A Sinatra Type of Halloween

By Felice Prager

A Sinatra Type of Halloween

This was the year we were permitted to go without parental supervision for Trick or Treating. The world was a quieter and less suspicious place back then, and as long as we stayed in the neighborhood and with each other, we were allowed to go without parents lagging behind us. It was a big deal to us. In addition, there were enough older siblings among the group to keep an eye out for the younger children. The older brothers and sisters were given rules and boundaries where they were permitted to go. “As far as Abbott Boulevard,” they were told. “Don’t cross Route Five. Hold your sister’s hand when you cross streets. And don’t bother Mrs. Sinatra this year.”

The older siblings nodded their heads, and we wondered how long it would be until we could be in charge.

The rumor was that Frank Sinatra’s mother lived a few blocks away from us in a small brick home, though we never saw Frank Sinatra or his mother on that property, near that property, or in anywhere in town. We based our belief on a doormat that said, “SINATRA” in block letters on top with “GO AWAY!” written beneath it. Despite the fact that Sinatra was a common last name in the New Jersey town where we lived, we were convinced that Frank Sinatra’s mother owned this house. We convinced ourselves that she lived alone and occasionally Frank would come to visit her and have a good home-cooked Italian dinner, though no one ever confirmed this. We figured Frank sent her big checks so she could have her groceries and clothes delivered. We figured Frank bought the doormat for his mother as a Mother’s Day present. We assumed it was made for him, probably by someone like Jerry Lewis or Dean Martin because he had an incredibly sophisticated sense of humor. “He must fly Mrs. Sinatra out to Hollywood on his private jet in the middle of the night,” we assumed. We thought instead of the stewardess serving her caviar and champagne, they served pizza and spaghetti. We imagined music piped into the private jet – only songs sung by Frank, of course. It was all possible and very believable to us at the time even though none of it was based on even an ounce of proof. We weren’t old enough to swoon for Sinatra, but our parents were – and, at the time, we didn’t have our own music or stars over which we could swoon – yet. We were very young.

No one in my neighborhood bought costumes back then; I don’t even remember if costumes were available for sale in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It would have been an extravagance my family couldn’t afford anyway.

Some parents made costumes for their kids.

In my case, I had planned my costume months in advance of Halloween. We marked our calendars and counted the days. Each year, I planned on being Miss America. I planned on wearing a bathing suit and flip flops – I didn’t own high heels at the time and couldn’t fit into my mother’s size “8 double A with its triple A heel.” I also had a hand-made sash that said, “Miss America” draped over another sash that said “Miss New Jersey.” I made a tiara out of tin foil, and when I tried the costume on, my father sang, “Here she comes – Miss America” as I walked down a pretend runway in our living room. I started doing this in April and practiced for opening night: Halloween.

When the weather dipped into the 40s, my mother finally put her foot down. I would “catch my death of cold” wearing a bathing suit for Halloween. I was unable to convince her that I could effectively ward off all germs with my winter jacket over my bathing suit. Nothing I said could change her mind. The Miss America costume was not going to happen – again.

Instead, each year, I wound up going as a hobo. Being a hobo was always a fallback costume for those who didn’t prepare, weren’t terribly creative, or just didn’t want to put effort into a costume. I was ready to be glamorously creative. Then, I was disappointed that I was forced to be mundane by something silly like weather.

There was a positive side to being a hobo, however. It was easier to carry the candy – on the end of my hobo’s stick – a broom handle my mother unscrewed each year for me to sling over my shoulder. Among the family photos my mom painstakingly prepared each year, there are pictures of me in a bathing suit with my Miss America sash draped across me in one photo. Then, there is another photo of me – with the same face and a hint of tears – dressed as a hobo.

Decked out in our costumes for Halloween and excited that the weather was clear with no chance of rain and or snow; we carried old pillowcases or handled bags saved especially for candy collection in one hand and a box given to us by our teachers in the other. We were also collecting pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters for UNICEF. We had it all planned. We would ring the doorbell, then in unison we would sing, “Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat.” That was considered “fresh” back then. In reality, we planned on saying that, but when the door was answered, we just said, “Trick or treat!” We didn’t want people to think we were delinquents.

We were never given a curfew. The neighborhood was small, and if our parents wanted to find us, all they had to do was drive down a half dozen streets looking for a mob of miniature hobos. I was not the only child who started out in one unrealistic costume and ended up in another.

When we ran out of houses or the younger children started complaining about sore feet or that they were cold and tired, we went home. We emptied our bags onto the kitchen table and put our UNICEF boxes where we wouldn’t forget to bring them to school the next day. Our parents didn’t have to inspect each item for unacceptable or dangerous ingredients. Each year, there was a homemade popcorn ball made by Mrs. Peck and a candied apple made by Mrs. Barth. There was gum, Hershey’s kisses, and wrapped sourballs given to us by Mr. Stadler, a senior citizen who lived near us. Mr. Stadler never remembered to buy Halloween candy since his children were grown and he lived alone, but he always managed to find something to give us.

There was never anything from Mrs. Sinatra. Every year, despite our parents’ warnings, we rang her bell and waited. No answer. Frank must have taken her to Paris or the Caribbean or to a screening of one of his films.

I don’t remember the other assorted items. It didn’t matter. We sat around the kitchen table and shared our loot. Then, way past our normal bedtime, we climbed into bed and planned our costumes and antics for the next year.

About this writer

  • Felice Prager Felice Prager is a freelance writer and multisensory educational therapist from Scottsdale, Arizona. She is the author of five books: Waiting in the Wrong Line, Negotiable and Non-Negotiable Negotiations, TurboCharge Your Brain, SuperTurboCharge Your Brain, and Quiz It: ARIZONA. Her essays have been published locally, nationally and internationally in print and on the Internet. Learn more at www.WriteFunny.com.

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2 Responses to “A Sinatra Type of Halloween”

  1. Aggie Rosa says:

    Thanks for bringing me back; its exactly how I remember! Wonderful town to grow up in at a wonderful time!

  2. Linda O'Connell says:

    This wonderful, nostalgic essay made me smile. Sherry Lewis’s uncle was rumored to live in our building. So I could sure relate to this story, the time frame, the costumes…all of it.

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