Halloween is a big deal in our neighborhood. With my children being too old to trick or treat, we have lots of fun handing out treats – no tricks! – to the neighborhood children. Really, it’s a neighborhood/small town affair. Treats for kids, adults and pets abound.
But, being the family historian and genealogist that I am …..
I interviewed my parents about how their Halloween traditions.[Warning….I’m about to get up on my soap box.]
You know oral history is important to your family history research. I would go so far as to say oral history is crucial to our research.
As researchers we learn vital clues to family relationships, where family lived, where they moved to, and so forth.
Beyond factual clues, oral history reveals aspects of an individual’s personality. It enriches the stories of their lives we can share with younger generations.
Never underestimate the power of oral history and a fun story to grab the younger generations’ attention.
With the importance of oral history in mind, let talk Halloween![I’m stepping off of my soap box now. 🙂 ]
Halloween Tricks? Or Treats?
Let’s find out what Talbott cousins in the 1940’s might have been up to on Halloween.
Growing up in rural 1940’s Halifax County, Virginia, Halloween was more about the tricks than the treats. At least for the boys!
The Flaming Cow Poop (Yes, you read that right!)
The Talbott cousins grew up in rural southern VA. The family was primarily a farming family. On Halloween the boys would get a cow patty (that’s cow poop, just so we are clear) and place it in a grocery sack.
They would then place the sack of cow poop on an unsuspecting person’s porch, light the sack on FIRE and knock on the door.
Oh yes, and RUN. The person would open their front door, see a grocery sack on fire…..and stomp the fire out.
Use your imagination on how that went.
Do you want to get your children interested in family history? You just need three words: Granddad and Cow Poop!
My (adult) children still laugh at this story.
The Mysterious Rocking Chair
Those Talbott cousins did not stop at cow patty flambes. They had more tricks up their sleeves.
The cousins would make a dummy person out of things they found on the farm. Next, they would place the dummy in a rocking chair on someone’s front porch. They would then tie a rope around the rocking chair and hide off to the side of the porch. One person would ring the doorbell and then hide. When the door opened, one of the boys would pull the rope and rock the chair creating a spooky sight for the homeowner!
I’ve been assured my father was not the ring leader in any of these tricks, but one of the younger boys following the older cousins.
At least that’s his story and he’s sticking to it!
Let’s move on to a family of girls. Halloween looks a bit different, I can assure you.
Growing up outside of Greensboro, NC, my mother’s family was still in a fairly rural setting. There were only about 4-5 houses of close neighbors and friends.
All the children would dress up and trick or treat at each other’s houses in the more traditional way kids do today.
No real tricks were done.
In this case, it was more about the treats. The mothers would bake really good treats for the kids – homemade cookies, candy apples – that sort of thing. No store-bought candy there. Since I know the women doing the baking, I know those were some fabulous treats.
Oral history is fun. It connects generations. It faciliates the interest of younger generations in their families and provides a grounding effect as well.
Start seeking oral history from your family members! You might just find a flaming cow poop story in your family!
Other posts of interest:
- 5 Tips For Interviewing a Family Member with Dementia
- Genealogy For Beginners – Start Finding Your Ancestors!
- Free Genealogy Websites – A Frugal Genealogist’s Guide