Hooky on Halloween with Dean

I hear a lot of talk around town about haunted houses.

Lemme tell ya that the most legendary and infamous house of horrors was most certainly Hart House.

From my earliest recollections I remember waking up and going down to the dark and dingy dungeon where numerous humungus brutes waited for their turn to have a romp with my dad. Stu would eventually come down wearing his baby blue wool tights, licking his lips with his eyes ablaze looking very much like a crafty old daddy long legs spider. My dad made a point of never chasing any of the boys out of the dungeon because he considered this to be highly educational.

Most of the big brutes tried to make out to me that they would take it easy on my dad. So easy, in fact, that before long Stu would have them tied up in knots with screams so loud and blood curdling that my mom would call down from upstairs for him to quiet down. Sometimes when it got crazy enough they’d seize the moment and jump up to make their escape! The only trace that they’d been there at all were footprints in the snow.

For a little kid watching his dad pull some bull neck brute’s head off his shoulders was always interesting but at Hart House there was always something else.

Like under the porch, where Terrible Ted, the wrestling bear, lived for a time . He was in a little cage and he seemed to love my dad’s home made beer that was usually slipped through the bars by sweaty brutes when my dad got done with them. For me, I found it more enjoyable to grab myself a Revel out of the fridge on the porch and hang my feet down and drip ice cream on my toes and let Terrible Ted lick it off. I still have all my toes so I guess Ted wasn’t really all that terrible after all.

Generally on Halloween night most die hard trick or treaters wisely chose to drive past Hart House. When I was a kid my dad’s house was at the very edge of town but every once in a while some unknowing ghouls and goblins would rap on the kitchen door hoping for a treat. Candy was never an available commodity and I can remember some kids waiting at the door while my dad went digging around through the kitchen drawers and cupboards and came back with a fist full of chestnuts that’d probably been left there since WWI!

I remember one Halloween, when I was nine, when my older brother Dean concocted a crazy scheme to play hooky from school so we could prepare for a night of trick or treating. My brother Bruce typed out a note for the teacher and forged my mom’s name on it perfectly and it all should have gone smoothly.... but as you may have figured out Calgary weather can change pretty quick and our plans of drinking cream sodas and gorging on popcorn twists didn’t quite pan out when a foot of snow greeted us that morning!

When my dad dropped us off at lunch time we made like we were walking in just long enough to see my dad drive off. We made our getaway! We walked through Edworthy Park and climbed up a tall spruce tree that was just close enough to be a look out post. The cream sodas had frozen and the bottles exploded and our little holiday was turning into a nightmare.

My feet were frozen and I talked Dean into sneaking around the back way behind my dad’s house where we had hopes of scurrying to safety in of all places - the dungeon!

After hiking through knee high snow we got to a telephone pole on which there was posted a sign, WATCH OUT FOR CHILDREN. Well, that’s exactly what my dad must have been doing ...

We only had to run a short jaunt of about twenty feet and we figured that the chance my dad would be looking out the kitchen window at that very moment was close to impossible.

We made our move and tore across the driveway.

Dean cautioned me to wait while he checked to see if the coast was clear for us to dash to the steps that lead down to the dungeon.

Shivering from the cold I glanced behind me only to see my dad coming towards me looking a lot like J.R. Chicken Hawk. I frantically tugged at Dean’s coat. I was so scared I couldn’t talk and Dean, who hadn’t turned around, was getting mad at me for all that tugging. He turned just in time for Stu to collar us both!

“What are you two doing home from school so early?” my dad asked in a booming voice.

Well, Dean usually had an answer for everything - but not this time. Confined to our bedroom that Halloween night we could only listen to the few brave little souls who came out in the cold hoping for candy - but got only chestnuts.

But they still had a better day than us.