Lame Adventure 392: Feeling Foolish While Silently Screaming

No argument from me.

No argument from me.

Halloween has never been my thing, but I gave it a shot back in the day when I stood armpit high to an upright meerkat, or if you prefer, when I was short and six. My mother suffered the migraine headache of a lifetime, more specifically one that spanned eleven minutes, deciding how to dress me. My first grade class peers in San Francisco circa 1965, were girls eager to be Cinderella, Snow White, Suzy Homemaker or a ballerina; the more demented ones, all four combined. Mom knew if she forced girly-girl garb on me, my reaction would be on par with starting a holy war. I wanted to be Superman, Zorro or a Beatle, even Ringo. None of these guys rated Mom’s seal of approval.

So hand in hand, Mom and I entered Woolworth’s where we reached a compromise solution: an urban caveman in a dress, Fred Flintstone.
My Fred costume was the cheap Ben Cooper brand made from flame retardant vinyl. It was comprised of a screen printed Fred tie and a smattering of black spots signifying either a pre-historic animal pelt or some scary melanoma. But the pièce de résistance was an allegedly ventilated plastic mask shaped like Fred’s smiling mug. The mask was held in place with a narrow elastic band that hugged the back of the head. Holes were cut in Fred’s eyes and in the vicinity of the nostrils guaranteeing that at precisely thirty-eight seconds of wear alleged ventilation would give way to minor asphyxiation and a face soaked in sweat.

At this juncture I should mention that not only was I short but I was slight in build. Or as my reliably image deflating mother was quick to say to anyone from my father to the butcher:

Mom: She’s forty-two pounds soaking wet!

Mom alternated this observation about my slender physical presence with another dose of confidence implosion.

Mom: She turns sideways and she disappears.

It never occurred to Mom to pad me to look more Fred-like. We just accepted the fact that I resembled Hunger Strike Fred. After completing her role in costuming me, Mom passed the baton to my father. It was Dad’s job to take me out trick or treating. Since most nights it was chilly in the City by the Bay and a damp foggy mist often hung in the air, Mom bundled me in my dark red corduroy coat, a coat that completely hid my costume prompting candy givers to ask:

Candy Giver: And who are you supposed to be?

Even at that tender age, I found it astounding how many people failed to recognize Fred from my mask. I wondered how culturally vapid were these folks? Looking back, this initial glimpse of cluelessness was good preparation for insights about the human race, offering hints that we descended from rocks.

Together, Dad and I trolled our neighborhood. I appeared on doorsteps in exchange for candy that would be inhaled back home by my two salivating older siblings, Dovima and Axel. They had stopped trick or treating years earlier so it was my job to take one for the team. I was grateful that they ate the candy. Born sweet tooth deficient, my snacks of choice were fistfuls of dry Cheerios, lightly buttered rye toast or if I was really lucky, a dish of boiled spinach drizzled with olive oil. My sister, Dovima, who to this day could still easily eat herself sick on milk chocolate if she did not keep both hands in restraints, often said to me:

Dovima: God, you’re weird.

If my mother had issues with my slight stature, Dad, in Mama Rose-style, was quick to stage direct my projection of the phrase, “Trick or treat.”  This was a phrase I tended to mumble in a near inaudible whisper. To this day, I remain soft spoken. My Ethel Merman-esque father is a guy who was born to shout from the rafters, “Sing out Louise!” On that brisk Halloween night, he groused at me.

Dad: What’s the matter with you? Why won’t you shout out ‘trick or treat’ so people can hear you?

As we bickered on an elderly widow’s doorstep, I insisted that was exactly what I was doing, but he disagreed. I knocked feebly on the lady’s door and said the go-to phrase in an anemic whisper. Dad resisted the urge to smash his head against a wall. We stood for a three count outside the lady’s closed door, waiting. Another three count passed. The response was the same, continued silence. Exasperated, Dad bellowed in a demanding 38-year-old male bass baritone that resonated throughout the entire neighborhood and possibly crossed the California state line deep into Nevada:

Dad: Trick or treat goddamn it!

The elderly widow’s porch light shut off. Dad and I were left standing in the dark.

Dad (with renewed calm): Let’s go to another house.

Back on the sidewalk he urged:

Dad: Don’t mention this to your mother.

Me: Deal.

Note: I wrote this post as a contribution to the series Remember the Time, a dumping ground for old school stories co-hosted by Emily at The Waiting, who has been very supportive of Lame Adventures, and Kelly of Are You Finished Yet?

rtt-new

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81 responses to “Lame Adventure 392: Feeling Foolish While Silently Screaming

  1. Trick or treat god damn it! That is AWESOME! What a great story. And the winter coat is the enemy of great Halloween costumes everywhere. It definitely ruined a couple of mine. Thanks for joining the blog hop this week…if only to bring me to your site. I love me a good humor blog!!

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    • Gee thanks, Kelly. Yeah, I kinda thought I should do something about paying it forward to Emily and, of course, you for all the support. Nice to meet you, too!

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      • The blog hop has been great for finding some nice new bloggers to read!…and of course, writing about the good old days. Duh.

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        • There are many excellent bloggers “out there” Kelly that I have yet to read primarily because time is often so tight for me between working full-time and my somewhat active social life. And then there’s house-cleaning and laundry, but fortunately, home cooking is any take-out within a three block radius of my sanctum sanctorum.

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          • I’m totally with you on that. I have two little kids, so I obviously can’t keep my computer company all the time. Lately, the only other posts I’ve been reading are the RTT ones…I haven’t opened my reader in weeks, and I know I’m missing all kinds of good stuff. But we can only do what time allows. And it’s important to actually live and not just read about other people living 🙂

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  2. There are so many things I love about this post. I might even have my son go as “Hunger Strike Fred” for Halloween. But above all, I love “Trick or Treat goddamn it!!”

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  3. This whole post is a great visual! Love it!

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  4. Funny post; it brought back memories of Halloweens past. My mother made our costumes; extremely rare to purchase anything save makeup, and, one time, a wolfman mask for my brother. The best ever was my younger sister, four at the time, as the Nightmare in My Closet monster, a dead-on costume, although Spinal Tap-esque in its relation of inches to feet.

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    • Is this a reference to Spinal Tap’s take on Stonehenge Jeremy? I loved that scene! One year my mother did make my costume. She threw a sheet with two eyeholes over my head and said I was a ghost, but my snark had already started taking hold and I corrected her. I insisted that I was “a spiritual being”. She countered, “No, you’re a jackass wearing a sheet over your head.” Your kid sister’s costume sounds great!

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  5. Considering I like Halloween, I’ve never really been a fan of trick or treating myself, LA. From both sides, I mean… me going trick or treating, or people knocking on my door and ‘doing’ it. I usually pretend I’m out…

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    • That might be a good night for you to keep the porch light off, Tom. I live in an apartment building, so kids seldom visit which is fine with me. What do I have to give them, a bottled water or a beer?

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  6. I always feel sorry for the little kids who have to wear masks at Halloween. I remember falling flat on my mask-covered face one time because I couldn’t see the ground! But I do like Halloween, I think, mainly because my birthday is three days prior. As a kid, all of my birthday parties involved costumes and orange and black birthday cakes. Great post, V!

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  7. My parents never let us buy costumes–I don’t know if it was because they didn’t have a lot of money, or if it was because they wanted us to create our own. It was tough but fun. ONe year, I went as my dad, then the next year I went as Country Mouse.
    those little facts aren’t that interesting, I know.
    One thing I’ve noticed about kids’ costumes in the past few years–they’re dressed up in costumes that their parents think are cool. What 6 year old kid knows who Kip from Napoleon Dynamite is? Or the Knights from “Holy Grail”? NONE DO! Kids these days wanna be Spiderman and other super heroes, not something their dull, attention whore parents want!
    Ok, ok..rant over.

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    • Jules, my mother would never allow me to create my own costume and she didn’t want the hassle of being dragged into doing that herself, either. Hence, off to Woolworth’s we went. I think that most attentive parents dress their small fry in costumes that rate parental seal of approval. I know my opinion did not have much weight with what I wore, but at least my mother was clued in enough to not even try to plant a tiara on my head or a taffeta skirt around my waist. Then, this soft-spoken scamp would have screamed bloody murder. No parent wants to hear that. It sounds like today’s generation are inclined to clad their small fry in snarkier costumes and that may well reflect the times we live in. I am sure there is some five-year-old who is going to be trolling for candy dressed as Kim Kardashian. Feel free to shudder.

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  8. This is awesome!! Such great visuals. I’m not a fan of Halloween either. 😉

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  9. So funny. Oh we used to love Woolworths!

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  10. Wonderfully funny! Thanks for sharing this!

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  11. Do kids’ prefabbed Halloween costumes even come with those sad plastic masks anymore? I remember them too from when I was a kid, and even looking at them back then made me short of breath and sweaty.

    Loved this post and I am so glad you participated this week, V. Your posts are always a tasty treat for me, much like a plate full of garlicky spinach. (I love spinach, so I mean that in the best possibly way. To hell with candy.)

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    • Actually Emily, Ben Cooper bellied up in the early 90s. It does not seem like their competition, Collegeville, is cranking out “flame retarded” (their way of saying “flame retardant”) costumes anymore, either. It appears that the costumes of my heyday are now only found in landfills and on eBay but if you think about it, that’s a variation of the same place.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Considering how supportive you’ve been of both this site and my book, it occurred to me that I should pay it forward a scosh. I remain a fan of garlicky spinach to this day!

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  12. Don’t mention this to your mother. I love that. Don’t ya just love childhood memories? This is a great one!

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    • Thanks TBM! Mom bought her rainbow long ago but Dad’s still kicking. Dovima loved it even though she can’t remember the costume but figures that’s because I escaped wearing it in an hour. Good figuring.

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  13. Snoring Dog Studio

    Hilarious, V! What a great Dad. Yeah, I honestly think those vinyl costumes ought to be banned. However, I’m considering buying one for my mom, who’s the size of a 12 year old, and then going with her this year to fetch some candy. That might be ill-advised, but with a mask, who would know? But you didn’t care about the candy? God, you’re weird. But lovable.

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    • He’s still a great dad (and grand-dad)at 86, and has most of his marbles but now, he’s deaf as a post. So I’m forced to shout. Talking to him on the phone is hell. I write him letters. Yes, letters. Not email. He doesn’t have a computer, but he’s showered my niece, Sweetpea, with Apple products, or as I like to say iEverything. I remain weird, but as for loveable, Shirley, you jest! I am a snarky New Yorker! But I do appreciate the compliment.

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  14. Good to know that you were a generous candy gatherer for your older siblings …. and you know I loved your choice of costumes! … but Zorro would have been cool! … and cheers to your dad’s effort! …. but don’t tell your mother cracked me up.

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  15. At least you had the decency to go trick-or-treating as Fred, not Pebbles or *shudder* Bam Bam.
    I had a similar Wonder Woman costume with a (supposedly) flame retardant plastic mask. Came with a fake gold lasso and everything.

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    • I’d sooner go as Dino than Pebbles or Bam Bam — how I loathed those obnoxious kid characters, Jackie! Looking back, I think flame retardant was a selling point because so many parents smoked during that era. Who wanted to ignite their kid? That was a possibility after quaffing a three martini lunch during those Mad Men days.

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  16. This is fabulous! I had a little anxiety issue yesterday in an antique store looking at old Halloween masks. I had some deja vu and then also thought about how suffocating they were. I have never EVER liked Halloween and I have been a horrible Halloween parent, happily the girls are teens and it’s their problem.

    Also, fyi….in grade school my lunch tray would be overloaded on spinach day because no one else liked it.

    We are MFEO.

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    • Naturally, soul sister Maggie, I had to look up what MFEO means, but I was pretty sure that it wasn’t a variation on AARP. Glad you liked the post and thrilled to know that you’re a fellow appreciator of spinach. And no way would I go near one of those masks today!

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  17. So sorry you had such a horrific experience with Halloween. I really want to know who decides where to place those stupid little holes in a mask for where your eyes should be – not anyone with human proportions! I was lucky as growing up we had 2 full time seamstresses at my parents’ dry cleaning plant. My costumes were marvelous custom made creations and I was miffed if I didn’t win best costume award at school. I figured out the trick – you need a hat to win. (in case you decide to dress up on a competitive basis). Happy Halloween!

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  18. Apparently it did not occur to anyone to put the Fred Flinstone costume on the outside of the coat? Not only would it be visible there, but the coat would have added some much-needed Fredlike padding!

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    • Apparently, this stroke of genius did not occur to any of us, but one of my siblings probably would have laughed at me, I would have pitched a fit and that probably would have instantly killed that clever solution.

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  19. I, too, find it strange no one recognized your Fred Flintstone mask. Sounds like a rocky night, to me. And, god, I wish I didn’t have a sweet tooth. I’m afraid you were one weird Fred–not just in terms of size, either. If only I suffered from that particular brand of weird.

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

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  20. I was on the short side as a kid and managed to go Trick or Treating up until the ripe old age of fifteen. Maybe it was because I looked like I was about nine. My best friend, however, had to stop a few years before I did. We were out one Halloween in our neighborhood and a man came to the door, looked my friend up and down and said, “What do you want—a cigarette?”

    I wore Ben Cooper costumes too when I was little. I think my eyes were too close-set for the masks. It must be what having cataracts is like.

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    • That’s a GREAT story about your friend, that guy and the cigarette!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for sharing it here.

      About those Ben Cooper masks, I don’t know who’s face they were supposed to fit, but they sure didn’t fit mine very well. There was some serious suffering when you had to wear one of those ‘death masks’ because after a while, that’s what one felt like to me. I think I pretty much threw in the towel on trick or treating by age 8 or 9. It was misery for all excluding my siblings.

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  21. V, this was priceless. I love the fact that you were Fred Flintstone. No Wilma costumes? What about Bam-Bam? Your Dad sounds like a hoot and at least you were able to find a costume that didn’t make you look like a hooker. So many costumes for little girls do these days. I’ve never been one for Halloween myself and I don’t even remember what I went as, door to door as a child. The whole thing kind of got spoiled when that thing about people were shoving razor blades and such in apples and candy. My over-protective Dad took that kind of thing seriously.

    And I always felt uncomfortable at Halloween parties as an adult. Ridiculous actually as a grown up dressed up like something. But that’s just me.

    Freaking hilarious as usual.

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    • Good question about Wilma, Brig, but I would have insisted on being Fred. And Bam Bam? Please. I hated when they added those obnoxious smallfry to the show and I wasn’t too wild about Hoppy, Barney’s annoying “hopparoo” pet. Barney overall was quite a deficient animated version of a personal hero, Ed Norton. Looking back, the only characters I genuinely liked on the Flintstones were Fred and at a distant second, the Great Gazoo, who looking back, I now suspect was just a closeted gay alien and claiming that he was banished from his planet because he invented the Doomsday Machine was only half the story. My Dear (now) Old Dad belonged to a club called the Golden Nuggets when I was a kid. I used to wonder if they wore water buffalo hats like Fred and Barney in their club. And I remember the razor blades in apples scare! No one gave out fruit in my neighborhood, but Mom tossed any unwrapped candy in my bag straight into the trash, partly because she was a good mother who didn’t want her kids to get sick and partly because she didn’t want to clean up my puke for I had a tendency to miss the bowl in favor of hitting the floor, wall, bed and more often than not, her.

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  22. These tidbits you share make you all the more endearing! I love Hunger-Strike Fred and the commonality of wearing your coat over your costume so no one ever knows who you are. When I used to trick or treat it would often coincide with the year’s first snowfall. Our plastic masks would also end up steamy and then promptly covered with ice crystals. You’d lose the mask within the first 3-5 houses and end up being a kid with messy hair and a coat on asking for candy.

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    • Oh, Tania, you Canadian kids are made of much tougher stuff than this New York City slicker who originated on the West Coast, that’s for sure! With this post I have found a commonality with so many others about the pitfalls of trick or treating. I am sure that today’s generation of youngsters will one day add to these tales of Halloween snafus. Glad you enjoyed the post.

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  23. “Don’t mention this to your mother …” Ha! Classic. I love it. And I remember Woolworth’s back in the day. We used to visit it all the time. Ahhhhh you crack me up with your Halloween adventure. Yaba Daba Doo.

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    • I thought this post might resonate with you Guat. There were several “don’t tell your mother” moments in my youth. He was the parent with the long fuse with the kids, but she could detonate in a count of two. Fortunately, he took us off her hands on weekends. He was, and still is, a pretty clued in guy. They made a good team.

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  24. I got several good LOLs out of this. Dressing up for Halloween is too easy today. You go buy your alter ego and poof! The most memorable costumes are hand crafted. My 40 yr old daughter still lovingly remembers how I dressed her up like a giant Hershey Kiss with cardboard, aluminum foil, and adding machine tape.

    btw…thanks for stopping by my blog earlier and giving it the ‘Like’.

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    • We didn’t get into hand crafted costumes in my youth, Jim. Hand crafted was another way to say hassle to my mother. I suspect you’re a boomer like me. I think we’re the generation where hand crafting costumes began to skyrocket probably in response to wearing suffocating masks and coat-hidden “flame retardant” polyester getup. That was a great costume you made for your daughter when she was a smallfry! Thanks for visiting!

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  25. My favorite line – hunger strike Fred…..creative

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  26. Ah, those childhood memories of funny-smelling vinyl or polished cotton costumes and allegedly ventilated masks. I loved Halloween then, but given the costume memories and what to wear over or under them, this is probably the reason I hate dressing in costume now.

    BTW, I just softly spoke a shout-out to you in my fresh from the oven blog post: http://salmonsaladandmozart.com/?p=2904, “A Treat for the Senses.” Maybe I should have called it Gingerbread, I don’t know.

    I may have duplicated someone else’s comment here; I haven’t read them yet, but will return and read later.

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    • I can’t say I loved Halloween then, but it was hard to avoid so I went with the program. Dressing in costume is so not my thing and I have avoided it my entire adult life. That said, I did wear a skirt six years ago to my niece’s middle school graduation olny because the ceremony was outdoors in million degree weather, but I didn’t feel like I was wearing a costume. I felt like I was dressed in drag. Hey, thanks for the softly-spoken shout out. I am a fan of gingerbread. It’s one of the few foods I can still digest!

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      • Dressed in drag. That’s funny. I like gingerbread, too, and as soon as the word popped into my mind I was hungry for some. But, then, for me it has to have whipped cream on it, and you know … it goes on; and then I’d have to throw away a perfectly good bathroom scale.

        Thanks for stopping by my site. I’ll have to work on having real baked goods/gingerbread on hand. They’ll probably come up with some app for that.

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  27. I still dress up and I’m almost 58. A couple of years ago I went to a costume party as the Pillsbury Doughboy. The worst part was people poking me in the stomach expecting a giggle. My fee to perform this act was an alcoholic beverage. Needless to say, the yeast was on the rise that night.

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  28. Thanks for the laughs: Hallowe’en had not reached the UK – not in its present corporate form – when I was a girl. I think we did apple-bobbing. So this was an education for me: a treat to read. Though that costume sounds tricky.

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    • Glad you liked the post, Kate. Weren’t you a lucky kid across the pond, to be spared this level of humiliation! Milton recently informed me that his mother made him dress as Fred Flintstone, too. Of course, he was a boy who ached to be Cinderella er Cinderfella.

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  29. There was no such thing when I was growing up, so these stories are such fun to read

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    • Your comment proves the superiority of the UK to the US in this regard, but have you guys quaffed the Kool-Aid? Has trick or treating crossed the pond?

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      • I am South African and my first trickl-or treat experience was 0 years agi, I had just moved in here when two children from the complex came knowcking. Canadians. All I had was one small packet of sweets and an apple.

        We now have small children doing it with their parents before sundown in a few areas.

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  30. I’ve always believed that a child willing to dress as Ringo doesn’t love himself/herself. I kid–Ringo’s actually my second-favorite Beatle.

    I’m sure your dad was probably pretty terrifying when he bellowed. ’65 would have been just before all the urban tumult of the late 60’s really got going. I imagine Halloween in SF would have been VERY different just two or three years later. Trick or Treating in the Haight?

    I get a kick out of the image of a skinny little girl dressed as the Jackie Gleason-based neanderthal. It does seem strange that Zorro got vetoed but Fred was okay.

    We were pretty poor growing up, but my mom HATED those Ben Cooper costumes, and always made cool costumes for me (I was an only child, so she could do that stuff without having to be SuperMom–although she was pretty awesome).

    In 1984, I was Ronald Reagan for Halloween. One lady refused to give me candy. Of course, had I been trick-or-treating in SF, I imagine that a tar & feathering wouldn’t have been all that far-fetched.

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    • Smak, I went Trick or Treating in the very sedate avenues that were less radical than a slice of Wonder bread. If Mom would have allowed me to go as Zorro, she knew me well enough to know I’d want to wear a pencil thin mustache. That was so not going to happen. So, Fred was our compromise solution and she was perfectly fine with prying a buck out of her wallet for that Swanson TV dinner equivalent of a costume. That was daring going as Ronald Reagan. If you were accompanied by Bonzo, then San Francisco would have welcomed you with open arms.

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  31. I never got excited about any candy other than Reese’s PB Cups, so I usually traded off the majority of my candy haul for just a few chocolate/peanut butter goodness.

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    • I used to love Reese’s peanut butter cups when I was kid, Mike! Now, my lactose intolerance is so severe I cannot go near milk chocolate and I’d have to scrutinize the ingredients in the peanut butter to ensure that I can still eat that. Last Friday night, I had some time to kill before meeting a friend to see a play. I popped into a market for an energy bar when I saw some gourmet dark chocolate peanut butter cups. I was very tempted to scarf those, but I stuck with the energy bar that tasted very similar to a hunk of sweetened straw.

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  32. Descended from rocks! Everyday!

    This is the sweetest post!

    R.

    Like

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