This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, October 23, 1991

October 23, 1991 - Halloween

I am a baby boomer. That means that nearly anything I did as a child I did in the midst of a teeming cloud of other children.

While that wasn't always such a wonderful thing, on Halloween it was magnificent, because on that one night, the whole world and all its treasures were OURS.

I can still see it: a full, harvest moon, a feckless wind with just a hint of winter, a damp and restless tide of leaves, jack-o-lanterns leering from each porch, and as far as the eye could see ... gnomes, goblins, witches, ghosts, hoboes, princesses, cowboys, animals, anything and everything. All just my height.

For one night each year, the grown-ups were banished from the streets. Instead, the Little People swarmed the sidewalks. Invincible and mysterious, we could kick at doors and demand sweet booty.

And get it.

Of course, all this was before the scares about poison and needles and other sick stuff more modern folks pack into candy. Back then, the sole concern of children -- and I took this mighty seriously, myself -- was to get the best loot possible in the shortest time. Here's how I did it: first, I scoped out the best stops in my territory (using the first, or "scouting" costume), and quickly reviewed the pickings back home (with an eye cocked for Snickers bars and Hershey's dark chocolate). Then, I changed to the serious or "real" costume, and revisited the best doorsteps. Often, I'd mumble a quick, poignant plea for an extra treat for my sick and utterly fictitious brother, who I would allege was home in bed with a fever.

It was great.

And there was the delicious thrill of terror: the old brick house at the end of the block, encircled by mutant crab-apple trees, overgrown weeds. No street lights. Three or four of us would crouch down in sight of the rotting wooden porch, whispering, "You go!" "No, you!" until finally one of us would tremble up the steps and press the doorbell.

Slowly, creakingly, we'd hear the huge, shambling steps of the unknown, never-glimpsed owner. The door would crack, and a white, palsied hand poke out over the rustling bag of the trick-or-treater. Something would drop, and the kid would leap screaming from the porch and scurry back to safety. We'd all demand -- "What was it? What'd you get?" -- then dig out, every year, a scrawny, worm-nibbled apple. We'd toss it back toward the porch and run, whooping like the savages we were.

I don't think many children today will ever know the wild -- but utterly innocent -- joy of Halloweens like that. Today parents deploy their 1.6 children along the well-ordered streets, carefully inspecting each piece of candy for signs of tampering. It's all as well-policed as a preschool party.

But we don't have to give up on Halloween yet. At each of our library branches over the next couple of weeks, you'll find a sampling of programs that seek to recapture the fun and sheer shivery excitement of this unique holiday. Check the calendar elsewhere on this page to find out when you can come listen to spooky stories, or learn how to carve pumpkins, or just enjoy the spectacle of children in costume.

Trust me. It's a treat.

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