Here’s the trick…

By on October 29, 2014


Andy Fasnacht

Andy Fasnacht

With Halloween and the election both quickly approaching, I couldn’t resist trying to somehow put the two together.
I think for a trick, we won’t spend too much time talking politics here (full election preview on front page), since recent history has taught us that only a fraction of you are interested enough to make your way out to the polls next Tuesday. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly am not endorsing this trend. Readers of this space have seen me beg and plead time and again to get involved in the local elections and not just wait for the presidential races every four years. Sometimes though, it just seems like a futile effort, so the “trick” here is that’s all I’m going to say about the election. Instead, how about we focus on what I think may be more of a “treat”…reminiscing about Halloweens past? If you would prefer politics over nostalgia, I sincerely apologize.
I suppose I first started thinking about this column when I read Rev. Tim Craven’s Minister’s Message a week ago, as he proclaimed how he missed the old days of Halloween when, he said, “people weren’t afraid to put on costumes and believed the worst thing that could happen to you on Halloween was that you would eat too much sugar.” This really struck a chord with me as I recalled writing a similar column many years ago. As irony would have it, I came across this very column while researching “Years Ago,” last week. The piece was written before my first Halloween with little ones in our family. It was exactly 20 years ago &tstr; Morgan had just been born the previous month and my nephew Alex was now a year old and looking fabulous in his first real costume. I was just having a really hard time understanding what was so wrong with putting these cute little kids in costumes and heading out into the fall night to visit relatives who would shower them with tasty treats.
Certainly we were aware of some of the less positive origins of the season, but we had no intention of discussing that or making them part of our celebrations.
Without question, we wanted to try and show our children some of the great fun we had in days gone by.
My first memory of Halloween as a little guy was the “famous” Akron Elementary School parade through town. As a youngster, this was just a huge deal. Can you imagine every kid coming to school dressed up…from kindergarten through sixth grade (the configuration back then)? With two classes per grade level, at perhaps an average of 20 per class, you have to figure with teachers and parent chaperones, there may have been 300 lined up on 11th Street heading toward Main.
Think about how different society was back then. This parade was held in the middle of a weekday and the streets were lined with spectators. Back then, moms and younger siblings at home was more the norm than the exception. What kind of crowds do you suppose they would have if they held it this Thursday around noon?
Correct me if I’m wrong but I seem to recall us marching up 11th from the school past Broad before turning left on to Main Street. Certainly the streets were closed but I know they weren’t nearly as busy back then either. From there, I think we went all the way to the square and turned left onto 9th. Then it was back across Broad, left onto New, then left back on to 11th before returning to school. Now it’s possible I’m telling a bit of a fish story here and perhaps we only went on Main to 10th, which would make a smaller loop back to the school. But the reason I think we went to the square is actually from the one dark memory I have of the event.
One year &tstr; and I’m not sure when, though I am guessing I was older, perhaps fourth or fifth grade, which would have been about 1973-74 &tstr; I missed the whole darn thing. My mom was the best mom I could ask for growing up but she was also a stickler for the rules. If you were sick, you were sick and you stayed home…end of story. I am not sure why I remember this so vividly but I can recall it like it was yesterday (I can already hear her telling me I’m nuts and none of this is true). But mom always knows best and if she kept me home that day, it was for my own good. My intense and vivid memory of this moment in no way indicates any type of lingering resentment. None at all (smiley face).
Somehow I managed to convince her that even in my decrepit state, I would be able to go out on our Main Street front porch in my jammies and view the parade from there. Of course all this ended up doing was making me madder and madder I couldn’t participate. I can close my eyes right now and see the end of that parade going down Main Street toward the square and me feeling bad about missing it. I think I even remember Troy Sheaffer, Johnny Dull or Dave Harnish having a “Planet of the Apes” costume…how’s that for memory? And this is why I think the parade must have gone all the way to 9th. Because our house was (is) located on the short stretch of Main between 11th and 10th, if they had turned on 10th, I don’t think I would have much of a lingering image of the end of the parade. Perhaps I need to consult Akron Chief of Police Tom Zell, who may have been in that very parade, for confirmation.
Unfortunately, as years went on this parade and so many like it faded away. First they changed names &tstr; turning them into “fall parades” before they fell by the wayside completely. It is good to see that some of the local PTAs still organize “trunk or treat” and other similar activities where some of this same fun can still be had. The VFW will also have its annual Jack Frost Parade tonight, which is great.
Of course we also had a grand time trick-or-treating back in those days as well. In addition to going around our Akron neighborhood, my mom took us out to all the relatives in costume and even let me cruise my grandma’s street as well. But again, times were different and it was extremely rare for someone to have their lights turned off. Nowadays, I believe there may be more houses dark than decorated &tstr; or at least with the lights on &tstr;welcoming young visitors.
Ironically, and I could be wrong, it seems that this change has occurred in a time when there is less “tricking” going on out there. When I was a kid, collecting shelled corn for “raiding” was as much a part of Halloween as knowing which houses taped dimes and quarters to the candy. Of course there was also toilet paper, soaping and other relatively harmless acts that all seemed to fade away with time. One may surmise that those “tricks” may have increased as the “treats” declined but that doesn’t appear to be the case at all.
Of course the bottom line of all this to many is really about fun family and friend memories. In addition to the great visits we would take to our relatives, we could always count on a visit from my dressed up dad or grandma by the end of the night each Halloween. Those are wonderful memories and make me smile. It was harmless fun and meant a whole lot to us. We tried our best to carry on these traditions to our kids and hopefully they will as well.
There are no little ones to squeeze into those tiny costumes and take around any longer but we look forward to the day they will bring their own around.
And who knows, maybe someday there will again be an elementary school parade and I will be able to relive that moment on the porch with a completely different emotion &tstr; and no jammies.
Oh, and mom …you can come too.

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