Thursday, February 25, 2010

Back to the Beginning - Halloween

I love Halloween! I know, it's very early yet in the year, but as I look at all the great Halloween art that's out there, especially stuff like retro postcards, it just reminds me of what made Halloween my favorite time of year as a child, and also some of the very special friends I had that couldn't help but contribute to my love of that very sacred night! I'd like to share some of those special memories with you, and maybe some of mine will bring back fond memories for you as well.

I grew up in Studio City, CA., a tiny suburb of Los Angeles, nestled in the San Fernando Valley. Down the end of the street from my family home is CBS Studios where a ton of the shows of those days were filmed, including The Munsters. I'd often see "Grandpa" Al Lewis walking home from the studio down Woodbridge Avenue - in make-up! Then just a block over lived Yvonne DeCarlo. How cool is that - Lily Munster! Her son, Michael Morgan, went to school with me at Dixie Canyon Elementary. I used to go over his house a lot as a child before I put 2+2 together who his mom was. How I found that out was one day I was waiting for my dad to pick me up from school, and I looked behind me and caught sight of a lady floating down the hallway wearing a shredded, tattered gossamer gown. She had pale white-green skin, and black and white striped hair. Of course I knew it was "Lily" in all her glory! A few minutes later, she comes walking along with my pal Michael in tow. Then I made the connection - mom! I mean, of course he told me his mom was Yvonne DeCarlo, but a 7 year old doesn't know "Lily's" real name. That was very cool making that discovery let me tell you! I mean who wouldn't want Lily Munster as your mom!?

Another of my childhood friends was Lisa Loring, who portrayed "Wednesday" on the Addams Family. She also went to Dixie Canyon. We were rivals for the same boyfriend, Toby. She could be a bit snotty at times, but mostly she was just a normal kid. I remember an outfit she wore once at school - in fact I'll never forget it, it was so "different". It was a clear heavy plastic see-through jumper trimmed with black binding that was worn over a red fabric under-dress. Quite bizarre. Leave it to her! Must have been a studio thing.

Also in this neighborhood is Universal Studios, and not too far off is NBC. Gee, guess that's why they call it Studio City! Lots of families who lived in this neck of the woods worked for one of the studios. Karen's dad worked for NBC, and my oldest brother was a sound man for CBS. Then he went on to produce and direct, and by the way, made Elvis' last movie - Elvis on Tour. Anyway, enough name-dropping.

My best friends: Rhonda and Karen lived right around the block from me. Rhonda's dad was a rabbi, and her mom stayed home when she wasn't helping at the temple. Karen's mom was also a stay-at-home (she scared me as a kid), and her dad worked for NBC as I mentioned. Rhonda had a pesky sister, and Karen had about 10! I'd go over most everyday and we'd ride bikes, play frisbee, Capture the Flag, or some Halloween board game like "Kabala" - the glow-in-the-dark fortune telling game. We'd sequester ourselves in the hallway and shut all the doors leading to it, so it'd be pitch black! Then we'd all sit around the glowing green plastic board asking the spinning ball questions about our future and have a screaming blast!!! On Saturday's, we'd sit around and watch "Chiller", or "Seymour" - scary movies on TV. Watch out for the Crawling Eye!!! Both Karen's family and mine had swimming pools so we'd alternate whose house we'd swim at in summer. I also was president of the now defunct "Born to be Wild" fan club! A sign of my future no doubt. Sometimes we'd sit on the curb in front of Nick Adams house waiting for him to come out. We didn't know who exactly he was, all we knew is that he was a movie star and played in "The Rebel". He lived about 5 houses from Rhonda. We never did see him come out. Later on I learned he died when I was about 11.

Yep Halloween was our favorite time of year. From my earliest recollections, I loved drawing and painting anything to do with pumpkins, witches or black cats. My first day of kindergarten, I remember out in our play yard, the wooden easels were set up with milk cartons full of orange, green, yellow and black paint. And huge sheets of paper hung off the easels with "stick figure pumpkins" on them. Oh how I loved them! I can still see them clearly. Can you?

I'd go to the library, another block away from my house, and check out every book on the subject of Halloween. Some were factual, just about the holiday and how it came to be, and some were fiction. My favorite was a book called "Spook". It was about a witch who was allergic to cats, but she had to have a familiar so she stole a little black dog named Spook. Really adorable.

Then there's the Halloween seasonal candy that came out about a month before. Remember the wax stuff? Lips, fangs, fingers, harmonicas, skeletons, mustaches, clown smiles with teeth? Or how about the tubes or skull heads filled with that colorful liquid of unknown origin that tasted like cheap Kool-aid? We had a store - another block away from our homes (we were centrally located weren't we!?), called Ringside Liquor. In California, you can buy liquor from a non-state run liquor store (unlike here in Washington). Anyway, we'd ride our Stingrays over to Ringside almost everyday for the season's best selection of WAX! And we'd load up too - sacks full of the nasty stuff. Then we'd start chomping and spitting. I don't know why they called it "gum" either. The stuff never stuck together! Sometimes it'd be all particle-like and so we'd spit that batch right out. Sometimes it'd bond together and we kept on chewing it then. So from the liquor store back to Rhonda's house, which was about 4 blocks, you'd see a trail of wax stuck to the aspalt in various shades of Halloween colors, or empty tubes of what had been liquid filled candy. Yeah, we littered back then. We were brats, what can I say.

There was also the Helm's Bakery truck. Remember those? He'd drive down the streets in our neighborhood blowing his whistle out of the panel trucks they drove back then. During Halloween season, he had donuts with orange and black sprinkles - our favorite!

We'd also ride our bikes up to the Sav-on Drug Store on Ventura Blvd. Now more movie trivia here - this area was featured in that 1980's classic movie, "Earthquake". Remember that? That whole area in Studio City was leveled in the movie. The bridge that kid was riding his bike on that went across the wash, or the L.A. Basin as it's really called, fell down too. I used to ride my bike across that everyday almost en route to somewhere. Scary to see it all collapse in a movie! Anyway, we'd go to Sav-on's to check out the Halloween costume aisle. We'd spend hours perusing the costumes, wigs, and assorted accessories.

Then when THE day finally arrived, and god forbid you were sick and couldn't go out Trick or Treating, we'd meet up; me, Rhonda, Karen and their pesky siblings, and traipse around the neighborhood. I'd always be wearing a chef uniform cause my dad was a chef. An easy costume for my mom to dress me in. We graduated from plastic pails to collect our candy in, to pillowcases, when we saw all the loot we were getting! The adults must've gotten wise cause once we started using them, we never seemed to get as much candy.

I'd like to be a kid again this Halloween. I'll buy some wax fangs, play some cheesy scary game, watch a classic horror flick, and toss empty candy skulls and chewed wax on my street. Hee hee!!!


By Way of Salem said...

I hope you all enjoy my story. Sorry for the comments being messed up - I did something un-computer literate and had to fix it. Try it again!

Brenda LaBell said...

Hello Jeannine, I am SO jealous hanging out at the Munsters (Lily's) House, how cool is that!!! I am a huge Munsters fan!! What a fun childhood you had! BTW, I have a little something for you on my blog, pop by and check it out!!


Anonymous said...

great content!