Ahhh! The wonders of fall, unquestionably my favorite season. The dazzling array of autumn colors, the exotic beauty of an Indian summer afternoon and who can resist the intoxicating scent of burning leaves? It conjures up memories of high school football games, bonfires and hayrides.

Remember them? A horse-drawn jaunt through the countryside with teen couples bundled together with the excuse to keep warm. If you were lucky, you might have stolen a kiss in the itchy hay.

School started in September — time to put away your summer attire. Your fall wardrobe would feature a new pair of corduroy pants, a cardigan and several V-necked sweaters. If you really embraced style, a pair of cordovan wing-tip shoes would fill the bill.

These items could be purchased at Herberts, Edwards, Cush & Lambka and, of course, Griegers clothing stores, all of which dotted Franklin Street.

Next to the 4th of July and Christmas, my favorite holiday was Halloween. Trick-or-treat night brought out the naughty side of me and my juvenile delinquent pre-teen pals. Once, we actually laid out a life-sized dummy on Tilden Street then hid in the cemetery to watch the havoc this would cause. The real "dummy" was my pal who screamed at the cops to give him back his stuffed buddy. We all got busted for this prank and my reward was a date with my dad's belt!

Who remembers "Shock Theater?" It was a Saturday night show hosted by creepy "Marvin" and his band the "Deadbeats." It was a funny rehash of the old horror movies starring our old chums Frankenstein, Wolfman, Dracula, the Mummy and other lesser ghouls. These old monsters triggered endless arguments amongst my friends as to which monster was the scariest.

Old Drac had smarts and could transform himself into a bat or even fog. How could you escape him? Frankie and the Mummy were certainly ugly but you could easily outrun them. For my money, Wolfman wins hands down.

A cross or string of garlic in Drac's face would send him scurrying in full retreat, and a lit match would reduce the Mummy into an ash pile. But Wolfman was ferocious and relentless. He'd run you down and tear you to pieces before you could load your gun with a silver bullet. And who has one of those lying around?

Elvira, queen of the night, was another Saturday night staple. She oozed a wicked, dark sexuality that she coupled with a macabre sense of humor. She was a laugh treat.

There is a given about trick-or-treat night that I learned as a little ghoul. You got the best treats from the working-class neighborhoods, such as: candied apples, popcorn balls and full-sized candy bars. The ritzy neighborhoods either gave out scrawny tootsie-rolls, cheap suckers or turned their lights off all together. These actions prompted many soaped windows and TP-ed houses.

You can't beat a good Halloween party. The best occurred during my San Francisco days. On Halloween, everyone sheds their everyday selves and for one night goes completely bonkers. My kind of night! I always dressed as Dracula in search of a wild French Maid, Wonder Woman or Lady Godiva. But with the exception of one memorable romp with Cat Woman, I usually ended up with the Bride of Frankenstein.

This Halloween will find me passing out treats to the neighborhood ghouls as I've been doing for many a year. But hey, I'm still up for another wild and rowdy party. I'll skip the Dracula outfit and due to my advanced age I'll simply show up as the Mummy. Just keep me away from the matches.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Blaine Heric can be contacted at kingsif@comcast.net

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