Hallowe’en… ehh, whatever #socs

Source: LoveYourGut.com

As I mentioned the other day, I’m not exactly into Hallowe’en, and really never was. You might think that’s strange. I don’t. Nor do I think it’s strange that I’m really not all that into horror movies, or science fiction, or anything dealing with the paranormal. I mean no offense by that. I know a lot of you read and write horror, science fiction, and other stories dealing with the paranormal. It just doesn’t do anything for me.

See, none of that is anywhere near as terrifying to me as putting on a costume and knocking on a stranger’s door. When I was growing up in the 1960’s, I was always hearing stories about kids who received an apple with a razor blade in it, or a popcorn ball laced with LSD. There were places you could take your candy to have it x-rayed to make sure there wasn’t anything meant to cause immediate harm (razor blades, needles, etc.), but there was no way to tell if there was poison or some illegal substance wrapped up in that Mary Jane.

I had the great fortune and great misfortune of learning to read at an early age. One day when we were living with my grandparents, I was sitting looking at a grocery store ad in the Tribune while Walkie, my grandmother, was bustling about the kitchen making breakfast. I looked up and said, “Look, Walkie! Oranges are on sale at the A&P, only three cents each!” Walkie stopped in mid-bustle and said, “Where did you hear that, Johnny?” “It says so right here,” I said, pointing at the picture in the ad. I was three going on four, if I remember correctly.

Anyway, taking this newly-acquired superpower, I read just about everything, including the poison labels on various household cleaning products. I’m pretty sure I asked my father what “harmful or fatal if swallowed” meant. When I found out I could get very sick and die from swallowing the contents of the container, I understood what the skull-and-crossbones meant. And it scared me.


See, life was scary enough. I was scared of plenty of things, even a few strange things: water heaters (especially in the bathroom); EBS tests; public restrooms maintained by the Lien Chemical Company (a successful and no longer existing restroom sanitation service based in the Chicago area, who cleaned most of the restrooms along US Route 66 and, it seemed, the world); fire drills; and a host of other seemingly-innocuous things and occurrences. We had a major solar eclipse on July 20, 1963, and, for weeks prior to it, commercials from the Hadley School for the Blind warned us (probably against their selfish interests) against looking at it, lest we be struck blind as a bat. Those ads, combined with all the warnings in the newspapers and on TV, had me scared to death to even leave the house on what turned out to be a very nice summer afternoon. When I did go out, I stayed on the porch, and when a friend from down the street came over and told me that he and his grandfather had been watching the eclipse through Grandpa’s telescope, I was convinced that he was blind, even though he could see fine.

I look back now, and think I must have been the strangest kid in the world.


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12 thoughts on “Hallowe’en… ehh, whatever #socs

  1. Hi John – gosh that all sounds rather worrying … I’d have been scared and scarred too if I’d known all that. This was an interesting read and take on life that was obviously very relevant to you … and then reading so young. Fascinating … Halloween has ‘crept’ in here! Thankfully it didn’t reach me … cheers Hilary


    1. What reading early did for me was allow me to learn things no one told me about (or didn’t want to tell me about). It also made me more observant when I saw something I had read about. The downside was I understood why things were dangerous. Being young, I saw things that were useful when used with caution as immediate threats that were out to get me. Sounds silly, I know, but I’ve learned it’s not uncommon.


  2. And you were afraid of that bathroom cleaning business because….Oh well, you just sound like a very sensitive kid. They used to warn us about all that stuff with the candy too. My mother would not let us eat anything homemade. But we had a great time and even had a parade with a mechanical dinosaur in the Eureka Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. 🙂


    1. I think there might have been a stranger and a feeling of being trapped that went along with the restroom business (not one of their techs). I just can’t remember, or have blocked it out. I have a copy of their catalog from about the same era (bought it on eBay); from what I can tell, it was a fantastic company.

      My brother has lived in the Bay Area for a number of years, the first ten or so in San Francisco. Not sure what the first neighborhood was (it was on Broderick Street, and I think you could see the bay out one of his windows), then they moved to Presidio Heights.

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  3. One of the reasons I DO like supernatural/paranormal stuff is that it CAN’T really happen. Slasher movies scare me more because they can be real, and I don’t often watch those. But if the movie or book is about a ghost, vampire, etc., I can be entertained and scared without REALLY being scared. If that makes sense.


    1. The things that can’t happen are nowhere near as frightening as the things that could, even if it’s a stretch. Mary and I went to see “Creepshow,” and I was fine until the last segment, which involved E. G. Marshall and cockroaches…


  4. You’re not strange. I don’t like Halloween either. I never really was into it and really started to hate it after a friend and I were accosted by three men in masks one Halloween night as we were bar-hopping. They wouldn’t let us close the door to our car, etc. It was a scary incident and ever since then I really hate masks.
    That’s funny about the eclipse thing though! Funny how things can get in our heads when we’re young…
    Michele at Angels Bark


    1. A person puts on a costume and their whole personality changes, and they think they can get away with doing things they wouldn’t dare as themselves. Glad you came out more or less unscathed.

      I think that eclipse was the first encounter with the surreal I ever had. It was a big deal for the networks, who went wall-to-wall with their coverage of it, the first time I ever saw that happen. The next time was the assassination of President Kennedy just a few months later. That was another thing… I couldn’t get to sleep that night. My father finally said, “Johnny, he’s probably in heaven, watching all this and laughing his ass off.” Then I was able to sleep.


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