Halloween was a real event when I was a kid in Encino in the 1960s. For weeks before the holiday, my teachers at Hesby Street Elementary School would decorate the classrooms with orange and black construction-paper pumpkins, black cats and haunted houses. I was so excited during the entire month of October as Halloween approached and it came time to pick out my boxed costume from the Cornet 5&10 store.
My Halloween mentor was my teenage neighbor David Cohen, who was an expert on all the classic monster movies that were shown on local television—like Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and Attack of the Puppet People.
David helped us put together costumes each year. One time, he buried my brother Bobby's clothes in our yard for several days so his zombie costume would have a creepy afterlife effect! Dave inserted a plastic knife through Bob's shirt in a wedge of styrofoam and poured fake blood onto the hole.
David was also a local legend for winning the coveted grease pole contest more than once at Encino Park's annual Halloween carnival. Park officials would put some kind of dense, goopy motor oil on the flag pole and place a $5 bill at the top for the lucky kid who could climb up the pole successfully without slipping down.
Every year I would watch Mad Monster Party on TV, which was a Rankin-Bass animated movie with cool music like "It's The Mummy" played by a skeleton rock band, and "You're Different."
Mad Monster Party featured all the classic ghouls, including Dracula, the Wolf Man, the Creature, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the Hunchback, all voiced by Allan Swift who was famous for the Underdog cartoons and many others in the 1960s. (See the video clip from Mad Monster Party, above.)
Bobby and our buddies had so much fun going out trick-or-treating for what seemed like the longest night of the year. In the early years I used a plastic pumpkin to collect candies, like the famed Milk Shake bar and the sorely missed Caravelle bar from Peter Paul. Later, I graduated to a pillow case, as it held a lot more and I was covering more streets by then. I would have gone all the way to Tarzana if my parents had let me!
One of my favorite boxed costumes was the Scarecrow. The scarecrow image resonated with me because we lived near Maria's corn stand on Hayvenhurst Avenue (now Tapia Brothers), where we went each year to get pumpkins and Indian corn to decorate our kitchen.
Halloween wasn't complete without the yearly intake of a few bags of Brach's candy corn (the best!). After Halloween, despite our mass protests, Mom would ration out the remaining candy for our school lunches and after-dinner treats (by then, the Milk Shake bars, SweeTarts and wax skeletons with juice inside were long gone from my pillow case). About a week later, she would give some treats away to a local charity and bring the rest in to share at her office.
I will always remember Halloween in Encino in the 1960s. I am so glad I get to relive the magic of the holiday now with my own little girls, Sofia and Olympia (ages 5 and 3). But, just like my mom, my wife, Brigitte, rations the candy out to our girls, and to me as well!
Look for my other Halloween article arriving soon on Sherman Oaks Patch!