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NO SOAP

By Ed Stout


Halloween is approaching and it has caused me to think back on my glory Halloween days. In other words, this was a 3-year span between the time when I was 10 until I was 13 years old. During these years, I had reached the point where I was fully into the spirit of the season and had come up with some ideas on how to maximize its benefits. The Halloween season was all about two things: candy and trickery.

October 30, the night before Halloween, was referred to as “beggar’s night,” a term that as far as I know was unique to Dayton, Ohio. That of course was the night that all of us goblins went from door to door in an effort to garner as much candy as possible in a two hour or so time span. My motto was start early and finish late.

In order to fully participate in beggar’s night, one had to have some type of costume. I always wore the same one: old clothes and hat and black face. Old clothes weren’t a problem and since men wore hats in those days, one could always come up with an old brim hat. The only expense involved in my costume was the black face. This was solved by shoe polish. If we didn’t have any at the house, I had to fork over 29 cents for a can of Kiwi or Esquire. Then I’d apply generous portions to my face, wash my hands and I was on my way. The area I covered was either side of North Main Street near the North Town Shopping Center. I did not use a “trick or treat bag.” Instead, my mother was kind enough to give me one of her pillow cases. Again, my goal was to maximize benefits and a pillow case could hold a lot of candy.

We did not walk from door to door, we ran, in an effort to cover the most ground in the shortest possible time. There were some apartment complexes in the area and one would think that these would be a great way to maximize efforts. Maybe yes, and maybe no. Some apartment dwellers were either not home or refused to answer the door. In such cases, the regular single family house neighborhoods were the places to be. I do, however, remember one apartment complex that I got to a little after 6 p.m. One of the residents had placed a big bag of Butterfingers next to the apartment door. On the bag they had painted a sign that read, “Take one.” That year I finished my last Butterfinger while watching the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day.

During that three year, four Halloween span, I never did fill one of my mother’s pillow cases with candy but I came close. I carried some pretty heavy loads of candy back to our house after I’d finished my beggar’s night spree. Looking back on it, I’m pretty sure my dentist is happy about my diligent Halloween efforts (I think I’ve put at least one or perhaps both of his daughters through the University of Tennessee). My mouth is filled with caps, bridges and root canals which are, no doubt, directly related to consuming mass quantities of candy during the months of November, December and January each year.

The other thing about Halloween is the “trick” element. We could talk about papering, egging and flaming bags, filled with who knows what, thrown onto porches. Instead, I’d like to say a word or two about soaping windows. First, however, I must ask when was the last time you saw any soaped windows? I can’t really remember seeing any in the last few decades. It must be a lost art. I wonder, what’s wrong with kids today? Apparently they don’t have any initiative. To be sure, back in the late 50s and early 60s, one did not have to look far to see soaped windows in Dayton, Ohio.

I won’t admit to being a chronic window soaper, but I will confess that I did engage in this aspect of Halloween trickery. The first thing one must do in order to properly soap a window is choose the right soap. To anyone with any experience, however, this is a no-brainer. Ivory soap was by far the best. In claiming the title for best soap, Ivory had several things going for it. The two main things were that it was cheap and it left a bold mark on any window it encountered. The fact that it was able to float was not relevant. The only down side to Ivory was that it was a bit large to fit “just right” in a young boy’s hand. You could quickly turn this deficit into an asset by breaking the bar in half (two for the price of one). During this time we’re talking about, Dial was the most popular soap. (“Aren’t you glad you use Dial? Don’t you wish everyone did?”) But it was a poor choice for soaping windows. While its smaller size fit nicely in the hand, it was yellow and consequently, it left a very faint mark on any window it was applied to. Dial was not the worst soap choice, though. That distinction belonged to Lava, the hand soap. Lava had a sand-like component to it and it was impossible to leave a bold, consistent mark on any window. So, if you were carrying a bar of Lava you could never be a top flight soaper.

Thus, with a bar of Ivory in hand, the soaper went about his business. Soaping season generally began two weeks before Halloween. Anyone soaping before this time was deemed to be a chronic soaper who was acting in bad taste. There were three possible soaping targets: stores, cars and house windows. Stores were the easiest because it could be done after hours. Some, though, would do it during the time the store was open. I’ve seen expert soapers carrying a bar of soap at his side, walking closely to the store window and soaping while he walked without anyone really noticing it. When you saw something like that, you knew you were watching a true artist practicing his craft. Cars were also a target. Many were parked on the street in the dark and a sneaky soaper would walk by and scribble a few marks on the passenger windows. Houses, however, were a different subject altogether. It was indeed a brave soaper who would walk up to somebody’s house and soap a picture window, for example. Such people were crazy and I tried to avoid them at all costs.

These are some of my Halloween memories. Generally, they are positive ones. I do have some regrets. I regret that soaping has become a lost art. Although I will confess I would not be a happy camper if some young gentleman soaped my windows. I also regret the amount of candy I consumed and the long term effect that consumption has had. Nevertheless, given the option, I’d probably do the same thing again.