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Halloween, then and now
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Mama was never one to pass up a good roadside junk pile. She had a station wagon and could load up an old lawn mower or a broken lamp in no time.

But one day, she came upon a treasure that was used for many Halloweens by both me and my brother.

It was a Arabic headdress, the kind worn by Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia. It was made of a satin material and the rope had elastic, so as to provide a comfortable, yet snug fit. It had a long cape, much akin to Superman.

The first time I wore it was when momma took me to Mr. Aub McClain's barber shop. Mr. Aub had a clipper system that was attached to a vacuum device. The clipper would shear away your hair and the vacuum would suck it into a canister.

For $2, he sheared away any remaining locks on the side of my head. I had bigger white sidewalls than a '57 Buick.

This was during the era when boys were wearing their hair a bit longer. Mama wouldn't hear of that.

"You're going to look like one of those beetle-bugs," Mama said, in her ill-fated attempt to insinuate that my hair was beginning to look like John, Paul, George or Ringo.

Following my Aub McClain tonsorial treatment, the only pop culture figure I resembled was Sgt. Carter on the Gomer Pyle series.

I wore that Arab headdress all weekend in protest of my clip job.

But then came Halloween and the headdress was called into service as I portrayed an Arabian sheik. In succeeding years, it became a pirate outfit, albeit a caped pirate.

I complimented that outfit with a dangling ear bob from Mama's vast collection of Sarah Coventry costume jewelry.

The Arab headdress may have been her greatest junk pile discovery. It was used for years until the satin material was in tatters.

Living in a small town meant you knew the folks who gave you Halloween candy. There was no need to have it x-rayed or anything like that.

Kids who were passing each other would share the news of who had really good candy or even homemade treats.

Mrs. Eckles, who lived next door, would always have special baked treats just for the kids who lived nearby. Going to her house always meant coming in the house, so that Mr. Eckles, who was sitting in his recliner could get a look at our scary persona.

Most years, he would remember that he had just one shot left on a roll of film and would get a picture of a group of us standing by the fireplace. He would send it off to the drugstore for developing, which took a week in those days, and would order extra prints for all the kids.

One couple would buy a full box of candy bars to give away. Not those puny little bite size, but a regular candy bar that cost 15 cents down at Mr. Jim Paul Shepherd's gas station. That same bar is 75 cents today.

Today, we are so scared of one another that we only allow our kids to trick or treat at the homes of people we know.

In the old days, it was fun for us and fun for the folks who so prepared in advance for our visit and talked about it for many days after.

Harris Blackwood, a native of Social Circle, is on the editorial board of The Gainesville Times. Send e-mail to