Season of the witch

The 1942 classic "I Married a Witch,"* starring Veronica Lake, was one of my favorite classic movies during the Blackhawk Years. Veronica Lake was one of Mother's faves when she was young, and the movie inspired one of my favorite TV shows. (That would be "Bewitched.")

Since we moved to Blackhawk toward the end of my elementary years, my major trick or treating was done in the old North Heights neighborhood and the various places we lived before that. But I do have a couple of very definite season of the witch memories from the Blackhawk years.

The first Halloween at 6324 Blackhawk was my sixth grade year, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what we went as. Pam? Cathy? Any recall? I’m thinking I was a hippie or a hobo – no real costume.

But, oh, the seventh grade. Pam and I thought we were much too old to go begging for candy, but we didn’t want to miss out on the fun of the night, so we decided to come up with a joint costume and just wander around for entertainment/shock value.

What we decided to be was a purple cow. You know, “I never saw a purple cow; I never hope to see one. But I can tell you something now – I’d rather see than be one.” Rather a bizarre poem, actually, but we decided we did want to be one and set about making a costume.

Mother gave us an old white sheet. I have no idea where we got the purple paint, but we painted large purple spots all over the sheet, and I fashioned a cow head/face out of paper plates and painted it as well. Don’t remember what the tail was, but I’m sure we wore black shoes for hooves. I’m sure we looked quite impressive.

We took turns being the front of the cow – it wasn’t easy wandering up and down the street, ringing doorbells, and saying “Moo” when you’re bent over at the waist and walking blindly in the rear. It wasn’t easy as the front half, either, but at least we could see through the eye slits.

We were too proud to hold out a bag for candy; at 12, we were big girls. It was strictly for something to do.

The next year involved no costumes but was much more exciting. We just walked all over Indian Hills in regular clothes observing the goings-on. I’m reasonably sure my friend Gina McDonald, who lived in Lakewood, joined us, but it may have been Kelly. By the time of the big excitement, I think it was just Pam and I.

We were on Pontiac across what was then called 107 when the older boys with water balloons came along – a long way and across a highway from Blackhawk.

We were just wandering about when they ambushed us and started chunking those balloons as hard as they could. The first few missed and splatted on the street, but we knew it was just a matter of time – they were several years older and would definitely overtake us, so instead of running, we changed strategy.

We turned around to face them and somehow managed to catch the water-bombs, unbroken, which we promptly chunked back – and hit our targets with a splash. That happened enough times that we got cocky and started laughing at them, so of course the teenaged boys got really angry and yelled, “Get them!”

They started running at us with harm on their minds, so we took off – but it was obvious we couldn’t make it home. We couldn’t just dart across the busy highway, and even if we could have, they’d have overtaken us before we got very far running uphill and block after block.

So I quickly decided on a different tactic. “Come on,” I commanded and we ran into a random carport. I turned toward the bullies and yelled that this was my grandmother’s house and they’d better back off.

They didn’t buy it and kept advancing. “I mean it,” I threatened. “You’re going to be in trouble!”

They kept coming, all the way into the carport. There was nothing to do but turn around and walk through the door into the kitchen of people we’d never met. Turned out they were a very nice older couple who were thrilled to see us and help us. (This was the late ‘60s. You might not want to do that today – the door would be locked anyway.)

The looks on the bully-boys’ faces was priceless – shock, disbelief, fury and a bit of fear. I had to give them an “I told you so” smirk, even though we were shaking by the time I shut the door.

The couple greeted us warmly, commiserated with us over the mean boys, and gave us snacks and something to drink. (I wish I remembered their names – she had dark brown hair in a great big updo and seemed kind of glamorous; that much I do remember.)

We peeked out the window occasionally, and when the boys had given up and left, we thanked our faux grandparents, slinked out into the dark and hightailed it for home.

Good thing we didn’t have a cow costume to slow us down.


Another Halloweenish memory from those years was the annual fall swarming of the blackbirds in the trees of the two empty lots on the corner. Pam and I had to walk past them in the very early morning to get to the bus stop. It was super-creepy when they rustled and cawed. 

Then one night we watched Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” on television. The next morning when we walked to the bus stop, the birds were there, a bit noisier than usual, it seemed. We tried to be cool about it, but it was hopeless. We’d seen what rogue birds could do.

Some of them started some serious shifting in the trees, and one of us yelled, “RUN!!!”

Did we ever. All the way to the bus stop without looking back.

I wonder if birds can laugh?

* You can watch “I Married a Witch” on Hulu!

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