I saw this picture in the Southern Heritage Celebrations Cookbook. (1984, so not as retro as most but the picture is from 1910.)
This picture brought a wealth of memories immediately back to me. Bobbing for apples was not a traditional feature of Halloween in the 70s and 80s, so why the memories? My mother. By the time I reached sixth grade, in the days when sixth grade still meant elementary school and class parties, everyone knew that my mother WAS the room mother.
The teacher started to hand out the carefully mimeographed sheets asking for volunteers for room mother. The class all told her that she only needed to give one to me and one to Lonnie Berger. My teacher called my mother and told her that this was the first time in all her years of teaching that a room mother had been elected by the class and asked if she was willing. Well, of course, that’s what my mother DID.
Why the enthusiasm from my class? My mother didn’t bring cupcakes and Kool-Aid. She didn’t do cute little goody bags. Instead my mother brought spiced cider and some traditional fun activities. Traditional as in old-time fun. In sixth grade this meant apple bobbing. My chagrin as daughter of the weird mother–immense. You know the girls in their princess, Barbie, and fairy costumes made snide comments. I must be such a weird child because my mother did such odd things. Of course, suddenly through my mother’s magic, apple bobbing became the BEST Halloween game ever. There were a lot of laughs and a lot of giggles and no successful apple bobbers on the sidewalk outside the classroom. Plenty of very wet and laughing children but frustration galore.
Then Roy Brown got his turn. Roy was the boy in class that would get pulled out for this and that. He was half nice, half bully, and all struggle with school. I am sure these days he would have been evaluated and had a much better plan in place and perhaps some medication to help with his constant attention issues.
On that Halloween Day, Roy made the most amazing thing happen. He ducked his head way in the tub of water and came out with an apple between his teeth. He was soaked and victorious. I can picture his face now–grinning because he had done something no one else in the class had successfully achieved and he did it first. I loved my mother and her weird ideas in that moment. I gained a measure of awe and respect for Roy and I think everyone in class did. It seemed to help Roy too. I seem to remember he started to really reach out to others in class and start to believe in himself around that time. (Or maybe it was the other way around, as a class we realized the value of this boy that we had known since kindergarten but weren’t as close to as others in class)
Was it apple bobbing? Maybe. Maybe not. But on that day, he was the hero.