A Halloween Story

I took this Halloween photo on our deck, around 6:15 p.m. For about 10 minutes, there were these shocking pink clouds, and then–in less than minute–they were gone.

I am always introspective on Halloween. Since we moved here, we haven’t had trick-or-treaters (might have something to do with the 750-ft uphill driveway and not being able to see the house from the road). But the night is always filled with a kind of sorrow for me; I resonate more with All Souls/All Saints–the thin time of year–than costumes and candy.

In 1972, 49 years ago today, I was living in Mio, Michigan. I was newly married (may he RIP), and had a job at the drugstore in town. I worked with a teenaged boy, Jerry, who came in after school to sweep and clean up before we closed at 5:00 p.m. It was a boring job, but I liked Jerry, who was learning to play saxophone in Mio’s new band program.

I heard, from neighbors and teachers in town, that Mio kids went on a rampage every Halloween. The owner of the drugstore boarded up his windows, as did many other businesses. I was a little skeptical of the stories I heard, which seemed to be many levels above soaping windows and rotten egg-tossing. More like smashing windows and spray-painting buildings and slashing tires.

I made myself some coffee (a new pleasure for me) and waited with candy but nobody came. I could hear kids screaming in the streets. And then, around 9:00, sirens.

We didn’t hear the story until the next morning. A group of kids (five or six of them) stole a car. None of them had a drivers license. A 15-yr old boy drove the car a few miles out of town and hit a tree, while going at a ridiculous speed. All but one of his passengers (a younger sister) were killed in the crash.

I have looked for the story since, in newspaper archives, but could never find it, to clarify my old memory. I believe four kids (the oldest 15) were killed and the youngest girl survived.

One of the kids who was killed was Jerry.

I have had many happy, joyous Halloweens since 1972, especially when my children were young and we lived in a family-friendly neighborhood.

Tonight, seeing the beautiful sky, I was reminded that if Jerry were still alive, he’d be old enough to retire.

Stay safe out there, everyone. It’s a beautiful world. Stick around as long as you can.

6 Comments

    1. My former husband was the band director there from 1972 to 1976–but the program had died before he came. (And died again, although I believe there’s someone there now.)

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  1. As a young person I was exposed to the loss that has occurred from youthful rebellious behavior – be it vehicular or otherwise. To what degree can we as educators provide the guidance and opportunity to engage in meaningful non-destructive “fun”, such that tragedies such as this and many others are substantially less frequent? Is the role of an educator or resident of a community to help to curb this kind of behavior, or is this an unavoidable tragedy that we as educators and thereby community leaders need to reckon with, and help others process?

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    1. Those are good questions. And the answers aren’t clear. I don’t think the teachers in Mio were responsible for the behavior of reckless kids, but I do think their parents, and the whole community were. It was clear that there had been serious issues before we moved there. Who *is* responsible for young teens run amuck? Something’s gone wrong, and it’s up to the community to fix it.

      I could speculate about that–but it was almost 50 years ago, and what good would it do? Still, there are lessons to be learned when teenagers are so careless with their own lives. The school, as organizing point for a communal supporting kids’ self-worth and setting guidelines for behavior, isn’t a bad concept.

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  2. Thank you so much for your prompt response, and I apologize for the tardiness of mine. I agree that speculating about nearly half-century old occurrences is not an entirely useful endeavor, and conversely I also agree that there are lessons to be learned. It seems like the burden of community outreach, maintenance of youth mental health/safety, and much more unfortunately fall on the K12 educational system. In other societies and countries, teachers act as community leaders – for example in Germany where I’ve lived, as well Japan where I’ve not lived. It seems like we need to reckon with our role as educators, and most of that conversation needs to happen within the respective communities those educators work in – but including educators, and elevating them to the communal status they need to fill would allow educators to fill the role that is seemingly being hoisted upon them. I really appreciate this edublog and the work you are doing, these are merely musings of my own. All the best, thank you for all you do.

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    1. Thanks for your kind words.

      And–just musing here–I think lots more American teachers are willing to undertake the community leader role, but have been discouraged from doing so by the undisguised resentment expressed by parents and astro-turf organizations.

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