Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 28, 2012

The costume that got away


---- — I squirmed in my seat, anxious to get on with the day. It was not a day for mathematics, English or history! It was Halloween 1954, and I was in the fifth grade.

On this one special day per year, students were permitted to wear costumes to school all day. The previous night, my mom spent the evening tearing a bed sheet into long strips of white cloth. It was an old bed sheet that had outlived its usefulness as a sheet and had been downgraded to the ragbag. My mother never threw anything away. She was the world's first recycler.

Shortly after dawn that morning, I was enjoying a hot bowl of Quaker Oatmeal topped with raisins, brown sugar and a touch of milk — a cold-weather staple in our house. I wolfed it down so we could start putting on my costume. In previous years, I had been a fireman, hobo and a soldier. This year I hoped to scare the daylights out of my classmates by arriving dressed as a mummy that had escaped from an Egyptian tomb.

After what seemed like an eternity, Mom finished her breakfast chores and came to my assistance. She began wrapping my feet and worked her way up, winding the long white strips of cotton tightly around my legs and points north. I stood very still, not wanting to be stabbed with the safety pins she used to join the strips together. I was mummified from head to toe. There were slits for my eyes and an opening for my mouth and nose. With my trick-or-treat bag in hand and looking pretty scary, I waddled down the sidewalk heading toward school.

Prior to the bell, I wandered around the playground hoping to scare the other goblins out of their wits. The first friend I crept up on turned around and said, "Oh, hi Eddie." Maybe I wasn't so scary after all.

In class, sitting down in my costume was a challenge. I truly was trussed up like a mummy! As I squirmed into my seat, I wondered how I would last the day in this get-up. What if I had to go to the bathroom? How would I eat the treats? I had forgotten that mummies don't eat.

The highlight of the school day was our Halloween parade. All six grades were ushered out of the building before lunch and escorted around the block by their teachers. Parents and neighbors lined the sidewalk to marvel at our ingenious homemade costumes, pretending to be terrified by the ghosts and goblins before them. We carried treat bags, just in case someone wanted to treat us with candy.

As I marched with my classmates, I literally began to unravel. Looking over my shoulder, I could see a trail of cloth strips dragging though the fallen leaves covering the sidewalk. Accidentally, I'm sure, the kid behind me began to step on my bedsheet tail, causing me to trip and stumble. I began to wonder if I should have been a hobo or a sailor. Would this parade ever end?

Like most painful childhood events, the parade did end. I must have been quite a sight running home for lunch. The strips of torn sheets streamed behind me, flying like surrender flags in the wind. One of my legs was totally unraveled and I had torn the sweat-soaked strips from my head. I looked ridiculous! The mummy was in tatters!

Disillusioned and embarrassed, I dreaded having to be rewrapped before returning to class. As I ate my grilled cheese and chicken noodle soup, Mom tried to reassure me that I looked good in my mummy costume, but she wisely suggested that I spend the rest of the day dressed like a cowboy. Wow, what an idea. Good Ole Mom always knew what was best.

Have a safe and Happy Halloween!

Ed Hungness and his wife became full-time residents of Fife Lake in 2005 after Ed's retirement. He can be reached at or by mail at P.O. Box 57, Fife Lake, MI 49633.