Fall weather is finally trying to arrive and bring with it some cooler temperatures and welcomed changes in Galveston. The beaches are not as crowded, the water appears a prettier blue-green and, most of all, traffic along the Seawall and 61st Street has gotten back to normal, and there are shorter lines to get into a favorite restaurant.
COVID-19 has, of course, put a damper on so many Island activities and events that normally kick-off the fall and winter season. Many of the traditional happenings have been canceled or drastically changed with new rules and guidelines, in an attempt to take precautions during the pandemic.
The “big” one of all is, of course, Halloween. Normally the island comes alive with parties and fantastic decorations in all the local businesses and most of the homes. Going way beyond a jack-o-lantern in the window, Galvestonians usually work magic on their porches and lawns. This year the season is off to a slow start and things are not nearly as decorated as usual. There is no word of any great costume parties or costume contests this year. The LGBTQ community loves Halloween and a good excuse to dress up, or down.
With bars and restaurants not being able to “fully” open and plan some great Halloween activities, guys and gals are feeling the pinch of COVID. For the first time in many years, Robert’s Lafitte will not be presenting their annual “Rocky Horrible” production. Like the Bolivar Ferry, the giant crab at Gaido’s, the Bishop’s Palace, and Lady Victory on Broadway, Lafitte’s yearly Halloween show has become iconic and will be missed. Not happening this year is yet another clear indication of the seriousness of the pandemic.
But all is not lost. For the community that seeks a hangout or place to catch-up with friends, Todd and Tommy have reopened 23rd Street Station Piano Bar. Manager Jim Greaser says the supportive crowd has returned and with many new faces in the mesh. Still offering a live music venue, the regular performers are bringing in the patrons and entertaining the island community and visitors. Louis Johnston is now tending bar on the patio and, as always, serves up a mean Bloody Mary on Sundays!
The community looks forward to the reopening of Rumors and Robert’s Lafitte. Todd Slaughter, the owner of Rumors, has worked very hard on some renovations and changes to the popular seaside bar and, having recovered from COVID himself, is taking every precaution to ensure bar patrons are safe and happy.
Now, onto the Ghost of Halloweens Past! Galveston, as everyone knows is full of ghosts and stories of abnormal happenings. Over the years, many paranormal investigative teams have visited the Island, and all agree Galveston is a very haunted place. The nighttime Ghost Tours remain exceptionally popular and continue to bring folks to the Island, hoping to experience some of the ghostly stories and activities that have given rise to Galveston’s claim of being haunted.
Sadly, with COVID-19 and the fear of contamination, things are just not the same as before. Islanders comment that the usual Halloween excitement is simply not around this year and there is great disappointment in not being able to celebrate as before.
Just about everyone has great Halloween memories. In childhood, no matter what generation or time in history, the night of goblins, witches and ghosts, was anxiously awaited and vigorously celebrated. Times change and so do the costumes and customs of Halloween. Older folks readily recall bobbing for apples at a neighborhood party and being given homemade treats such as popcorn balls and other delicacies. There has always been yellow and white candy corn, SweeTarts, and birch flavored wax lips and teeth as well as carved pumpkins and fake spider webs.
Country folks recall having few to no trick-or-treaters and usually going to a PTA carnival or church social before it became “demonic” to celebrate Halloween. Many remember hayrides, making candied apples, and, of course, the costumes. In the 1960s, Perry Brothers and Woolworths were the places to go, long before Walmart took over. Halloween aisles were lined with orange and black boxes containing masks and tie-on suits — devils, witches, ghosts, and monsters. Everyone carried a huge orange bag, usually with a witch or black cat on the side and the words “Trick or Treat.” In simpler times, parents did not stress over the dangers and social ills that now cause so much alarm and concern. Long before hidden razor blades and rat-poisoned candies, a tossed egg or water balloon was about the worst of it. Tricks and treats!
It is easy to say “times were simpler then.” Perhaps they were. Thing is, each generation had their time and those memories over the years make that time different or better than anyone’s, before or after. Time is a great thing when it comes to recollections and making things “better” or “simpler.” In troubled times, we all look back.
Whatever you do this Halloween or as you approach the day, do so with a spirit and fun memories of your Halloweens past. Recall the childhood excitement, the anticipation, and joy experienced in a time that was unique to you. People are still people and that does not change. Joy and happiness abound, even if only in memories. Get out your orange bag, put on a plastic mask that smells, and go trick or treating. You just might fill your bag with some good stuff.