More than 40 years later, I remember the trauma if not the details: When we were elementary school kids at Cowan in the 1960s, we were allowed to wear our Halloween costume to school for that most wonderful of kid holidays.
Most of my memories of Halloween are happy ones: Trick-or-treating with my cousin Mary and friends in her neighborhood, showing off our costumes and collecting great treats.
One year at Cowan, we got to put on a Halloween costume parade for the entire school.
What a treat … or so it seemed at first.
The teachers lined us all up, in our costumes, and led us through the school. Since all 12 grades were in two big buildings, we got to show off for everybody, even kids as old as high schoolers.
The damn, damn high schoolers.
I don’t remember what my costume was this particular year. But it was a typical 1960s-era costume like those made by Ben Cooper or Collegeville: A hard plastic mask, secured to my head with an elastic band, and a cheap plastic tunic. If it was an Aquaman or Spock or any number of other similar costumes, the tunic, as you can see from the photos here, was anything but subtle. Instead of being an accurate recreation of the character’s costume from comic books or TV, it was emblazoned with the character’s name in big, dorky letters.
I loved it.
Well, the mask left something to be desired, but I ran into the same problems with every Halloween mask. I was a kid who had worn glasses since the middle of first grade, and masks didn’t work out very well. The masks got warm and my glasses fogged up and I tended to walk into things.
But that year, the parade was going pretty well. I could still see through my glasses as well as the narrow eye slits of whatever the heck costume I was wearing.
I could see well enough, in fact, to notice — too late to do anything about it — one of the high schoolers reach out and pull my mask off my face as I walked past his classroom desk.
He pulled the mask out far enough, of course, that the crappy elastic band broke and my mask came off.
I’m pretty sure I completed the rest of the Halloween parade with my now-useless mask in my hand. I say I’m pretty sure that was the case because I don’t really remember it. The final part of the parade was a blur of tears and frustration.
There’s no final twist, ala Rod Serling, to the story. It didn’t turn out that the offending high schooler was my big brother or anything. I never knew his name. I can still kind of see his laughing face as he pulled my mask off.
I wish I could say that when I became a teenager I found the now-grownup miscreant and soaped his windows. That didn’t happen, though.
If anybody reading this was a high-schooler at Cowan in the 1960s and remembers ripping the mask off a little dork with glasses, I have just just two things to say to you:
Do you remember what my costume was? Because I can’t for the life of me.
And what nursing home do you live in now? Because I just might come by and put a kink in your IV drip.