It was an perfect Halloween night in the little community where I grew up in Denver 1958. The air was crisp, there was a ring around the moon which foretold of the rain soon to come. Not tonight though. We just had a good rain the night before giving us a perfect amount of spookiness for our holiday spirits.
I just turned 11 and my mom stayed up all night finishing our costumes. The kimono she made me was blue with a big red sash. My hair was piled on my head with chopsticks finishing my geisha girl look. Dad was on a business trip and mom was very pregnant so I was taking my 3 little sisters and little brother trick-or-treating.
|This was when I was 11 at the age of the story.|
It was a very different world in 1958 so there was no concern. I was a very “responsible” big sister too. My biggest problems were keeping my brother Billy’s dinosaur tail on and keeping my sister Lynette from wanting to sing “trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat!” at every door. I kept trying to push her to the back of the group before she could embarrass us even more. It was fun to trick-or-treat in our little neighborhood on Forest Street because we knew everyone, and we knew what treats we would find at each house. We started at the Samek’s across the street. “Trick or treat!” A popcorn ball! Wow! We just couldn’t wait to get home and sink our teeth into that treat. First we had to make our way around the block. Delicious chocolate chip cookies from Mrs. Selman, a candy apple from the Levitts two doors down. Mr. Wallace made us do a trick before we could get our delicious hershey’s kisses. At the Bell’s we had to borrow their bathroom to clean the chocolate off Billy’s face and hands. “Billy, you have to wait till we get home to eat the candy.” I said in my best big sister tone. Lynette, I told you it isn’t polite to tell someone to smell your feet, and you are supposed to say please and thank you.
I loved Autumn in my little community. The air was crisp, and so were the colored leaves that fell from the trees on our street. Forest Street was a lovely tree lined street with beautiful Ash trees. They were planted by the Ash family that lived in the big house on the little hill around the corner and down a few blocks. Ichabod Ash worked at the Piggly Wiggly at the Village Center a few blocks down. Whenever we came into the Piggly Wiggly he would say “There are those Bliss kids with their happy smiles”, then he would give us a penny candy from the jar by his register. We loved Ichabod and loved going to his house on Halloween. His house was a little further to walk to and it had been there for a long, long time. It didn’t fit anymore with all the little suburban houses that cropped up around it in the past few years. Billy was getting tired and Lynette was jumping around like the clown she always was, but Susie, Karen and I were determined to head around the corner and up the steep incline to Ichabods house. After all he had the whole Piggly Wiggly to choose the best treats from. Usually it was a huge candy bar.
As we crossed the street we noticed a small gathering of neighbors at the bottom of the hill at Ichabod’s house. They seemed to be keeping kids from climbing the steep walk to Ichabod’s door. Why? Lynette wanted to ask, I stopped her. I didn’t know why, maybe I just didn’t want to know. Intuition maybe. She was determined though, and certainly she wasn’t scared of anything….so she scrunched down low and creeped into the center of the group of adults. Big sister Leslie had her hands out to keep her other siblings from moving forward into the danger. I stretched my neck and perked my ears to see what I could hear. Part of me, a very small part, wanted to follow my sister to see exactly what was going on. The other bigger part wanted to run with my brothers and sisters as fast as I could the opposite direction.
Though my mind was quickly trying to decide my body was frozen. I sensed fear. Our little Virginia Village in Denver was a place right out of the “Pleasantville” era of the 1950’s. We didn’t really know what fear was. Except for the “duck and cover” drills we had to do in school in case a bomb came. That fear was based clear over in Russia and it didn’t really enter into our understanding really.
But what I was feeling that Halloween night was fear, and I didn’t even understand what it was I was afraid of. The stark quiet stares of the neighbors as they stood in that human fence. The glint of fear behind their eyes. What was it? As we stood frozen we heard a siren in the distance through the spook in the night. It grew louder, and louder. Soon Mrs. Brown my 2nd grade teacher came over from the group. She encouraged us quietly, trying to sound calm but definitely not calm, to go home. Still frozen in fear I raised my hand to point at my sister, Lynette, who had almost scaled the small hill behind bushes and was almost ready to drop into the center of the group of people.
I don’t know what broke the deafening silence first the policeman’s whistle as it pierced the air to move through the larger group of people, or my sister’s scream! Everyone moved at once, Mrs. Brown dropped to the ground and grabbed us all in her arms. We could see though, we saw the horror……human bones, lots of them in the roots of the tree, the Ash tree as it slid down the hill.
Halloween in Virginia Village would never be the same…………..
Here is another version I was thinking of prior to the one above.
I am a baby boomer! This means I was born in the crazy romantic time after WWII. Men were rushing home from war, marrying women quickly and having kids right away. I was born in a car and my parents couldn’t find a hospital to take me to because even the halls were packed with women and babies.
This means also that I was raised in a mid-century home. Before this people lived mostly on farms or in cities. After the war suburbs popped up with little cookie cutter homes. Really it was a wonderful time to live. Small little cottages with ultra modern furniture, mothers stayed at home cooking their families dinners while wearing their shirt waisted dresses, high heels or loafers and a frilly little apron. Families gathered around their tables in the kitchen for every meal. Once in awhile you would put a little Bing Crosby, or McGwyre Sisters on the radio.
The Bliss home where I was raised was in Denver was just under 1300 square feet. They paid $10,500 for it in 1955. My bedroom was off the front porch with blue cornflower wall paper. I had story book dolls around my room costumed in traditional clothes from 22 different countries. I shared my room with at least one sibling because eventually there were 7 kids and 2 parents living in 3 bedrooms using 1 bathroom. My dad was an executive with Ford Motor Company so we weren’t poor, that’s just the way people lived in the 50’s.
Have you seen the memories posted on facebook sometimes that show that we survived even though we didn’t have seat belts, no car seats, drank with our mouths on hose nozzles. We stayed out until the lights came on playing kick the can, hide and go seek, king of the mountain. And Rover red Rover send Johnny right over. Roller skating with skates that had to be adjusted to fit on my shoes with a skate key that hung around my neck always, even when I was playing jacks with a ball that we cut from the inside of a golf ball.
It was an awesome life really. Girls couldn’t wear pants to school. In Denver it was cold too. So even in junior high we would wear pants under our dresses to walk to school in the snow (at least 5 miles uphill both directions with the wind beating against our backs), then we would have to remove them and hang them up when we got to school.
It was a time when Father knew best, Beaver had a cleaver, and Ricky Nelson was the cutest son on Ozzie and Harriet. It wasn’t all peaches and cream though….we had “duck and cover drills” because the Russians were going to send a bomb over to get us. So when we heard that air raid siren blasting we would drop down cover the back of our necks with our arm. I don’t know what that would have prevented but it was the only “yucky” part of a kids life in the 50’s.
Until Halloween 1958. My mom made my kimono with a big red sash, put my hair on top of my head, and drew my eyes to accent my squint so I could be a “China girl”. I took my little siblings out to trick or treat….little did I know what that night would hold……even though the ring around the moon added a haze and spookiness to the night. We walked through the streets through the fallen colorful leaves. All the neighbors knew us as we went to each home ringing the door bells and saying “trick or treat”. Of course I was embarrassed as a big sister would be when my little sister would say “Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat.” I would quickly push her to the back of our little group. Sometimes we would get a popcorn ball, or a little package of cookies, candy apples or a cupcake. No one was ever concerned about razor blades being in any food. Maybe we should have been though……
The development we lived in was called Virginia Village, and on the corner was a Piggly Wiggly supermarket. Each house had a tree planted in front. They were the most beautiful trees. You see we had our own special Johnny Appleseed planting trees. His name was Ichabod Ash and he seemed to have a very green thumb and we all thought he was pretty amazing because the trees were the tallest, fullest, prettiest Ash trees you ever did see. No neighborhood in Denver had prettier streets than we did in Virginia Village. We were proud, until that Halloween night in 1958 when it was discovered…….shudder……..that under each of those perfect trees Ichabod Ash buried a body.
Maybe life wasn’t as perfect on Forest Street in 1958 as we thought. But those trees sure were pretty!!
|This is pretty much how I saw my mom. Such a cute gal, and very efficient|
|This is similar to the table and chairs we met around for dinner every night. |
Ours was kind of a greyish white with a bright blue scallop around the edges and the chairs were blue.
|The bottom yellow cupboards were just like ours down to the v-shaped handles. They were metal and very modern.|
|I wish I had a picture at my fingertips of our living room, but this one has the feeling. Especially the lamps.|
|We played jacks, kick the can, king of the mountain, red light green light, |
Rover red rover, roller skated. What an awesome childhood.