Trick-or-treat: should Halloween be "moved" so it's always on a Saturday?

J. H. Osborne • Nov 4, 2018 at 11:30 AM

I was baffled a few days ago to learn there’s a national effort to petition to “move” Halloween to the last Saturday of October rather than October 31. Halloween, I explained carefully to a pro-move friend, is connected to the next day, which many Christians celebrate as All Saints’ Day.  “Halloween” came from “All Hallows’ (Saints’) Eve.”

I quickly realized the “move Halloween” hopeful are focused on “trick-or-treating.” I don’t have a problem with that, but think it should be a local decision not a national mandate. If state or local governments — or even neighborhoods — want to issue an edict that trick-or-treating will be held on the last Saturday, or whenever, so be it. I doubt I’ll be trick-or-treating anyway.

When I was a child growing up in Borden Village, everyone got dressed in a costume and went around the neighborhood at dusk on Halloween. Even if it was a school night. It wasn’t unusual to see cars dropping kids off at one end of a neighborhood and picking them up at the other. And a lot of kids didn’t stick to just their own neighborhood.

In recent years I’ve seen the growing trend of “trunk-or-treat” events organized and hosted by churches, community groups and local law enforcement. Looking over a list of Halloween events on the Times News website last week, it seemed there was at least one such event nightly for the better part of a week. Meanwhile I have family and friends who sat at home Halloween night with large-scale candy purchases and few, if any, little goblins coming to their doors.

But that’s wasn’t true everywhere. A friend in Fairacres kept count of the trick-or-treaters who visited her door on Halloween: 1,005. That didn’t surprise another friend, Vicki Cooper Trammell. Vicki, another child of “The Village,” told me she had often trick-or-treated in Fairacres with school friends who lived there. Me, I stuck to my turf, where I mostly knew whose porch I was approaching. Down Sullivan to Birch, up the right side of Birch, right on Chestnut to Ross, turn around and work Chestnut back to Birch. Repeat for Pine (all the way to Lamont), Willow, East Sevier (1200 and 1300 blocks) then around Lamont back to Sullivan. Somewhere in there we’d hit “the circle,” which is Federal Street. I was usually accompanied by a friend or two around my own age. We rarely had store-bought costumes. If adults didn’t accompany us, older siblings or cousins were told to look over us.

Vicki and I were rehashing this at our main nod to Halloween in recent years: watching “Hocus Pocus” with a select group of friends. This year our group was smaller than normal and we met up at Angellette Lambert Richardson’s home. We all brought snacks and beverages but we should have left them in the car. Angellette does not skimp on party food. So, halfway through a pile of shrimp cocktail I asked if anyone had a favorite costume when they were kid. We all realized we’d mostly made-do with homemade. Vicki and her sister Donna remembered how creative their mother Jo Ann was with turning nothing into something — a craft she’d utilized at Halloween but had perfected as the sisters competed in pageants from here to places long forgotten.

One year Jo Ann strapped her green gel eye mask on Vicki and wrapped her head in aluminum foil. Vicki thinks she was a Martian. Angellette said she was “Jiffy Pop.” At about the same moment we each said “I remember being a hobo.” Not just me, Vicki, Donna and Angellette, but Cathy Boyd Nance, too. I confessed that one year my mother had the lady who sewed for her (she always had one) make me a perfectly adorable bunny rabbit costume, complete with a head that snapped closed under my chin and a bright pink yarn pompon for a tail.It was the last costume I remember  until I was old enough to go to nightclubs on Halloween. 

And then I brought up two of my biggest childhood fears: “Cape Man” of Borden Park; and the “(fill in the blank) boys.” No matter which year you picked from my childhood, and not just at Halloween, there was always, always a “(blank) boys” band of brothers that you knew in your heart you had to avoid and run from and not look back. The particular name changed. But it was always brothers in a group.They had firecrackers or worse. They would steal your candy. Or worse. They might blow it up! The most apocryphal tale told was this: so-and-so’s little brother/sister/cousin was standing at a corner waiting to cross with a paper bag full of candy when the “(blank) boys” sauntered past and, unnoticed, dropped a lighted cherry bomb into the bag. The explosion caused chaos and brother/sister/cousin peed his/her self.

As for “Cape Man,” Cathy said he was real. As an adult I had long suspected he was a made-up boogeyman created by Martin Boyd. Martin was seven or eight years older than me, but his younger brother Micheal and I were close enough in age to play and some years to go trick-or-treating together. Their grandparents Lucille and Chester “Chet” Lemons lived next door. Martin introduced me to classic horror movies by allowing me to watch “Shock Theater” with him on Saturday afternoons: vampires, werewolves, aliens, mad scientists and monsters. I believed everything Martin said. So when he said watch out for Cape Man, I did.

The scariest thing we did during our “Hocus Pocus” party was sing “Happy Birthday” to Angellette’s husband Max, who’d turned 65 the day before and just stepped in to tell us all “hey” as he got home from a hunting trip.

As for my rabbit costume, my co-worker Rick Wagner one-upped me: as a Cub Scout he was invited to a Halloween party at a Baptist Church down in Surgoinsville. And his mother painstakingly sewed him a costume. A little red devil costume. He says he can still remember trying to reason with his mother that he couldn’t go to church dressed like the devil.

I’d like to have some feedback on what y’all think about “moving” Halloween. Please email me or leave a comment online. Same goes for my choice of spelling on “pompon.”


Kingsport Times News Videos