Remembering Halloween In Reedley

Oct 20, 2012 | 2012 Articles, Hometown History, Jim Bulls, Reedley News

by Jim Bulls

Ghouls, goblins and zombies too, witches and ghosts and maybe a hobo or two–groups of kids invade the streets searching for candy and all saying “treat of treat.” It must be October 31, all Hallow’s Eve in Reedley.

Back in the 1950s, we didn’t have any organized Halloween activities. The room mothers might have provided punch and cupcakes for a party at school and I’m sure we colored mimeographed pictures of witches or pumpkins. We might have ever made paper bag masks. But no one wore costumes to school.

Halloween night was a different story. The kids came in droves out to our little subdivision on Hemlock and the doorbell ringing lasted late in the evening, sometimes even after midnight! The parents may have brought them, but there was no supervision. The only church activity I remember was Lubie Pampian, the school nurse, came by collecting for the Seven Day Adventist food drive.

Time goes by and builders come, introducing new houses to our area. There were Freedom Homes clad in stucco and Dream Homes of cinder block with rocks on the roof. Suddenly our ten homes on Hemlock we no longer the suburbs and we were a part of the City.

This also ushered in the “terrible teens.” We were much more interested in tricks rather than treats–Halloween night meant carousing around in cars armed with toilet paper for houses, rotten eggs and water balloons for other devilish tricks. The height of pranks took place one year when Mr. Peter’s outhouse found a new home at 11th and G Streets. Officers Rodie and Buccanan dutifully guarded that old “privy” for the rest of the night, fearing that those unknown rascals would return to burn it down.

It seems that the 1960s also brought out the worst in some adults. This was when we all heard of people hiding razor blades in apples and disguising Exlax as candy. From then on, it wasn’t safe to take any kind of homemade treats or unwrapped candy. Children were warned not to eat anything before parents had inspected the contents of the treat bag.

In the 1970s, an 8 p.m. curfew was established for trick or treaters and the Reedley Rotary Club started a Halloween Carnival and Costume Contest at the Community Center. Kids started wearing costumes to school on Halloween and most schools had a costume contest or parade of some kind. People who worked downtown would also dress up and the Reedley Exponent photographer were make their way around town snapping photos for the following week’s paper.

Parenthood brought a whole new meaning to Halloween. Costumes were designed and made and the front porch or yard was decorated. Dad walked the kids up and down our block while Mom stayed home and gave out candy. Then it was off to the community center for the costume parade.

For a few years, the Methodist Youth Fellowship sponsored a really scary “haunted maze” in the church basement. There was a creepy graveyard, a mad scientist’s lab complete with bubbling beakers and hair-raising electrodes, and my favorite the talking head of a guillotine victim peering out of a basket.

By the time my girls were in high school in the 1980s, the kids were wearing costumes to school and Reedley High would often have some kind of Halloween activity at lunch time.

Now days, kids start trick or treating shortly after 5 p.m. and most are accompanied by parents or older siblings. In our neighborhood, the kids all wear costumes of some kind, either homemade or store bought. We still like to put up a few decorations outside, although not quite as elaborate as we once did. I still like seeing the kids dressed up and greeting the shy ones who can barely say, “Trick or Treat.”

Halloween has turned into one of the biggest “holiday” celebrations of the year–second only to Christmas. There are Halloween decorations and costumes available everywhere from your local drug or grocery store to special Halloween theme stores that open only for the season. And as far as activities go, take your pick from haunted corn mazes or pumpkin patches to elaborate theme parks that provide haunted hayrides and other scary activities.

Reedley still has a trick or treat curfew of 8 p.m. so kids on dark streets stay safe and residences are not bothered. The local churches have joined together to put on a “harvest festival” with costumes, games and food. I believe the Rotary Club still has their costume contest, but usually a few nights before Halloween itself. And the kids still descend in droves in certain neighborhoods.

So whether you join in the fun or consider Halloween just a pagan ritual, I hope you have an enjoyable evening, with lots of treats and no tricks!

Check KRL’s event pages along the side under Holiday events to see some of the Halloween activities going on for kids and adults.

Jim Bulls is a contributor to our Hometown History section, being a charter member of the Reedley Historical Society; he also restores vintage cars.


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