Published on April 4th, 2020 | by Content Admin0
Aynho Writers’ Group
Halloween, or not?
“Are you Mr Town Crier, Sir?” asked an American woman’s voice on my phone.
“I am the Town Crier for our village,” I said.
“I saw you in the village square: it was so cool, such fun. Would you do that for us here at Croughton Elementary School? Our kids have never seen anything like it.”
“When would you want me? If I am free I’d be happy to oblige.”
“Oh, Halloween; how does a town crier fit in with spooks and trick or treat?”
“This is a Christian community, Sir, we don’t do that here. We have “Dress up as a Word Day.”
I was intrigued, and agreed. And so for the next five years I was at the base at 8.30am in my full Town Crier gear every Halloween. Each year had its moments. Once as I reported to register for entry to the base, I was asked,
“What are you here for, Sir?”
“I’m the Town Crier,” I said.
“What are you crying about?” he said, with a puzzled look. Fortunately, Kathleen, the teacher who always arranged the event, arrived and drove me up to the school. After the first visit Kathleen gave me an envelope and an illustrated book extolling American values.
“What’s this for? I asked.
“Your pay and a present to show our appreciation.” She said, clearly puzzled that I should ask. I argued against it briefly, but realised I was upsetting her. From then on I accepted it as part of their culture and enjoyed what she gave me.
Sadly the Elementary School is facing closure in June 2020, as numbers are decreasing. This is a result of the rationalisation of bases and staffing for American forces in the UK. The remaining children will almost all be educated in British schools, depending upon where their parents are based. Those families anticipating the change are finding the overcrowding in our schools is a problem.
Kathleen met me as usual and we drove up to the school where I recognised some faces but many were new.
“You’ve got a real fan club here, you know,” she said. I was greeted by hugs from the familiar ones and handshakes from those I hadn’t met.
Kathleen had prepared my complete speech this year, so after I had a quick check on content and procedures we set off.
. “Oh yea! Oh yea! Make way, Make Way for Dress Up as a Word Day.” I shouted in between the clangs of my bell as we marched towards the first of three participating classes. The children smiled and queued behind me, marshalled by their teacher and Kathleen; a contrast to my first two or three visits when they had looked very nervous and fearful. We continued round the corridor and paused as the other two classes joined the parade. I continued ringing the bell and clearing the way until we entered the large assembly hall. Parents sat in chairs in three curved rows, smiling as their children sat on the floor in neat lines.
I delivered my speech, including the word “Proclaim,” and an appropriate sentence. Kathleen had given me the word this year, much to my surprise, as I had always provided my own in previous years. Then each child approached the microphone in turn. They were all in appropriate costumes, from wizards to spacemen, representing their word, which they announced through the microphone, if they managed to use it. They then read out a sentence including their word. I led the applause for each one. Their teachers followed with their own words. This year there was an additional section; The Masterpiece Museum. The children had been asked to copy a painting or sculpture masterpiece, or produce a work inspired by such. I toured these and admired their work. From this angle I could see a row of pumpkins along the edge of the stage. Each child was given a very small pumpkin as I led them back to their classrooms. Halloween seemed to have crept in at the last. I stood surrounded by various groups of children for a photo session before school work resumed. I retired to Kathleen’s room where she supplied me with coffee and doughnuts. She offered me the usual gifts, including a bunch of flowers with a pumpkin devil for my wife. Halloween was back indeed. It was with genuine sadness that I left for the last time.