It was a week before Halloween and my best friend, Chris, and I were in trick-or-treat planning mode.
We’d mapped our Elmhurst neighborhood, delineating in red ink the route we’d take to haul in the most candy. And there had been deliberations over costumes. Chris was going as his favorite football player, wide receiver Homer Jones of the New York Giants, and I had notions of dressing up as a vampire.
Oh, and there was talk of egging our elementary school.
Elmhurst was a trick-or-treater’s dream in 1969. Houses stood close together, candy-givers were generous, and on the streets there wasn’t a parent in sight. From 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., kids ruled.
And the vague notions I had about dressing up as a vampire? Turns out they were too vague. My idea was to smear holly berries all over a white shirt in a macabre display of bloodletting (for some reason, ketchup hadn’t occurred to me). But when I did, a half-hour before going out, the crushed fruit simply looked like I had been sloppy eating a strawberry jam sandwich. What could I do now?
My mother came to my rescue, steering me into our downstairs half-bathroom. She slid a black wig on my head and broke out her make-up bag. Five minutes later, I looked in the mirror and shrieked. Red lipstick, rouge cheeks, and thick black mascaraed eyelashes had transformed me into the sister I never had.
When I showed up at Chris’s house, his older brother, Jeff, looked at me with raised eyebrows.
“You’re weirding me out,” he said.
Pillow cases in hand, Chris and I hit the streets. Most porch lights were aglow, and people greeted us with smiles and good wishes.
“Oh, here’s a football player,” one woman said. “And a pretty girl.” Chris laughed.
On Sharon Street, a kid in blue jeans and a crisp white T-shirt streaked past us holding a pillow case as plump and weighty as a sack of potatoes.
“That’s Jody,” Chris said. “Is he dressed up as a ghost?”
“I think he’s dressed up as Jody,” I said.
We ran to the next lit porch. Chris coveted Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, while I prized Snickers bars. When a house gave us both, we’d double back and try for seconds.
On Nelson Street, a pack of girls approached, including one I had a crush on. I abruptly made a detour onto Wabun Avenue.
“This isn’t our route,” Chris said, following me under protest, but I insisted. I didn’t want to weird my crush out, too.
When we finally crossed Smith Street and passed the buzzing neon clock at Nocera’s Liquor Store, it was 8:30 p.m. Robert F. Kennedy School loomed a half-block away; it was now or never. From his pillow case, Chris pulled a carton nestling four eggs. Miraculously, none of them had cracked.
A new wing had been added to Kennedy, and the second-floor classrooms had huge plate-glass windows.
“That’s your room, right?” Chris asked, pointing to the last window. It was. I had Miss McAndrew for fourth grade.
We flung our eggs like Little League outfielders throwing home – Splat! Splat-splat! Splat! – and then scurried back down Jastram Street, across Smith Street, and into the safety of darkness.
The next morning, Miss McAndrew noticed egg yolk streaks on our classroom window and wondered aloud who would have done such a thing.
The orange streaks would remain till June, a daily reminder of the night Homer Jones and his wigged accomplice added a trick to their Halloween treats.
And a heartfelt BOO! to you.
My free range was somewhat adjacent to yours: River Avenue and its tributaries from Douglas to the P.C. main gate. My favorite trick: circling back to my own house, joining the next multi-ghoul group, and getting a treat from my unsuspecting mother.
Scotland Yard material all day long.
We may have crossed paths on Eaton Street!
Wow! Another side of John Walsh… rebel with a cause!
Thanks John… thanks for sharing and for the laughs!
It’s sad, but those days are gone!
Great piece, John! Hope all is well, and look forward to seeing you washing those RFK windows someday as penance.
Thanks, Peter. Great to hear from you. Hope all is going well!