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October 29, 2013

Bonfires and Scaring the Witches

Harry M. Covert

This is not a fairy tale; but once upon a time children enjoyed All Hallows Eve, running up and down neighborhoods and downtowns dressed in costumes depicting all kinds of gremlins, goblins, ghosts, angels and imps.


Mostly the boys and girls did not need chaperoning by their mommas and poppas and anxiously knocked on doors where happy residents filled pillow cases with all sorts of homemade candies, popcorn, brownies and caramel apples on a stick.


Nowadays, the "holy evening" is limited to packaged goods and parents accompanying the merry-makers to avoid the possibility of some "evil" citizen spoiling the night.


Another calming site will be Frederick city and county law enforcers in uniforms and not costumes. Note to celebrants: no dressing up as cops and no toy pistols.


All Hallows Eve celebration week has been under way in all the stores and culminates Thursday. This gives all a time for smiles and fun, with candies for snacks. Those charged with caring for healthy teeth and gums will be drowned out for a few hours.


Recollections bring to mind happy times of dressing up as hobos, and white sheets among others, bobbing for apples, no bobbing for French fries as one gagster wrote and harmless games like spin the bottle. Does the latter need explanation?


One creative grammar school boy in a maritime city not far from Frederick ran up and down the streets, dressed in a sailor suit. He walked boldly into every restaurant and yelled "Happy Halloween, y'all. Dime or Damage."


The would-be "tar" did well. He filled up a cloth bag with all sorts of dimes and other coins. The donors thought he was cute, had another beer and contributed to the bag when the "treater" happened to return later, obviously long past his bed time.


Showing off his treasure to schoolmates the next morning, All Saints Day, up came Mr. Baines, the principal. He was not laughing. He took the "collector" to his office thinking the money bag had been stolen, explained this was not an example of good citizenship. He didn't call the police.


After some stern talking, the principal held the bag. When the last school bell of the day rang, he returned the coins, satisfied no theft was involved. The enterprising student went on to greater heights and became a distinguished banker. He helped develop Christmas Club savings accounts.


It's doubtful there will be many bonfires around this Thursday. Maybe there should be. The fires in Merry Olde England were used to "scare witches" awaiting punishment in h-e–double-l."


Most good people have succumbed to the idea of giving out treats. One for each "trickster" and then one for themselves.


Pumpkins as porch decorations are delightful, carved jack-o-lanterns. Frankly they could ward off some unpleasant modern day ghosts, goblins and devils. Many neighborhood trees are decorated with pumpkins. Sure helps the growers and other fund-raisers.


There is hope these efforts could put some "fear" in the hearts and minds of political leaders on all levels. The tricks and treats foisted on everyone seem to have become "dime or damage" and the taxpayers are always holding the bag and facing the ills.


Halloween is the perfect time to rest and relax, ignore all of the unhappy goings-on around and prepare for the days of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Popular hot toddies can include hot root beer with orange slice.


Don’t forget, the day after Halloween? It's All Saints Day.


There is a lot to be happy about.


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