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Halloween preparation in the 1930's in the small town of Matoaka consisted of seeing that you had a large bar of Octagon laundry soap to soap the windows of the stores and shops that lined the main street and those of a few private residences, if one of your girl or boy friends lived there. Now I have long suspected that this harmless prank was designed by a committee of businessmen and civic leaders as a harmless way for the youngsters to let off steam. The day after Halloween, all the merchants would be out with a bucket of water and a long handled brush scrubbing the windows and taking advantage of the free soap. There was always the spoil sport who used a candle instead of soap and this did cause some discomfort for the cleaners.

In the area, overturning outhouses was a common mischief, but since there were none in the town, this was out as an outlet for mischief. When I was about five years old, the day after Halloween, grandfather, Reverend H. I. Cook discovered they had lifted the ornamental gate from the fence and it was no where to be found. He was going to have to look for it. Being his only grandson, I got special privileges and he agreed to let me accompany him in his search. I believe he had some inside information because the search did not take long.

We left the house, going up toward the Christian Church and following the road to the right, went up the road until we were above the pump house, which pumped water for the town's drinking water and there on the top peg of the steps used by linemen to work on lines was the gate up a telephone pole. Grandfather climbed the pole, retrieved the gate and we took it home and he slipped it back on the small upright cylinders that were a part of the gate hinges.

Thinking back, it was a harmless prank that gave grandfather and I a chance for a morning walk and did no harm. His demeanor was calm and he displayed no anger or frustration at having to retrieve his gate.

Musings by Lt. Col. Henry T. Cook, USMC (Ret)