible for them to become part of the actual
display next year!
There was the usual mischief as folks have come to expect on Mystery
Night—the night before Halloween. It was pretty tame compared
to today. Some mild soaping of car windows, a thrown egg, and some
doorbell ringing were fairly common. Once in a while a stuffed dummy
may have been thrown in front of a car, or dangled from a tree to
scare an unsuspecting motorist. There were reports of cherry bombs
in mailboxes and garbage cans; as well as flaming bags of dog poop
found on certain front porches (which you most definitely don’t
want to stamp out with your foot!)
I am told that the crème de la crème of payback
reserved for really sully neighbors was a nice choice Idaho potato
rammed up the old muffler pipe. It made such a delicious “Kerblam”
out of the muffler, followed by that Harley Hog sound of the exhaust….Blatta,
Blatta, Blatta. The engine ran for maybe 3-5 seconds before ignition
of the muffler was achieved. I only heard the sound once and it
is unforgettable—from a considerable distance of course.
I understand in Detroit they regularly burn their city every Mischief
Night. Tough town.
Dad had this horrendous gorilla mask that he just loved to wear
on Halloween. He would hide near the house and wait for his special
victims, rowdy teen-agers; and very often on Mischief Night to nip
any suspicious activities in the bud. I have seen that old mask
help launch new land speed records as Dad came loping out of the
alley or from behind a car beating his chest like an enraged gorilla.
One poor kid went off our elevated porch with his feet pumping in
mid-air, hitting the ground running, leaving skid marks--- and I
swear to this day, visible smoke.
My Halloween bag (usually an old pillow case) often contained
some miniature candy bars, candy corn, apples, some pennies and
nickels, Mary Janes, jelly beans, and assorted tooth decay promoting
agents. It was just glorious to simply smell the bag as you walked
along. My neighborhood had lots of 2 and 3 family houses, so pickings
were pretty good. One solid block of houses could easily fill a
Most of the Trick or Treating took place after school. Night visits
were not allowed in our house, except maybe if you went with your
parents to special friends and family homes. Someone always remained
behind to answer the door and make sure the dog didn’t go
bonkers whenever the doorbell rang.
Halloween’s a quaint custom that never seems to go out of
vogue, something I always associate with the falling leaves and
Autumn chill in the air. It takes me back to slate sidewalks, tightly
packed houses, and lots of kids going door-to-door. It’s a
cherished Newark memory that comes visiting this time every year,
reminding me where I came from and the wonderful things that shaped
my childhood. What great fun I had growing up in Newark!