Column: Story shows you’re never too old for a Halloween prank

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 24, 2002

Back in my era not one of us would have dared on a Halloween visit to have voiced the challenge, &uot;Tricks or treats!&uot; Heaven forbid, telephone calls to our parents would have been instantaneous. No, ours was the more humble, &uot;Tricks for treats.&uot;

No one carried a bag for the treats either. We usually wound up with a nickel or a dime or an apple. Our tricks probably weren’t worth that much. I could come forth with an adequate bit of tap dancing, but people weren’t particularly eager to have me leaving marks on their beautifully polished hardwood floors. So they usually settled for a song.

I had a special song for the holiday. As I recall it went, &uot;Oh it’s awful dark at night/ In the kitchen and the hall/ If you don’t carry a light you can hardly see at all/ So go straight ahead/ And don’t you make a sound/ Cause the goblins will get you if they know you’re ’round.&uot;

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Anyone who heard me render this little seasonal ditty usually had a plank laid aside to protect the floor by the next year so I could do my tap dance.

Celebration of Halloween started early in my life. As soon as I could walk and toddle around the block, my parents accompanied me around the block, letting me carry a jack-a-lantern, sometimes in the shape of a pumpkin, but usually shaped like the head of a black cat.

There’s always a particularly memorable Halloween. When we went home to pumpkin pie and sandwiches, my parents and grandmother talked about the Halloween parties they had gone to when they were children. They got to bob for apples. It still seems unfair to me that in all the parties I attended I never once had the fun of bobbing for apples.

The Halloween my father most clearly remembered sounded perfectly horrid to me, but he never could talk about it without laughing like mad. He had gone to soap the windows of the house of the teenage girl on whom he, a teenage boy, had a terrific crush. He was just well into his soaping when her irritated father bounded through the back door and kicked him off the porch.

Dad said he didn’t mind being kicked off the porch so much, he probably had it coming. What upset him was that he landed in a sitting position on a clump of cacti and when he got home it took his family the rest of the evening to remove the needles.

My most memorable Halloween came so late in my life that I’d practically given up celebrating the day. It was my next to the last quarter at the University and Sinclair Lewis was teaching a writing seminar in which I was enrolled.

It was a large class, but he made a practice of having us over for Sunday night high tea. He was living in a large and stately house in an extremely swanky neighborhood. So it was an interesting experience.

One of these gatherings happened to fall on Halloween. He asked me if I planned to soap any windows. It suddenly struck me that not only had I never bobbed for apples, I’d never soaped a window either. It wasn’t that I felt deprived. Whatever ambitions I had, soaping windows wasn’t one of them.

Lewis, though, was outraged. &uot;What? Never soaped a window on Halloween? That’s downright un-American and must be remedied.&uot;

He stalked into his bathroom and returned carrying a bar of Yardley’s Lavender Soap. Thrusting it into my hands, he snarled, &uot;Take it and go and don’t let us behold your face again until you’ve soaped at least one window.&uot;

I shrugged my shoulders, took the soap and made my exit. It was my intention to simply stroll through the neighborhood and return with the soap.

Lewis was too clever for me. Among the quests that night was a young lieutenant from Army intelligence who was commanded to accompany me to make sure I &uot;followed orders.&uot;

We went to the nearest house, where the owners &045; who looked and acted like British royalty &045; were out viewing their garden. Feeling absolutely ridiculous, I explained that I had come to soap one of their windows.

After their first shock they were most kind, said I could soap as many as I liked. They even asked us in for a drink when I had completed soaping the window with a game of tic-tac-toe, complete with crosses and ciphers.

We thanked them but felt we’d better be going. On the way back to our party the lieutenant asked for the soap, saying that military pay didn’t run to any that luxurious.

I gladly handed it over. After all there was a war on and nothing was too good for our men in uniform. Besides there was a splendid sense of revenge in not returning the expensive soap to a man who sent me out to make a fool of myself.

Love Cruikshank is an Albert Lea resident. Her column appears Thursdays.