Monday, October 06, 2008

A Halloween that Changed Orlando

First, some trick or treat stories
then, Orlando's great loss on Halloween, 1946.

by Pat Reckart

Grandpa Scared the Goblins
When I was growing up Halloween wasn't too popular around Orlando, I don't remember anyone growing pumpkins. Maybe they did- I don't know, but no one decorated like they do now. The very first one that I remember was when I was about four years old, about 1940, I've told this story before but I want to do it again to go with this story. I guess it was trick or treat night, I didn't even know what that was, but any way, it was late one evening, Grandma Bridgett was cleaning up the supper dishes, I was sitting on Grandpa's lap; we were sitting in his favorite rocking chair in front of the big ole coal stove. He had built a fire since it was a little chilly. I loved to set on his lap while he smoked his pipe. All at once there was a knock at the door. He set me down and went to answer the door and of course I was right behind him. When he opened the door there were a bunch of kids dressed up in scary cloths and yelling trick or treat. I started screaming and Grandpa said get the H--- out of here or I'll shoot your a--- full of buckshot. Well, out of there they ran and fell over the swing in the yard. Grandpa said, “I bet they don't come back here again.” and I said Grandpa, “Would you really shoot them?” and he said, “Child I don't even have a gun,” Grandma came running from the kitchen to see what all the screaming was about, after she found out she had a good laugh, I kind of thought she knew because one of the girls was from a family that she washings for.

Right: Patsy (Morrison) Reckart

Left: Patsy's grandpa Tom Godfrey

A Traditional Prank
Another story about Halloween I remember was when Bill Conrad had the store in Orlando. It must have been 1945 because we moved back to Orlando from Ohio when my step-dad died and that was Nov. 1944, so it had to be the next Halloween, People around Orlando called him Bill Grab-A-Nickel. Bill was not a very big man and he walked with a crutch. Most of the older boys or teenagers made fun of him. Every Halloween they would upset his outhouse. He thought he would stay up and watch for them but they would outsmart him and it seemed like they knew when he went to bed and always the next morning his outhouse would be upset. The store was always a loafing place for some of the men and they would laugh and say “Well Bill, they done it again.”

A Prank That Could Have Gone Very Bad
Another story about Halloween: in the early 1950s the same boys put a large log across the road there by the bridge where you turn to go to Weston. Well, Ernestine [McNemar] Godfrey was expecting a baby at the time and of all times, that was the night she had to go to Weston to have her baby. When they got to the bridge they saw this big tree and they had to go back to the house to get someone to help them get the tree out of the road. But they still made it to Weston for her to deliver a baby boy.

The One Time I Went Trick-or-Treating
I only remember going trick or treat one time. A bunch of us kids went trick or treating but I don't think we dressed up, only in our every-day clothing. Shoot, it was dark. Who was going to see us? I don't remember even if anyone gave us candy unless it was Brown's store. I do remember going to the Allmans’ house. I remember we had some soap with us and we soaped their windows and then ran off into the dark. So much for trick or treating.

A Halloween that Changed Orlando
The Halloween Party at School
I remember it was 1946 and I was in 6th grade at the Orlando School. It was Halloween and that Friday we were going to have a party with prizes for different costumes such as, the prettiest, the ugliest and the most original. The kids who went home for lunch was suppose to dress at home before coming back to school and the kids that rode the bus were suppose to bring their costumes with them that morning and dress in the coat rooms. I think there was a coat room for the girls and one for the boys. No one bought new costumes; they just used what they had at home. I really wanted to win one of those prizes and that morning I told Grandma how I was going to dress so she hunted me some of Grandpa's old clothes and even one of his old brown hats.
I think we got an hour for lunch so I had plenty of time to do what I had planned to do. Mildred Riffle was going to help as I wasn't going to dress in old clothes; I was going to paint my face black with shoe polish. I had no idea what it would do. The tears just ran down my face but we finally got it done, I didn't stop to think how I was going to get it off after the party, all I thought about was that prize. I just know that is one Halloween Party I will never forget as long as I live. After we paraded around the room in front of the judges we had refreshments of cookies and kool-aid while the judges made up their minds.
Left above: Orlando's three room school house

Everyone was excited, just waiting to see who won. I couldn't hardly stand still I was so exited. Just then the judges stood up and announced the winners. Everyone was clapping, then the announced the winner of the ugliest and that was me! I wish I could remember what the prizes were but I can't.

After the Halloween Party
Everyone was outside talking about the party and waiting to go home. Then someone just said something was going on in the big room. The school had three rooms the big room, the middle room and the little room, The teacher of the big room and the principle was John Brown and his wife Marmell was the teacher of the little room and Edith Mayes was the teacher of the middle room, All the kids were trying to get back inside to see what was going on. Someone in front of me could see in the room and she said she could see someone laying on the stage, I finally got inside and then I could see who it was I began to cry. It was Marguerite Moran. I kept asking what was wrong with her. I could see she wasn't moving, I was so scared. Marguerite was the cook at school and a very good friend of my family. She and my mom were very good friends. For example, Marguerite's husband Mike Moran didn't like for her to smoke so she often came to our place to visit and smoke a cigarette. Sometimes Marguerite had me help her clean her house, especially if the Priest was coming for lunch. After a while Mr. Brown made and announcement that everyone was to go home and the bus was coming to pick kids that rode the bus. Mr. Brown came to get Marguerite and take her to the hospital. Grandma told me later that evening she had passed away. She had had a massive brain aneurysm. Things in Orlando never seemed the same after that she was a person that was so well liked.

Right and below, center: Marguerite (Sweeney) Moran

Left: teachers John Brown, Edith Mayes and Marmell Brown

Goodbye to Marguerite Moran

All the kids at school got to go to the funeral. It was held at the St. Michael's Catholic Church. When we got there the whole church was full. All us kids had to sit up on balcony. The whole service was done in Latin. Mr. Brown said we didn't have to go back to school that day and the bus came early to get the kids that rode the bus.

I didn't have far to go home as our house stood right behind the church, Grandma was on the porch watching for the hearse to come and take her away.

Sometimes when I would go home from school I would walk down through her yard, but after that I couldn't make myself go that way. I just kept thinking she just went to visit someone and she would be back. Many, many years later my mom bought the Moran property and when I would go there it always seemed like to me that Marguerite was somewhere in the shadows.

In Closing,

I have always enjoyed Halloween, I think maybe because of that time of the year. It is always so beautiful with the trees putting on a style show with all their beautiful colors. I love walking in the woods and smelling the woodsy smell and feeling the leaves crunching under my feet.

The mornings are getting chilly and all over Orlando you can see the smoke curling up to the sky. You dread to think what will be coming soon. Fall is also football season and what better place to be than in West Virginia rooting for the Mountaineers.

A West Virginia country road photographed by Sinha Punit

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