Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Listening For the Calliope

When I was a youngster growing up in 1960s Rochester, Trick-Or-Treat was the main event of the autumn season. As stores broke out the Halloween displays, our minds mulled over costume ideas and we kids bugged our parents to buy us just the right mask for the event. Kresge's had a seemingly endless selection of the hard plastic masks held in place with a skinny elastic band that always broke before the Halloween night festivities could end.

A week before Halloween night, there was a special event in town that served to build our anticipation of things to come. The Monday prior to Halloween was Kiwanis Flare Night. The Rochester Kiwanis Club and the fire department came through the streets of town selling packages of road flares to be used to illuminate the sidewalks on Halloween night. Some years, they used a calliope mounted on one of the trucks to announce their presence in the neighborhood for the flare sale. Our ears strained to hear that music pipe up and we would immediately announce to Dad that "they're coming down our street!".

On Halloween night, Trick-Or-Treat was officially begun when the fire siren blew at 7:00 p.m. A few minutes before the appointed time, every father in the neighborhood was sitting on his front porch or stoop with a bundle of road flares in hand, patiently waiting for the siren to blow. Everyone was very obedient, and nobody ever lit their flares until the siren was sounded. Promptly at 7:00, we heard the long-awaited wail, and flares simultaneously lit the sidewalks up and down the street. The whole neighborhood was soon eerily alight with a pinkish-orange cloud of sulphur dioxide smoke, and kids raced out their front doors with plastic jack-o-lanterns or pillow cases at the ready to begin collecting their loot. Trick-Or-Treat was on!

1 comment:

  1. Yes and it was great fun. What a wonderful tradition it was. Mrs. Ginger Ketelsen summed it up correctly in her letter to the editor a few years back about why this was stopped a few years ago... too bad they haven't started it back up.