October 26, 2012 –

Carved Halloween Jack O'Lantern

Halloween:  I wonder if it’s the candy or the make-believe that kids like most. 

My parents moved to San Francisco when I was six and we celebrated Halloween, but it was very different from the costumes and candy of today.


Our family occupied the 3rd floor flat in one of the twin buildings which had sunny bay windows and a very long flight of stairs.  The flats were located on 17th Street just a half block off Mission Street in San Francisco. It was Mission Street, after dark, where my sisters and I, as children, celebrated Halloween at the tail end of a parade.

We didn’t wear our costumes to school.  Nor were there any room-mothers to furnish us with frosted cupcakes covered with orange and black sprinkles and a decorated holiday cup filled with apple cider.  It was just another day without any fanfare, but every kid in the neighborhood could hardly wait for the Mission Street parade. 

With one of our parents (usually moms) we lined the sidewalks as marching bands led by a strutting drum major tossed his baton high into the air, a limited number of police officers and firemen in full uniforms walked behind young dancers and acrobats wearing tutus or leotards; all representing their respective studios.  My sisters and I were downright envious of their glitter, glamor and shine as they danced and cartwheeled up the street.  A few cars advertising local furniture stores drove by while the owners handed out all-day suckers and balloons.  Much to everyone’s delight a group of colorful Gypsies was also a part of the parade.  Their music and dance collected circles of admirers while the parade marked time for the special show.  

The evening was pretty well spent, and we knew the end was in sight when the last school traffic patrol dressed in crisp, white trousers, shirt and kerchief, and topped off with a campaign hat boasting their school colors marched past the lingering observers.  That’s when we who were left fell in behind and became the tail-end of the parade.

One year our grandmother, who was visiting from out of state, joined in the fun.  Her long gray hair – always in a bun – was loose and flowing under her homemade witches’ hat.  “Perfect, Grandma,” we cried.  Mama was just herself in a housedress and coat as we marched up Mission Street finally dispersing after several blocks.  Tired and ready to end the evening with a cup of hot cocoa and buttered toast, we all trudged home in our makeshift costumes.


I would imagine that in Berkeley, where Ken spent his boyhood, it was much the same.  However, boys being boys I’m sure their evening was without mom, dad or grandma and more diversified and exciting than was mine.  Ken often told of what fun it was to pull the trolley cable off the overhead electric wire halting the bus and sending it into entire darkness; or hitching a ride by hanging onto the back bumper while the vehicle towed them on their bikes.  That is until the conductor chased them away with a shaking fist and some well-chosen words.  But then even their antics were probably tame compared to what my father and his fellow farm boys had done to celebrate their Halloween

More mischief than mayhem they gathered from near and far collecting gates along the way.  Somewhere in town they roped the gates together, then rounded up any stray cows placing the reluctant bovines in their make-shift corral to be found, claimed and milked by the owners the next day.  The farmers also collected their missing gates. 

Still dark, and on their way home, after soaping as many windows as they could find, the revelers tipped over a few outhouses as a final touch of tom-foolery.  If a sleepy eyed citizen had need in the middle of the night a prone outhouse could certainly have led to some mayhem.


“And what kind of trick are you going to do for me if I don’t have any treats,” I asked my neighbor’s six-year-old many years ago?  She looked puzzled for a moment then turned a few cartwheels on my lawn.  I clapped my hands and told her she was great.  Little ones didn’t know it was a threat, and that was/is a good thing.

We always did some decorating for witches-and-goblins day.  As Ken drifted into Alzheimer’s though I found that he would get up each morning, notice the pumpkins and my gigantic spider web out front, and dutifully bring it all back into the house. “Why are you bringing everything back inside,” I would ask him?  “Because Halloween is over,” he claimed.  “No,” I told him.  “Not for a while.”  Then I suggested we put it all back — and he did — everyday for a few more weeks. I wanted to continue living our lives in a normal way for as long as possible even if it meant redecorating on a daily basis.


I still decorate a little each year.  I have a few tiny orange and purple lights which I drape over the bushes to highlight my eight-foot ghost created by draping a sheet over a cross bar stuck in my juniper bush.  It looks much like Casper the Friendly Ghost with a head made from a discarded lamp post’s 20” plastic globe.

Last year October 31 was wonderfully warm, a bit of Indian Summer during the day and continuing into the night.  With the weather so warm I decided to sit on the front porch wearing my witch’s hat and greeting each costumed trickster as they came up the walk.


“Hmmmm,” I said to myself.  “What can I do to add to my setting?”  Granddaughter Kristina had received a lift-size tiger as a gift from her boyfriend.  She has long since moved on with her life, but the tiger remains sitting on the bed in our spare bedroom because she doesn’t have room for it where she is living.  Between visits from small ones, I brought out the tiger to sit near me.  Some little ones were eager to come and pet the big cat while others approached with reluctant reservation driven by the power of free candy.


“Weren’t you a little fearful just sitting outside by yourself,” asked Jayne?  “I don’t even do Halloween when I’m alone.  My doors are locked and lights are out.”  I reminded her that it was early, and the street had lots of children with their parents coming and going.  “When the candy is gone I turn off the lights and go inside,” I said.  Remembering how comfortable I have always felt when Ken is home, and even though common sense tells me that my Alzheimer’s husband would be unable to come to my defense for any reason, I still feel his presence knowing that he is here.  “Besides,” I said to Jayne, “My husband is with me, but he’s sleeping.  I am not alone.”

Casper is standing tall in the juniper bush surrounded by little lights.  I hope the weather is warm come next Wednesday so I can sit with Kristina’s tiger and greet the trick and treaters.   Maybe I’ll see if one of them can do a cartwheel.  Happy Halloween.

Originally posted 2012-10-28 04:25:22.



  • Oh –Mable I would love to sit with you –your and tiger on your front stoop– and greet all those trickters and treaters—in the 11 years that I have lived I can count the total on 2 hands– and the count last year 0 — Cara’s youngest –Zoey is dressing as Repunzel (sp?) and found 3 slips ( crenalines sp) for under her full skirted costume—I knew they would come in handy one of these days—55 years later– couldn’t find the “bloomers” tho—- Until 2 years years We use to decorate the yards and one of garages (spook house) and invite the kids friends and family’s and the ward members over— it took days to decorate and prepare — there would be aparade around one of the front yards and prizes for the best costumes for diff. age groups including the grown -ups– friends and and church members would bring a hot or cold plate or a dessert. there was even games set up for the youngsters with prizes to be won– The last one was 2 years ago and I was helping with the finishing touches on the “spooky” house –guests started arriving and I had not yet dressed in a costume——I was putting red paint on some implements and so I poured the red (finger paint) on my hands and hooked my thumbs together and put them around my neck in a chocking fashion—— than I staggered down the driveway and people were clearing a way for and the little ones were hiding behind their parents———

    • aromick says:

      Sounds so fun. You don’t do that any more? Halloween is a holiday where you can make it whatever you want it to be. Sounds like you need to invite the ward again. Do you guys do trunk and treat? Wards around here do it the weekend before Halloween. Park in a semi-circle in the church parking lot and make the car “your home.” They thought it safer for the little ones, but they do both. On Halloween they still go out door to door.

  • Rosa M says:

    Hello Deborah. I thought this would be appropriate to share with you and your readers. Next week (Nov 6 – 8) there will be an number of free presentations entitled “Alzheimer’s Disease: Explored & Explained’ presented by visiting expert Special guest Dr. Laurel Coleman. Again they are free to attend and might be very support & education. This is what Dr. Coleman said she would deliver in this session – that attendees will learn about the about the right time to make the transition from home, will get to hear the latest research on prevention and treatment, find out the ‘why’s’ and ‘how’s’ of advance care planning and get to learn about the changing demographics of Alzheimer’s disease. She will share ways families and physicians can best work together throughout the disease process, and will answer questions from attendees too, such as how dementia differs from the normal aging process. Here are the details, and a link to more info:
    • Oakland: Tuesday, November 6, at 4:00 – 6:00 p.m., at Mercy Retirement & Care Center,
    3431 Foothill Blvd. Please RSVP to 510-228-4725.
    • San Francisco: Wednesday, November 7, at 9:00 – 11:00 a.m., at AlmaVia of San Francisco, One Thomas More Way. Please RSVP to 415-335-4867.
    • San Rafael: Wednesday, November 7, at 4:00 – 6:00 p.m., at AlmaVia of San Rafael,
    515 Northgate Dr. Please RSVP to 415-233-6199.
    • Union City: Thursday, November 8, at 9:00 – 11:00 a.m., at AlmaVia of Union City,
    33883 Alvarado-Niles Rd. Please RSVP to 510-400-7496.

    For more info:

    • aromick says:

      Hi, I’ll add a p.s. on my upcoming blog, Nov. 2, announcing your info, and then on Monday, Nov. 5, I’ll post what you have here.

    • aromick says:

      Hi, Please contact me at I need to know a bit more before I post this on Nov. 5: More background on Dr. Laurel Coleman (expert in what?) and what does &amp mean. Please explain. I would like to help by posting information, but if I don’t get more infor I cannot post.

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