Than Never for Costume Conquest
According to an e-mail message I received the other day from an online
retailer called eToys, the most popular costumes for kids this Halloween
will include pirates, princesses and witches.
That’s amazing when you consider that when I was trick-or-treating with
my friends 60 years ago the most popular Halloween costumes for kids
included pirates, princesses and witches.
But I never made my Halloween rounds as a pirate, a witch or a princess.
I always went trick-or-treating dressed as a cowboy.
Year in and year out, there was young Bob slogging door-to-door in his
western boots, five-gallon hat (a 10-gallon hat was too large for me)
with a gun and holster strapped around my waist.
I always topped off my costume with a black mask a la The Lone Ranger –
one of my boyhood heroes - but even with the mask on, all of the other
kids knew who I was the minute they spotted me because, as I just told
you, I always dressed as a cowboy when I went trick-or-treating.
Every year my mother pleaded with me to change my costume.
“Just once why don’t you be something besides a cowboy,” she’d say.
“Like a nice hobo, maybe, or the Easter bunny, or, hey, here’s an idea.
How about being a clown?”
But I wouldn’t hear of swapping my beloved six-gun and mask for
greasepaint or rabbit ears.
In my defense, I wasn¹t the only neighborhood kid who was in a rut when
it came to getting into character for Halloween. Pigtailed Paula
Chapman, the love of my life when we were third-grade classmates and
cleaning blackboard erasers together every afternoon at Oak Street
Elementary School, always dressed as a princess.
One time I asked her, “Why do you always dress as a princess?”
“Because I am very pretty,” she replied, and I certainly wasn’t about to
argue that point.
Spike Wallace, the neighborhood bully, never donned a costume for
Halloween, either. He’d just throw on a t-shirt and jeans and hit the
If you asked him why he wasn’t in costume, he’d double up his fists and
snarl “What are ya gonna do about it?” To my knowledge, nobody ever
asked Spike that question more than once.
Because I always dressed as a cowboy, I never won school costume
contests. Whenever it came time to vote, the teacher would tell the
class, “All in favor of Bobby Batz as a cowboy raise your hand.” Nobody
“All-righty, then,” she’d say, “those in favor of Billy Miller as a
pirate raise your hands.” Eighteen or 20 hands always shot skyward.
But like many sad childhood stories, this one has a happy ending.
Forty years after being rebuffed by my elementary school classmates, I
attended a costume party sponsored by the Brookville Fire Department.
Weeks before the shindig, I started planning my costume.
“I’m going to the party as a Christmas tree,” I told my wife Sally.
Apparently deciding it would be better to humor me than try to reason
with me, she made me a pointed hat and a body suit. On the night of the
bash, I donned the suit and she attached fresh-cut branches from a pine
tree in our yard to it, then tied bright-colored decorations to the
branches. She topped off my outfit by attaching a star to my pointed hat
and strapping small,
gift-wrapped cardboard boxes to my ankles.
arrived at the party, I headed for a corner and stood there, like any
respectable Christmas tree would do. Nobody noticed me for a good 20
And when it came time for the judging, the former kid who never won a
costume contest as a cowboy walked off with first prize as a Scotch
© 2006 North Star Writers
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