Clippings: Ready for 2nd helping of Halloween

Some of my colleagues here at the Addison Independent often joke that stories from my childhood remind them of something out of the “Our Gang” comedies of the 1930s. Reporter John Flowers refers to me and my old childhood buddy Donnie Andresen as Spanky and Alfalfa (if you are young and don’t recognize those names just YouTube them into your Google machines, or do a tweet or something). Now Spanky isn’t a name I would wish on anyone, but I proudly wear the Spanky badge. He was playful, creative, resourceful and mischievous, and that pretty much describes my childhood with Donnie.
Back in the prehistoric 1960s and ’70s we didn’t have hand-held computer games, 500 channels on television, movies-on-demand or smart phones. Kids had to make their own fun, and we certainly did.
Donnie and I put on magic shows (admission was anywhere from three to 10 cents depending on age), organized carnivals, started a neighborhood Bike and Trike Club (members had to reveal to us their bike lock combinations), and sold lemonade at the end of the block. But in true Spanky and Alfalfa fashion we didn’t just set up a table with a hand-written sign. Donnie’s much older brother was a mechanical genius and he tricked out an old trike so that it had three seats and a trailer hitch to which we attached a fully enclosed, wooden mobile lemonade stand on wheels that he also built. It had a door in the back and a side window that folded down to become a counter from which we sold the lemonade. If we felt especially ambitious we would also sell chocolate bars that we made from a Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory kit we sent away for with eight box tops from Cap’n Crunch cereal.
We were always planning some adventure or cooking up some big plan. One of our best ideas came to us one year at Halloween. It was such a good idea that I am almost reluctant to share it. Parents reading this may want to hide the paper so their kids don’t try to emulate it. My mom was not keen on it, I can say that for sure. Not that it was an overly mischievous idea. It didn’t involve toilet paper or eggs. Nobody was hurt and nobody’s heart was choked with fear.
And let me tell you, when I was a kid, the fun of Halloween usually came with a good dose of fear.
There was, of course, a dark house in the neighborhood with a scary old lady in it. Why we went to her door every year I don’t know, especially since when she finally did respond to our knocks she usually claimed she didn’t know it was Halloween. She would make us wait while she dug around for something in the kitchen. I pictured her coming back with a big kitchen knife, but one year it was just a couple of pennies. Another year it was a banana. A banana. There were five of us.
And stories of dangerous apples and poisoned candy made the thrill of eating treats on Halloween night a little too thrilling. I never knew which Jujube would be my last. One year we knocked on a door, yelled “trick or treat,” and the teenage boy who opened the door said, “First the trick.” Then lit a firecracker and threw it up over our heads. The explosion almost scared me off candy for good.
The Halloween plan Donnie and I dreamed up was nothing like that. It was innocent fun. And simple. On the day after Halloween Donnie and I, dressed in our regular old play clothes, grabbed a couple of pillowcases and walked to the end of our dead-end block and up to Nancy Johnson’s house. We knocked. Mrs. Johnson opened the door and looked at us expectantly. We said, in unison, “Trick or treat for leftovers!” She was caught off guard for a second but then she proceeded to dump all her leftover candy, still sitting in a bowl by the door, into our bags. Donnie and I were shocked. Not so much at Mrs. Johnson’s decision to give us all her leftover candy, but more at our own brilliance!
Much to our surprise, our other neighbors did the same and by the time we hit most of the houses on just our block we had as much candy as we had collected the whole night before. We were pretty proud of ourselves when we dumped our loot out on my kitchen table. Pride was not the first emotion my mom exuded, however, but she got over it.
By the time the local kids read this column, it may be too late for our idea to take hold this year. But if next year kids show up at your door on Nov. 1 looking for leftovers, please be generous and remember to ask them, “Did Spanky send you?”

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