The best night of the year

ZZ Laurel and Hardy

Bob Hamill and Phillip Jones as Laurel and Hardy/photo by Bob Hamill.

By Bob Hamill

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays of the year. I remember in years past my siblings and I would start to get ready for best night ever as soon as we were out of school. Most of our costumes were made out of an old steamer trunk in the basement where we found magical garments and wonderful things. I don’t know where that trunk came from but each year it seemed to get bigger and be filled with better stuff.

While having a store bought outfit was financially out of the question, I do recall my mom gearing up for this night by making costumes for us just so she could rid herself of her own nine screaming monsters only to be replaced by a steady stream of other’s monsters begging for the same candy we just dropped off minutes before.

There was never an official starting time but we wanted to make the most of each precious minute. Before leaving the house, all chores had to be finished and they had to be done right. If not, we would be detained another ten minutes for each infraction.

Mom wasn’t going to send her pirates and spacemen out with an empty stomach. Every Halloween night would be the same menu: tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Talk about comfort food! We fought for the burnt cheese that seeped out of the sandwich. Dishes were done in record time. Being dressed like a princess didn’t get you out of chores.

Checklist: Costume not too lose. Make sure you can see. Get the biggest pillowcase you can find. No need for flashlights as we don’t want them to weigh us down. Drivers are extra careful this night. “Ready, set, go!” And we were off.

There was a strategy for a successful Trick or Treat. First we went out as far as we were allowed to venture and worked our way back. When the pillowcase was full, we’d rush home and dump the goodies on the table and get back out again as fast as we could. My mother invented the dump idea. She thought if there was something she didn’t want us to have she would give it to someone else. Our neighborhood had to be best for Trick or Treaters because in Philadelphia there’s a lot of row homes. If you don’t know what row homes are, go rent “Rocky.” For us it meant less time and distance between houses and getting a lot of loot.

We went out in teams of three and looked out for each other. Almost all the lights on the neighbor’s porches were lit. Even the store owners along Torresdale Avenue would give something. The bank had a large pickle jar filled with pennies, nickels, dimes and an occasional quarter. We could stick our hand in once and that was it, no second chances. The bakery had fresh brownies. On a good night we would have three large brown bags half filled with no problems.

Then one year it was reported that there were razor blades, drugs, bugs and other unimaginable crimes against children. Now there are Halloween parties and gatherings put on by churches and community centers. Yes, it’s fun but the kids of today will never share our experiences of yesterday.

My best friend, Phillip Jones, and I are getting in the Halloween spirit again this year by continuing a five year tradition of celebrating as Laurel and Hardy. Phillip was recently the Grand Marshall of the Stan Laurel Festival in Ulverston, England and the Oliver Hardy Birthday Party in Harlem, Ga.

On Thursday, October 30 and Saturday, October 31 we will be posing for pictures with guests at the Blackwoods Morning Variety Show located in the Smoky Mountain Opry, starting at 9:15 a.m. Look for us at The Island Friday, October 31 somewhere around 9:00 p.m. If you see us please snap a photo and say hello. Have a fun Halloween!

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