By Bruce Mastracchio
October’s here. And with it orange and black. Wizards and warlocks and witches.
Halloween was always a magical, mysterious time here in E.G. back in the ‘40s and ‘50s. The air was crisp. The nights were dark and scary. The Goblins Parade was the ultimate and the parties were great, with cider and donuts and candy, and bobbing for apples and other games.
My kids never believed me, but trick or treating went on for a week, and though there was a scare once in awhile, about tainted candies, or razors in apples, or something else, there was not the fear about your candy and cookies being tampered with that exists today. I know we sure got a heck of a lot of candy. Bags full and the sweetness lasted for weeks.
Although it may be hard for some people to tie into, Halloween, for the local kids, was linked to education, and maybe even, religion. The schools made the mistake of teaching the likes of Blue Dog, Hawkman and Peanuts about that legendary Englishman, Robin of Locksley, known in stories as Robin Hood.
The nuns and priests constantly taught the children that they should always look out for, and give to, the poor.
Somehow, Blue Dog and Hawkman, and their little band of “merry men” got all those lessons confused with Halloween and giving and taking and such.
Thus was born the legend of The Great Pumpkin Build!
There may or may not be anything to a happening, or an adventure, but when Blue Dog and Hawkman were involved, there was always just a little more. Or maybe, a whole lot more….
It started off innocently enough. As if anything those boys did back in that magical time was completely innocent. There was always a lip-licking deliciousness to most things they did.
In this case what they did was what kids had been doing for years. Stealing pumpkins at Halloween was great fun. As long as you didn’t get caught.
However, one October in the late 1950s, Robin Hood was invoked, and for the next few years at least, thanks to Blue Dog and Hawkman and some mixed up application of education, Halloween was going to represent some different meaning to a certain group of people, “merry men” or not.
They used to leave their dwellings “below the hill” as soon as darkness set. For years it had been go up “The Hill,” steal ’em, smash ’em, and run like bats out of Hades.
But that was before Hawkman read about Robin Hood. “Why smash ’em,” he said. “Let’s take ’em and give them to the people who don’t have them.”
So, that’s what they did.
It was exciting. They were never caught, though almost, a couple of times.
They were chased and searched for, and, one time, on a mad dash to get away from an irate homeowner, Peanuts ran into a low hanging clothes line and almost decapitated himself. The line jerked him to an abrupt stop. His legs kept on going right up into space and he was dumped, rather hard and unceremoniously, onto his back. Everyone else had a big laugh over it, but Peanuts didn’t think it funny and he bore the red imprint for some time.
Still, they grabbed pumpkins by the carload, and left them on the steps, stoops and porches below the hill, feeling proud of themselves by the minute.
Robin Hood couldn’t have done better.
One night though, on a raid on Knollwood Avenue, one of the “merry men” did the unthinkable. He stole a pumpkin from a house and smashed it in the street. This bothered Hawkman, especially when he found out the next day that the house it was taken from was occupied by a young couple with a small baby and some particular problems of their own.
He went to Blue Dog and told him of his feelings. The act was wrong and had to be addressed. He told him about the idea he had. Blue Dog liked the idea.
Thus was born The Great Pumpkin Build!
The next night Blue Dog and Hawkman went out on their own. They grabbed a pumpkin slightly bigger than the one that had been taken from the young couple and smashed, They went to the young couple’s house and left the pumpkin on the front steps. They attached a note to the pumpkin. It read:
“Your pumpkin’s growing!”
Each night for the next two weeks, Blue Dog and Hawkman made a raid. Each time they brought a new pumpkin to the young couple’s house, taking away the previous one and replacing it with a bigger one. What had started out as a little, baby pumpkin, soon grew to a 35 lb. pumpkin!
Blue Dog and Hawkman heard that the young couple was mystified, but happy. They heard that the couple’s baby was happy to have a pumpkin. They felt that they knew how Robin Hood must have felt. They felt they had done a good deed. They did not think of stealing.
The next year when Halloween rolled around, Hawkman told Blue Dog he wanted to do another “Build” at the couple’s house. Blue Dog agreed. This time they would add a twist to it. The clock struck two weeks prior. Hawkman said it was time. The duo faded into the night like twin shadows. They appeared. They disappeared. They reappeared.
This time “The Build ” started with two small pumpkins left on the young couple’s top step. The next night two more appeared, and now there were four. The next night two more to make it six.
Then came the glitch. Blue Dog and Hawkman went cruising by the couple’s house to admire their handiwork. As they slowed to take in “The New Build” they stared in disbelief – the pumpkins were gone!
Someone had the audacity to invade Blue Dog and Hawkman’s turf! They were ticked! They put the word out. The word came back. No one had messed with their “Build.”
Others knew better.
There was only one thing to do. Start it up again. That’s what they did. Yet, every few nights the new pumpkins would disappear. Something was wrong! Something was drastically wrong they said, but it was a while before they found out what.
Seems the young wife at the house had a bit of the leprechaun in her. Having learned about Blue Dog and Hawkman the previous year, she waited to see what would develop the following October. When she figured out what was going on, she would go out and put the pumpkins the two had left in her garage. By the time the two “merry men” had finished, the young Irish housewife had about 30 pumpkins in her possession, which she then distributed to her neighbors for Halloween.
The irony was that some of those very pumpkins had been pilfered from the neighbors and some got their very own pumpkins back. Seems like the young Irish housewife had a little bit of Robin Hood in her also.
Anyway, all’s well that ends well. The memory of those days was brought back by the crisp, fall weather we are having now, by the appearance of Halloween decorations on the streets, house and in the stores and neighborhoods. The movie To Kill A Mockingbird has a great Halloween scene in it, and, of course, Boo Radley (played by a young Robert Duvall). Combine all these and it brought back memories of other Halloweens and of Blue Dog and Hawkman and Peanuts. And, of course, The Great Pumpkin Build!
If you got caught doing something like that today, you’d be arrested, or, worse yet, sent before the Juvenile Hearing Board. Back then it was just great fun. At least that’s what they tell me.
Blue Dog and Hawkman and Peanuts had all those adventures. Me? I used to stay home in bed and read books. One I used to read was about a forest in England and an outlaw and his band of archers dressed in green….
Peanuts now lives in Florida. He is retired now. He has seen his kids and grandkids through many Halloweens, but says they are not the same in Vero Beach as they were in East G.
Blue Dog was a successful businessman. Also retired he lives on an island in the Caribbean, where they know little of Halloween. He says he doesn’t miss it, but still likes candy corn, when he can get it, and remembers with a flicker of joy The Great Pumpkin Build.
Hawkman is sequestered in a sanitarium. The attendants there say he stays in bed a lot and reads and reads. Most of his books are comic books. And, he loves candy. They say he is far too gone to relate to holidays anymore, but he likes to stare at candle flames, and does so for hours at end. The attendants say that every so often he whispers the word “Sherwood.”
Author’s note: This Mems & Rems is dedicated to that young Irish couple who prompted The Great Pumpkin Build. The husband left us a few years ago, but his “bride” only recently departed this mortal coil. Their three daughters are still living and the family home is not far from here. It’s Halloween again and, who knows? Anything could happen. Maybe another Build!