Halloween in the Hill

| November 2, 2012

Zoomer's First Jack-O-Lantern

This Halloween, I was experiencing trick-or-treating for the first time as a parent. It brought back so many great memories of celebrating Halloween as a kid in Chapel Hill.

When we moved to Chapel Hill in 1975, I was four years old and my Mom lived in Town House Apartments on Hillsborough Street and my Dad lived in Stratford Hills Apartments down the hill from there on Bolinwood Drive. My brother and I split the week between them, so Monday – Friday we were with our Mom, and then Dad would pick us up for the weekend, and we would stay with him until Monday morning. It was a lot of shuffling back and forth, but it worked for us. I mention this, because our Halloween haul of treats would vary greatly, depending on which day of the week the 31st landed. Town House has 111 apartments, and Stratford Hills has 202 apartments, and my brother and I were determined to trick-or-treat at every single one of them on Halloween night. Therefore we had almost double the amount of candy if we were at Dad’s that night, and each piece of candy we got was like a nugget of precious gold, as far as we were concerned. Stratford Hills had a lot of young families living there at that time, so there were always packs of kids competing for hand-outs at each apartment. The mood there was frantic as we rushed up and down the stairs going from apartment to apartment as fast as we could, so residents giving out treats would not run out of candy before we got there. However, if we happened to be at Mom’s for Halloween, Town House houses mostly UNC students, so there were just a few trick-or-treaters going door-to-door, and the students were happy to see us and gave generously. Either way, we got plenty of candy, of course. We eventually upgraded our candy collection pumpkins to large pillow cases to accommodate our massive loot of sweets.


By the time we moved from Stratford Hills to Briarcliff in 1979, we were expert trick-or-treaters, and expected our new neighborhood to be equally as lucrative as Stratford Hills was. However, we soon learned that there is a huge difference trick-or-treating in an apartment complex versus a neighborhood of homes on separate lots with long, wooded driveways. Despite our enthusiasm and resolve, we soon realized visiting 111 houses, let alone 202 houses, on one night would be impossible. Additionally, the swarms of costumed children that appeared out of nowhere and streamed down every sidewalk were so great, we actually had to wait in line for the handouts at each door, which held us up even more. Yet, we got oodles of candy, of course, and we enjoyed many years of trick-or-treating there until we aged out of the system.

The long-driveways of woods leading to houses that typify Trick-or-Treating in Chapel Hill.


Throughout my college years at UNC-Chapel Hill, and for many years after I graduated, I spent Halloween downtown on Franklin Street, walking up and down among the thousands of costumed crazies. It was always freezing, often drizzling, and tremendous fun. This was one of the few local events that bridged the Town and Gown divide, as students merged with residents in a sea of imagination and creativity, showing off their amazing spooky and hilarious ensembles. It truly did not feel like Halloween to me unless I took at least one tour of Franklin Street that night. Every year, no matter what time I arrived at this fantastic Halloween promenade, I would inevitably run into my brother who wore the same costume every year. He called it “Something Scary” and dressed in a long, black trench coat. He would approach fellow revelers, and ask them, “Do you want to see something scary?” If they replied, “Yes,” which they always did, he would open his trench coat to flash them, and all he would be wearing underneath was a very skimpy, neon green, tiger-striped g-string. Something scary, indeed. Sadly, I cannot provide a photo of that for your viewing pleasure, though trust me when I say the image is forever burned upon my brain.

Zoomer, a.k.a. Bat Girl, Picking Out a Toy at the Eye Care Center in University Square


Now that I am the parent of a pre-schooler, Halloween has be re-defined, and it is even more fun experiencing it through my daughter’s eyes. Cavorting on Franklin Street has been put on hold for now, and collecting candy door-to-door is once again my evening routine. This was the first year I took my daughter “Zoomer” trick-or-treating, and just like my brother and I, she caught on quickly, and wanted her plastic pumpkin filled to the rim before returning home.

We started off early at University Square, (Zoomer dressed as Bat Girl and I dressed as a witch), where businesses there were giving away “healthy” treats of toys, stickers and fun pencils. Just like her Mommy, Zoomer determined to visit each and every shop and she was thrilled with the bounty she collected.

Then we headed to my Dad’s Lakeshore neighborhood for some more trick-or-treating. He was dressed as Scrooge, and the three of us set out to beg for sweets. All of a sudden, I was seven years old again, trick-or-treating with my Dad in Chapel Hill. But this time, I had my own daughter in tow, and I realized her first memories of Halloween will be trick-or-treating with my Dad, too. How wonderful is that? And just as was in my Dad’s old neighborhood of Briarcliff, getting to the doors of each home here required a lot of walking, since the lots are big and the houses are mostly set back from the street. But my three-year-old was too excited to care. After all, she was Bat Girl, and clearly that gave her Bat Super Strength!

After canvassing that neighborhood thoroughly, Zoomer was not ready to call it quits just yet. So we drove over to my Mother-in-Law’s neighborhood of Falconbridge, and we continued on our quest with Zoomer’s Grandmother to “fill the pumpkin.” The houses in this neighborhood are much closer to the street, so it was easier for Zoomer to get to the front doors, which was good because at this point, she was on her last Bat legs. Finally, our Little Bat Girl was satisfied with her haul.

On our way home, it was so tempting to take a quick detour and drive down Franklin Street, for old times’ sake. But Zoomer was completely exhausted from all the trick-or-treat fun and was falling asleep in the car. But before she would go to bed, she had to dump out her collection of goodies out on the floor and take inventory of each piece, just as I did when I was little. It was a wonderful night, and I am happy to say, the tradition of Halloween in the Hill lives on!

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