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Posts tagged ‘Halloween’

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Little Orphan Annie, the Poem Rewritten for the Political Climate Today

Mary Alice Smith, Riley’s inspiration for the poem. Wikipedia

In an earlier post, I described our family’s celebration of Halloween and how my Mother, who was born in Scotland, followed the Celtic Halloween traditions. Our grade school classes also had Halloween celebrations–everyone would dress in costumes and parade around the school grounds, followed by parties in the classrooms. Homeroom mothers would serve cider with orange and chocolate cupcakes.

One year my Mother came up with an idea that I should dress up as “Little Orphan Annie” – not the comic book character, but from the poem by James Whitcomb Riley. Riley based his poem on a real person, Alice Smith, who became orphaned when her father died in the Civil War. Allie, as she was known, came to live with the Riley family, and she would tell stories to the younger children after finishing chores at the end of the day.

For my orphan Annie costume, I wore a dress with an apron and black stockings and carried a dust cloth and broom. I memorized the poem for a classroom presentation; Mom coached me on the proper inflection at the end of each stanza, “and the goblins will get ya if ya don’t watch out!”  On looking back on the poem, I recalled these lines . . .

and cherish them that loves ya, and dry the orphans tears
and help the poor and needy ones that cluster all about,
or the goblins will get ya if ya don’t watch out!!!

In thinking about those words in the poem, I became inspired to rewrite the poem for today’s current political climate just before the 2012 election.

Over the past few months, I have received forwarded emails, not about a particular political issue or articulated argument advocating one position or another, but rather content that focused on rumors and lies with obvious prejudicial biases. In rewriting the poem, I included the lines above, written over a hundred years ago, as they apply today as well.

I guess if I could give a dedication to someone, it would be to those folks forwarding those emails.

The Ghost of Little Orphan Annie on Election Eve

The ghost of orphan Annie has somethin’ strong to say,
Things you might’ve heard before but may have brushed away.
About payin’ those taxes, is that so very bad?
Or are ya worryin’ and fretin’ and makin’ yourself so sad?
For all the roads an’ bridges, schools, an’ parks an’ like
Just let them go to dust?  Well, that would be a fright.
If you’ re complainin’ then finishin’ with a shout
The goblins will get ya if ya don’t watch out!

There’s ways to pull together as Americans will do
But a bake sale to cure a kid with cancer, mumps or flu?
Or how about a doctor for the child ill next door?
Or are ya a listenin’ to that politician’s unrelenting roar.
Now payin’ fair share, that’s not a scary scheme.
Those with more wealth could help, or so it would seem.
So let’s all pitch in together, please, don’t be a lout
Or  the goblins will get ya if ya don’t watch out!!

Are ya balkin’ to give to causes that benefit us all?
Or is money is better spent for merchants at the mall?
With the social security Grandma can live her own
Rather than in your basement without a telephone.
And those that will follow you, fond an’ dear,
Take care of them, please, an’ dry the orphan’s tear
An’ help the poor an’ needy ones that cluster all about,
Or the goblins will get ya if ya don’t watch out!!!

So who are the goblins, do they hide in the night?
They’re just right in front of ya, in your plain sight!
They tell ya that science is not on your side.
They tell ya not to worry, take your car for ride.
They point to your working pal as stealing your dough.
When its unregulated Wall Street that’s really the foe.
They make up a story so you’ll hate those abroad,
Those many poor souls, also victims of fraud.
Think: is it your anger what this is all about?
Then the goblins have got ya, ya didn’t watch out!!!!

Halloween Pumpkin Carving at its Best

So why do we head out into the chilled night air to look at pumpkins?

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night
Good Lord, deliver us!
               Scottish Prayer

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. Growing up, I thought it was everyone’s favorite because our family made the day a special celebration. I attribute that fondness for the holiday to my Mother, who was born in Scotland and brought with her the spirit of Halloween with stories of ghosties and ghoulies. My neighborhood friend, Joan, reminded me that Mom would peel apples for us, taking care to not break the peel. Each of us then tossed the peel behind our backs to see if  ghostie would grant our wish. Halloween originated in Scotland dating back when the ancient Celts celebrated Samhain, marking the end of summer and the beginning of the dark half of the year. The Celts celebrated the day by wearing masks, called “guising” or going into disguise, to scare away evil spirits. Halloween night seemed to be mystical experience–dressing in costumes, wandering about in the cool evening air, and thinking about the specter of strange and otherworldly happenings.

When Fall came around, our family usually headed out to the country to buy gourds, indian corn and pumpkins. We carved our pumpkins into jack ‘o lanterns; the tradition arises from the strange occurrence of light flickering over peat bogs. Originally turnip lanterns provided the Halloween decorations in Ireland and the Scottish Highlands.

Despite all the talk of witches, fairies, ghosts, skeletons, devils and apparition of all sorts I knew that these references were merely whimsical. Mom was firmly planted in reality and folk beliefs were just stories. Mom clearly identified superstitions, including most religious customs, and separated fact from fiction. We had so much fun trick-or-treating around the neighborhood with our friends. Supposedly, the idea was to threaten a trick if we didn’t receive a treat, but that scenario was never part of our tradition.

Harvest moons, apples, hayrides, anything to do with the season still resonates with the whimsy of my childhood so it seemed only natural to drive out to Chadds Ford to see the Historical Society’s annual pumpkin carving contest this past weekend. The Great Pumpkin Carve, a Chadds Ford tradition, began in the 1970s and spread from a few porch displays at the Chads Ford Inn to covering the entire lawn. All the pumpkins used in the contest are native grown, some weighing as much as 400 pounds.

What I imagined as a few pumpkins displayed in field turned out to be an explosion of activity. It seemed as if everyone in the county turned out to view the works of the pumpkin artists! Nobody could be disappointed.  Below just a few of the displays . . . .

I’m a little pumpkin, short and stout . . .


An entire story on the surface of a pumpkin . .

Mad hatter, no less


Calling wolf

Friends, cider, pumpkins and enjoying the moonlit night . . . it’s Halloween!

Specter of Economic Injustice Haunts the Nation

During our years working on the  Swarthmore College Living Wage and Democracy Campaign we used many venues, such as panels, rallies and lectures to advance the cause of a living wage for campus workers. For some of these events we incorporated street theater as one of the methods to bring attention to low wages at the College. Around Halloween in October of 2004 the Specter of Economic Injustice began wandering about the campus and town. Signs warned that the Specter was coming:

The Specter haunted the area for several weeks, sometimes showing up at events or just floating across the landscape. Over seven feet tall, the Specter, draped in black robes, carried chains intertwined with dollar bills. Piercing red eyes glowed in the night. Usually a sign carrier accompanied the Specter to clarify the message to those who were unaware.

We also distributed flyers stating . . .

Issues of unfair workers’ compensation have haunted the Philadelphia area. Many low-wage workers have difficulty putting food on the table, and food pantries have seen a huge increase in the number as working poor who seek their help. Swarthmore students have organized around this issue for years, citing their College’s commitment to Quaker values.  They believe Swarthmore College with its billion dollar endowment cannot teach students to improve the world while practicing social injustice toward campus workers.

This Halloween would be a good time for the Specter to appear again. I’m sure the Specter would be warmly welcomed  by  Philly Occupy. But just like the ghosts in Charles Dickens‘ Christmas Carol, the Specter would be visiting the Scrooges of the world.  So who are the Scrooges? The Specter might consider those who

  • block legislation for campaign finance reform
  • oppose universal health care
  • criticize workers for standing up for fair pay and benefits
  • support unregulated corporations
  • allow the public to suffer the consequences of pollution when companies make profits
  • thwart efforts to improve education
  • advocate for tax structures that give loopholes for the rich and hardships for the poor
  • profit from war

For us mortals we have to rely on other methods to further economic justice.  The Occupy folks have made the first successful steps. Now we must take up the banner and move forward. We can join with others who share our concerns to form a broader movement, run our own candidates, pressure the politicians with the vote, disengage from corporate control and encourage those who are making a difference.

Relying on the good will of the rich and powerful to relinquish influence and wealth will only result in the continued nightmare on Main Street.

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