It’s funny, some of the childhood memories we carry around with us.

One of my earliest is of marching in the Halloween parade in downtown Skowhegan when I was around 3.

Back then, a costume might be just a sheet thrown over a kid’s head with holes cut for eyes and hay-baling twine tied around his neck.

Some kids’ parents made them more elaborate costumes such as that of a witch, with a black cape and pointed black hat.

I wore a white plastic ghost mask that got all steamy inside as I marched in the parade.

We traipsed through town and stopped at the Strand Theater, where we watched a scary movie and were showered with Tootsie Rolls, root beer barrels, bubble gum and red hot balls.

Trick-or-treating was another exciting affair.

When we were very little, we stopped at houses in the neighborhood, scared but emboldened by virtue of being in a pack of kids.

Grownups tossed penny candy into our sacks or handed us little paper bags with jagged edges containing popcorn, candy corn or pumpkins. Some gave us apples, which we weren’t thrilled about but accepted graciously. We were always warned to beware of razor blades in apples and pins in candy bars, so we were cautious.

My mother made popcorn balls and candied apples at Halloween and they disappeared quickly from her kitchen because the neighborhood kids knew about the tradition and would come early to scarf them up.

As we grew older, we used pillowcases when we trick-or-treated, as they were strong and could hold a lot more candy. And we traveled farther, sometimes walking more than a mile from our house.

One year, we trekked to the downtown, traversed the bridge over the Kennebec River and then took the swinging bridge from the island to Alder Street and started knocking on doors. One woman asked us where we were from and then proceeded to scold us.

“You kids need to go back across the river,” she said. “You shouldn’t be over here!”

We were mortified, but kept on moving.

We trick-or-treated until we were tired and cold and then headed home, spilling our pillowcases onto the living room floor to inspect our haul and compare notes.

Pretty well sugared up, we somehow managed to sleep.

Halloween week was one of the best of the year because we got to eat candy for days and kids brought their loot to school to share. The only time better than Halloween was Christmas.

When I was in the sixth grade, the school held a contest and some of us got to paint Halloween murals on storefront windows downtown. My friend Susie and I painted a scary scene on a large window, complete with haunted house, graveyard, a ghost and a witch flying past the moon.

We won third place and got $5 gift certificates to the drugstore. That was a lot of money in the ’60s.

When my friends and I were in junior high and really too old to trick-or-treat, we went anyway, and as the younger, smaller kids approached houses, we scooched down behind them so as not to reveal our ages. Thereafter, we attended parties on Halloween or just stayed home.

On Thursday, as munchkins and goblins troll the streets and rap on doors, beware.

And no matter your age, remember this: The boogeyman will get you if you don’t watch out.


Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 31 years. Her columns appear here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to

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