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Posts Tagged ‘Bob Wilkins’

Halloween was my favorite holiday when I was a kid. I loved it more than Christmas. It was that cool time of year when the leaves would fall from the trees on windy evenings and the breeze still had a hint of warmth. I guess it also had to do with the fact that on Halloween night I could trick-or-treat and get CANDY, CANDY and more CANDY — especially since every other day of the year our parents warned us never to take candy from strangers. I loved dressing up and loved creating my perfect costume. When we were little, my Mom would make Halloween costumes for us. Here’s me and Tracy in the late ’60s:

“Help, I’ve lost my sheep! And my dignity.”

In later years, Mom would sometimes buy us costumes from the store — probably K-Mart, and most likely a Blue Light Special. Little girls in the late ’60s and early ’70s had about two costume choices: nurse or witch. I chose the nurse. There were little candy pills that came in the little plastic nurse’s bag. Hand-me-downs were also a part of Halloween: Coleen and Melissa would be wearing those Little Bo Peep costumes a few years later.

Once I became a lot older (at least 9 or 10), I would pride myself in making my own costume. I wasn’t your typical girly-girl who wanted to be a Princess or Fairy or Bride for Halloween. I was immensely proud of a Bum costume I designed once. I used a pair of my Dad’s old pants, an old shirt and tie, and a sailor’s hat. Hmm. Apparently I was a bum from some ’40s Hollywood movie. I rubbed used coffee grounds all over my face to resemble a five-o’clock shadow. “Brother, can you spare a dime? Or a Snickers?”

When I was in elementary school, there was a super dry spell in Halloween festivities for children in the San Francisco Bay Area. There was a crazy serial killer named the Zodiac on the loose. During those Zodiac Years, no trick-or-treating was allowed in Vallejo. I hated the Zodiac. I was too young to understand what was going on — all I knew was some crazy person had ruined my favorite holiday. Of course if Halloween fell on a Saturday night, we could have our own party around the TV when this Bay Area classic came on:

“Creature Features” was an awesome horror movie show that played on Saturday nights. There was a cool, somewhat weird, host named Bob Wilkins and he would talk about the scary movies they were playing that night. These were usually “B” movies (maybe “C”) that aspired to be as bad as movies like “War of the Gargantuas” or “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.” You probably noticed Bob in that opening clip, wearing his Buddy Holly glasses and puffing on a big cigar. In hindsight, I bet that thing was full of weed, because he was just way too mellow. I know you’re gonna click on that again just to hear that awesome, funky ’70s theme song.

Anyway, during the Zodiac Years, all kids were banned from the streets and had to go to school cafeterias or community centers to celebrate Halloween. Trick-or-treating around a cafeteria just isn’t the same once you’ve experienced the real thing outdoors, especially when that nasty corn smell is still lingering in the cafeteria air from lunch time.

We’d parade around the cafeteria in our costumes getting candy and snacks. Oh, and there was bobbing for apples, or as I like to call it, “Hello, Hepatitis!” What were those adults thinking? Hey guys, let’s grab a huge, rusty pail from the backyard scrap pile, fill it with water from the hose and throw some apples in it. Then let’s have the kids dress up like dorks with crazy makeup all over their face, run around the block begging the neighbors for candy in the cold, then drag them and their runny noses over to the big, rusty water pail full of apples and stick their faces in it. Then let’s have them bite at the apples with their candy-corroded teeth long enough so that all their spit mixes together in the water. If one of them actually snags an apple in their teeth, they WIN!! They win an APPLE!!

Even as a kid I knew there was something terribly wrong with bobbing for apples. But there were also other dangers lurking around in Halloween goodies. My Dad made us well aware of the potential razor blade or cherry bomb or “drug injected by needle” that just might be hiding in our mini Three Musketeers bar. When we got home from trick-or treating during the Non-Zodiac Years, we had to line up and pass our bags over to Dad for official inspection. Dad would check for pin holes and the like in our candy wrappers. Many times he would have to taste test our candy to be sure they were safe for us. He had to taste test A LOT of our candy. Well, he didn’t want a cherry bomb to blow our cheek off.

One time I didn’t listen to my Mom and Dad’s lecture telling us not to eat candy at night and I snuck lots of candy from my trick-or-treat bag right before bed, and proceeded to eat most of it. That night, I had the dreaded “eating-candy-before-bedtime nightmare.” About werewolves. Dancing werewolves. If you missed that post, click here, or here (I tend to write about those werewolves quite a bit, apparently).

I don’t eat candy before bed any more. And I sleep with a gun loaded with silver bullets.

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This was some comfort food I used to love smelling as it was cooking in my Grandma and Grandpa Coen’s house. It usually meant an evening full of cousins sprawled on the living room floor watching “Creature Features” while the old folks played poker, smoked, cussed and drank Oly in the dining room. Oly is short for Olympia, which was apparently the best damn beer in a can you could get in the ‘70s … or more likely, the cheapest. “Creature Features,” if you don’t know about because you didn’t grow up in the Bay Area, was an awesome horror movie show that played on Saturday nights. There was a cool, somewhat weird, host named Bob Wilkins and he would talk about the scary movies they were playing that night. These were usually “B” movies (maybe “C”) that aspired to be as bad as movies like “War of the Gargantuas” or “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.” Bob had Buddy Holly glasses and smoked a big cigar, and in hindsight, I bet that thing was full of weed, because he was just way too mellow. And you had to love the funky ’70s intro song for the show:

Anyway, my sweet little Grandma Coen only stood about 5 feet tall, but she had a big presence. She was everyone’s favorite. My Dad said that when he and his brothers were teenagers they would get in some knock-down, drag-out fist fights, and little Grandma would jump in the center to try and break them up. They would stop pummeling each other long enough to pick up little Grandma and set her gently aside, and then go back to pounding each other. As adults, they still called her Mama. And Grandpa was Daddy. But to us kids, Grandpa was B.K. That’s short for Benjamin Kenneth. Remember, given names are just a bit too much for the Coen clan. Just educating you all for future blog posts.

Grandma and Grandpa knew the hardship of the Great Depression and could make a meal out of anything. While Grandma was no chef, she sure put a lot of love into her cooking. And she loved making elbow macaroni with red sauce. I loved eating dinner at her house, because, well, that meant I didn’t have to eat dinner at my house. The only thing that sucked at dinnertime was that there was a large dining room table that fit 10 people (the adult table), and a Formica dinette that seated four. I’ll be DAMNED if I ever moved my way up from the little kid table in the kitchen to the glorious, expansive dining room table. I was always stuck at the little one with the two youngins, my little sister, Pooh, and my little cousin, Robbie (usually still wearing the blue eye shadow we applied while trying to dress him up like a girl earlier in the evening). They were seven years younger than me. My oldest sister, Tracy, was always at the adult table, and my younger sister, Coleen, who outgrew me at age 9, even made it to the adult table before me. I did actually sit at the adult table once when I was about 29, but there was nobody there for me to show-off for. I’m not even sure Grandma remembered which grandkid I was by then.

Recipe For Elbow Macaroni with Red Sauce:

Ingredients:

1 pound of ground beef
1 bag of elbow macaroni
4 cans of tomato sauce
2 cans of tomato paste
2 can-fulls of water (pick whichever can you want, the sauce or the paste, it’s a crap-shoot)
Salt and pepper to taste (you might want to taste a lot)

Pour sauce, paste and water into a large pot and simmer on low.

Fry the ground beef, and Lordy! Don’t drain the fat!! Pour it all into the pot that is heating up the sauce and water.

Boil the macaroni as directed. When the macaroni is done, pour that into the pot also, and then season with salt and pepper. And season again. Maybe again.

Don’t forget to serve this with some sliced white bread and a cube of butter. Make sure the butter is still cold enough to tear up the bread a little.

If you’re feeling ambitious, heat up some canned green beans on the stove.

And please open a can of black olives so the kids have something to put on their fingertips.

When everything is ready, signal to the well-behaved grandkid who won the right to ring the little dinner bell — the dinner bell attached to a tiny wooden plaque on the kitchen wall which reads, “Good Bread, Good Meat, Good Gosh, Let’s Eat!” Yeah, the bell was a real thing. It’s hanging in my Dad’s kitchen now:

 

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