Popcorn, pennies and Halloween …

Published 6:00 am Friday, October 31, 2003

For those who enjoy a little “spooky” fun, this is the day. Or,more specifically, tonight is the night.

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of Halloween in thetiny town of Duck Hill.

Of course, there was trick-or-treating. We knew, year in andyear out, that we’d get a penny at Mrs. Britt’s house and bag ofpopcorn at Mrs. Pyron’s.

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Other special treats I remember were homemade peanut brittle,parched peanuts and popcorn balls, although I can’t recall thegivers.

These days, safety etiquette is against giving or receivinghomemade treats. Time changes everything.

One woman, who shall remain nameless, always gave apples orboxes of raisins. My sister and I hated going there, but our mothermade us. She made us say “thank you,” too.

There weren’t any fancy costumes in my trick-or-treating days,although some might have had a dime store mask of a princess or apirate or something scary. Usually it was just “dress up,” with thehobo look being a favorite.

A special thing about trick-or-treating in a town like Duck Hill– for those smart enough to figure it out — is that you could gomore than once. All you had to do was swap masks with a friend, orget rid of your mask and paint your face, and make the roundsagain. One boy always went first as a cowboy and later as anIndian. If the adults figured it out, they never let us know.

I always enjoyed the Halloween Carnival at the school. Folksturned out in droves to eat hot dogs, listen to the DuckHillbillies sing “Boil That Cabbage Down,” and take a chance atbingo or in the cake walk. You could have your fortune told bywhichever teacher got “gypsy” duty for the night. Those braveenough to venture into the haunted house got their hands dippedinto a bowl of peeled grape “eyeballs.”

A few schools still have carnivals, I believe, although”Halloween” is now taboo for some. Now there’s just an elementaryschool in Duck Hill. The high school was closed years ago, and thetown lost some of the glue that holds it together. People arescattered as their children attend high school in eitherKilmichael, Winona or Grenada.

There was a “dark” side to Halloween in Duck Hill, too.

Just as surely as the sun coming up on Nov. 1, you could counton the town and the school grounds being rolled and soaped onHalloween night.

I mean rolled and soaped. It was a work ofart. Not a school window, not a store window was left untouched.Homes escaped, except for those of the teachers. The trees lookedas if toilet paper grew on them.

And, you could always count on the same culprits — some of theboys who gathered at the “smoking tree” at recess — getting calledinto the principal’s office. Cleaning up the mess meant a day outof class.

Tonight, for the first time in many years, I’ll spend Halloweenin Duck Hill. Mrs. Britt is no longer with us, so I guess I’ll haveto settle for popcorn from Mrs. Pyron’s.

Have a safe and happy Halloween.

Write to Nanette Laster at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, Miss.39602, or send e-mail to news@dailyleader.com.