The Bums From Palmer Road

Marigrace - San Francisco, Ca. 94122, California
Entered on October 2, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65

I believe in the simplicity of Halloween. I remember Halloween as a kid on Palmer Road in Kendall Park, New Jersey. We made our costumes ourselves and we were all the same thing. A bum. We put charcoal on our faces and wore my father’s old ratty jackets and pants with a torn t-shirt. I don’t remember if we wore belts to keep the pants up because I know he didn’t have that many belts. Maybe we bunched up the pants and tied one of his ties around our young waists.

And out we’d go into our neighborhood, visiting the various and identical three bedroom tract houses with their carports to the side and an equal patch of yard. This was the 1960’s and kids wandered freely, knocking on doors with their innocent, “TRICK OR TREAT”. We carried pillowcases to haul our candy. We cringed when someone gave us something healthy like an apple, but most people didn’t. I guess because there were so many of us; my brother and four sisters, trick or treating together, that I don’t think we ever felt embarrassed that we didn’t have store bought costumes or a mother who sat at a sewing machine to create who we would become on that chilly October night.

My sister, Kathleen always got the most candy. She was relentless when the rest of us got tired. She also had the nerve to go back to the same house twice. It’s not as if any of our neighbors would forget the bum that came to their door. The other kids were princesses, pirates, angels, devils, ghosts, cowboys and at least one superman.

We’d watch the mothers of Palmer Road greet the princesses and pirates at the door before us. Their voice would be high pitched

“Honey, who are you supposed to be?” Excitedly the children would tell the stories of their transformation. When we came up to the door, they didn’t even ask us who were. They just reached into their shopping bags, handed us a Butterfinger or a Baby Ruth and closed the door.

Now, that I think of it, I can’t believe these middle class mothers of two or three children, didn’t have a smile wider than the Jack O’Lantern beneath her feet as she looked at the six charcoal smeared kids before her.