• Gabriel Donio

Memories of Halloween growing up on Tilton St.


courtesy photo

OK, there are local columns.


And then there are really local columns.


This column falls under the second header.


From my office window at The Gazette building, located at the corner of Tilton and Orchard Streets, I can see the house where I grew up from the early 1970s to the early 1990s. My parents moved there in 1969 and that is where my mother still lives.


When we were young kids and well into our teenage years, we loved Halloween on Tilton Street.


Some of the memories are the ones we all share: costumes and candy, Trick-or-Treating in the dark (except for the no-fun years in the 1980s), Halloween parties with hot dogs (boiled of course) and bobbing for apples, and the Kiwanis Halloween Parade downtown along Bellevue Avenue.


The parade looms large in my childhood memories. Back then it was one of the few town-wide events we had. There wasn’t even a Christmas parade. Then as now, the crowds turned out to watch the bands, the floats and the “walkers.” There were a lot of people who walked the parade in costume back then, including one year a group of people who wore trash bags and called themselves the “California Raisins” after the Claymation raisins from the commercials that were a big hit in the 1980s.


The parade always ended with a big display of local firetrucks flashing their lights and sirens. Good clean Halloween fun that I thought everyone grew up with until I found out that wasn’t the case.


Halloween has always been special in Hammonton. The parade and other events of the 1970s and 1980s were the staples of most kids’ Halloweens. Today, of course, there is an entire “Halloween Season” filled with local events like the Downtown Trick-or-Treat, various trunk-or-treat events, costume days at the schools, the Halloween Parade still going strong and neighborhoods that are destinations due to their decorated homes, theme parties for adults as well as kids and outstanding candy.


People actually come from other towns to go Trick-or-Treating in Hammonton.


I still remember one of my first costumes. It was a store-bought costume of C-3PO from the movie Star Wars. Two of my brothers went as Darth Vader and R2D2, respectively. Yes, there is a picture of this somewhere in the house where I grew up, I am sure. For all I know, the costumes may still be there too.


What made our Tilton Street neighborhood stand out during Halloween was the displays on the front lawns back in the 1980s and 1990s, particularly of our house (a couple years we even had an old actual wooden coffin donated to the effort by Marinella Funeral Home) and the house down the street, which literally transformed the entire structure into a haunted house, complete with rickety picket fence and various Halloween decorations on both floors of the two-story structure.


Cars would make it a point to slow down and look at the displays on Tilton Street each Halloween. When we were in high school, a group of friends used to sit in the bushes and yell what we thought were scary things. The families in the cars, their windows down, would laugh. It was all good small town fun.


For the last five years, I’ve made it a point to look out at Tilton Street as I leave The Gazette. I think about Trick-or-Treating dressed in Star Wars costumes, or those displays, and the many people who drove along Tilton Street to enjoy some Halloween fun.


As with most local columns like this one—although this one may be one of the most local I’ve written—it continues to be my pleasure to write about these memories and to be able to see that the neighborhood is still here, different in many ways, but still remarkably like the one I grew up in decades ago.


Now that is a Halloween treat, I can assure you.


Gabriel J. Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.