On The Silly Side by Jimmy Del Ponte
This article originally appeared in The Somerville News on October 28, 2009.
(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff or publishers.)
The worst part about trick or treating was trying to fit that flimsy costume over your bulky winter coat if it was cold out – but it didn’t stop us from having a blast. I can’t begin to tell you how much my son’s mask and accessories set me back this year. It’s shameful. My justification was how excited he got when he put on the get-up and wore it to a classmates costume party.
The old Ben Cooper costumes came in that small box with the cellophane covered opening so you could see the mask. The mask was the thinnest possible plastic available at the time. It had the skinny elastic held in place by putting the little metal ends through the holes in the mask. I often ended up breaking the elastic. Sometimes the holes in the mask would split and spread open. Dad would have to make a new hole or tape the hell out of it. I’m pretty sure the wool hat Mom made me wear under the mask helped break the elastics. That combined with the fact that I had a pretty big head to begin with.
Those costumes were okay except for the fact that the masks only covered the front of your face. Your hair, ears, head and neck were exposed. For us kids, those costumes were great. Woolworths and WT Grants were our Halloween Costume headquarters.
I’ll never forget those houses where you would get a handful of loose, unwrapped popcorn dropped into your sack. Sometimes it would be a few pennies scattered over the Milky Ways and Three Musketeers bars.
Here are some of my friend’s recollections of Somerville Halloweens of yesterday:
• Those were the days. There were so many houses to go to, and your parents didn’t have to worry about any houses to stay away from. And the candy bars were BIG. We used to fill up our bags, go home and dump them out, then head out again for more. I had so much candy one year, I still had some left in January.
• The Healey School Parades – all the kids in the school would dress in costumes and walk some of the streets. The kids loved seeing some of the teachers in costumes and all the parents would stand on the sidewalks cheering and taking pictures. Did anyone else carry noisemakers such as metal clickers or spinners?
• It was a tradition to go to Nana & Nonno’s house on Westwood Road so they could give us an apple with a quarter inside! Hey, what can I say, it was the 50’s.
• When it rained we still went out – as “fishermen” with yellow slickers and those wide yellow hats. We finished our small block and then went out to Cedar Street to the triple-deckers. Three times the candy in one house!
• I actually don’t have any memories, but I do know that the late Bobby “Boris” Pickett who wrote and recorded Monster Mash was from Somerville. He grew up watching horror movies at his father’s movie theater and got the idea to imitate Boris Karloff, which inspired him to write Monster Mash.
• My mom dated Bobby “Boris” Pickett when she was younger.
• My favorite Halloween memory was that apartment building on the corner of Park and College next to the library. It was all elderly people and they used to come down into the lobby where they had a table set up. They gave us doughnuts and real apple cider. Sometimes if you had a really good costume-they would ask you to go upstairs to show someone who could not make it down to the lobby – can you image anything like that today? We also used the “go home, dump and run policy” to re-fill our bags. The Woodbridge Inn (formerly on College Ave. where Ciampa manor is now) also gave donuts and cider.
• There was an elderly couple somewhere in our neighborhood (Francesca and College Ave. area). They made the taffy themselves and when they ran out they would apologize and offer you either some homemade cookies or a quarter.
• You guys lived in the rich neighborhood. We only got pennies.
• The old days are alive and well in my neighborhood (Lexington Ave). We have so many trick or treaters we can barely keep up with them. We’ve counted as many as 200! I agree with everyone’s memories above about hitting as many streets as you could and filling pillowcases with candy. We always had homemade costumes, none of these plastic things with a big picture on the front of the box of who you were supposed to be! In my neighborhood, all of the kids visited the drugstore on Summer between Belmont and Lowell (I’ll get back to you with the name I’m drawing a blank). The owner gave out candy, but also took a picture of every group of kids who came in. Then after Halloween, he hung all of the pictures in the store. It was so much fun to go up and look at all of the pictures and find yourself in one of them!
• One grown up trick or treater recalled: “Some of the things we did on Halloween (as kids) could still get us jail time today! Thank God we could run fast in those days!”
• Halloween back then was GREAT! My Dad would dress us up in his clothes. Sometimes we would be hobos and my brother was even a bride one year! We would fill up our pillowcases a few times. We would go to every house and every street we could think of, and when we got to the houses you would have to wait on the sidewalk because there were so many kids packed on the porches. We would go home, where my parents would check and make sure the candy was okay, then my sister and brothers would trade candy! My mother would put the candy in our empty costume boxes write our names on them and we’d have candy for months! I miss those days!
Thanks to all my Somerville friends for sharing their Halloween memories. Now hit the streets, and remember to be careful. There are always those idiots who drive too fast on Halloween. A word to the wise: Slow down. I may have a pocketful of grade A’s!