This page by Jon Kennedy
Halloween in the 1950's, Belsano
October 30 1997
t's appropriate to revisit Belsano on the cusp of Halloween because all my childhood Halloween memories are there. The Belsano school staged a Halloween parade, as many elementary schools still do, with the children walking from the school in costume into the business section (which consisted of two stores at that time). It always seemed strange to be behind a mask, breathing that dry fabric and paste smell, in broad daylight.
My brother and the other kids from Thompson's Corner (our name for our neighborhood, the intersection of Belsano's South Street and Redmill Road, which consisted of five houses) always went Halloweening out to the end of South Street, and when we got older even up and down Main Street. We didn't call it trick or treating at that time, but tricks were common on Halloween. Soaped car and house windows were the most common, but occasionally someone's outhouse would be overturned or a bag of dung would be set afire on someone's front porch. I don't remember TP'ingdraping a house and yard trees or shrubs with toilet paperin those days. Nor was it unheard of to go Halloweening on other evenings the week before Halloween, perhaps because the houses were so scattered that we figured it took more than one night to hit them all. No one seemed to mind, but where I live now in California, it would be unheard of.
Any time the week before Halloween it was also common to go out knick-knacking and throwing corn. Throwing corn on a porch was the mildest form of trick, a benign mess to clean up, maybe a reminder to the household that Halloween was upon us. Throwing it on a window got their attention a little more strongly, but was less of a trick because the corn usually fell in the grass and disappeared. A knick knack was a thread spool with notches cut in the hubs. You taped a piece of string to the spool, wound it up, put a pencil through the spool hole, held that up to a window (preferably of a room occupied by people), and pulled the string. It made a horrendous noise on the window and at that point you ran like lightning to be down the street before the residents caught their breath and ran to their doors. Nowadays knick-knacking would probably be a major cause of homicides!
When we went to a door we didn't say trick or treat! or anything else. The idea was for the householders to take a long look at you and try to guess who you were behind the mask. Presumably, if they could guess who you were they didn't have to treat you, but they always did anyway. This would never work in more urban areas, of course, but in that relatively rural setting we could all put names to hundreds of faces; it would have been considered wierd not to know the name of anyone who lived within two miles of you in any direction.
Another Halloween memory is a Halloween party in the basement of the EUB church. I think I would consider that a terrible sacrilege now, but at the time it seemed like the best thing that had happened at that church. I'm pretty sure my brother Gary, who won the prize for best costume, was 12 that year (it was debated whether he was already too old to dress up for Halloween), so that would have made it 1950. He had somehow acquired the first lifelike rubber mask I had ever seen, and if it wasn't the only one at the party, it was certainly the ugliest. It was of an ugly pirate, and he got into the act behind the mask, something unusual for him as he was always more shy even than I was.
Finally, when I was about 12, I was asked by someone in the schools if I would help raise funds for UNICEF. It was the first time I'd ever heard of that organization and it seemed good, so I agreed, and took a group in costume door to door, but asking for cash contributions to the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund instead of candy treats. I was proud of what we raisedprobably no more than about $12on that my last childhood Halloween. Ted Turner would have been proud.
Click here for a second Halloween page: Halloween in the Valley now.
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