Please introduce yourself to the readers.
My name is Charles Potomac. I am the creator of a lot of things, including the sadly defunct web-comic "Geek to Me" that I hope to someday re-post the archives of online. GTM was a comic I did in the late 1990's putting a fictionalized spin on my years working in a comic shop. I currently am working on season two of my podcast The Last Hometown and a couple comic projects that I hope to release in early 2020. In October I will be putting a spin on the annual Inktober event and trying to draw a panel of a comic called "Captain Grilled Cheese" every day of the month. These panels will be posted to my Instagram and The Last Hometown page on Facebook.
What was Halloween like for you as a kid?
I grew up in the town of Anoka Minnesota, which is the Halloween Capital of the world... seriously, it is! Go google it. Growing up I never really understood what made us the Halloween capital, but I was always proud of it. In Anoka there were a lot of different events for Halloween, including the annual children's parade where the kids from all the elementary schools would be brought to main street in costume and marched through the town. This was a loved tradition by everyone, except for the kids. it basically amounted to a four to five mile hike in costume, usually with winter gear on underneath it, after all this is Minnesota and late October so it was usually pretty cold already. (for example, the Halloween Blizzard of 1991) So you would either be freezing or covered in sweat, or sometime both at the same time... I don't think it was coincidence that there would be a high level of kids out sick the next week!
One of the other traditions in Anoka is that every year High School art students were allowed to submit design ideas and local businesses would pick the one they liked best and then the artist and a couple of friends would get to take a day off school and go paint the image on the store window. My Junior year my design was picked and I tried to find some pictures of it but sadly could not. It was always fun walking through downtown in October and checking out all the Halloween paintings on the store. Sadly I have not really seen much of this happening in recent years.
Did you have any favorite costumes?
I grew up poor, which meant that the idea of store bought costumes were pretty much out of the question for us. Our childhood was dominated by costumes my mother could make by sewing or putting odds and ends together. There was no cool Ben Cooper costumes in my childhood. Some of the costumes turned out great, The Cowboy and Train Engineer come to mind. My favorite would have to be the cowboy. It was part homemade, and part hand me down parts. I always thought it was the one that turned out the best.
There was also an awesome Han Solo and Princess Leia costume that she did for us. Sadly I could not find photos of those. The biggest failures would have been the Mummy (you can hear the story of that in The 2018 Retroist Halloween Special Podcast.)
Do you have any outstanding Halloween memories?
I previously mentioned the Halloween Blizzard. The year of the Halloween Blizzard I was working at a Baskin Robbins Ice Cream Shop. Early in the afternoon it started to become obvious that we were in for some significant snowfall, but the owner was very worried that if we closed early we would be losing out on business. Being the shift lead at the time and seeing no customers coming in I let the rest of the staff that was on that day head out and stuck around to man the shop myself. One by one I watched every shop in the shopping center around me close. The Walmart and McDonalds were the last to go, but even they shut down... Not us though. The owner insisted that we stay with it all the way to normal closing hours... by the time that finally came around, it was too late for me. The snow was to high for my little Chevette to drive in, not to mention the fact that a snow plow had gone by at some point and buried the parking lot entry so deep in snow that it was higher than the roof of my car! I ended up stuck at the shop for the entire night. Thankfully I had had the sense to grab a pizza from the place next door before they closed so I had food, and I always have a book with me even to this day... so I spent the night reading on the couch in the back room!
I only ever did have one customer that day. A plow driver stopped by early in the afternoon just as things got started and grabbed a waffle cone with a scoop of chocolate, a scoop of orange sherbet, and another scoop of chocolate on top... He thought my boss was a fool to have me there as well!
How do you celebrate Halloween these days?
Our church puts on a large, and I mean large!, party for the area children. Average turn out is right around 3,000. Being a kind of rural area we like to give them one centralized location that they can go and celebrate and go home with lots of candy. We have already started to accept donations of candy for this years event! As an employee of the church my time is split between being with my own kids and also serving on the security team that makes sure that all of the children stay safe and secure.
Do you have any particular music or movies you revisit for the season?
Of course the Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack gets a lot of play around that time of year. Halloween is also one of the two annual rewatches of John Carpenter's The Fog, which means the soundtrack ends up in heavy rotation as well. The opening narration of the film is a fun little spooky tale for the season.
Why do you think we still enjoy Halloween as we get older?
I think it is a combination of things. First I think it is a love of being scared. Horror movies are popular for a reason, we tend to like the feeling of getting our heart racing and being on the edge of our seats from time to time. Halloween is a great big celebration of that fear. In addition it is a time of dreaming and pretending. The kids are allowed to dream of things they would love to be and the parents are allowed to pretend that they don't sit behind a computer clicking buttons all day. It is a time of year when we are allowed to dream and live in the reality we want, even if it is just for a night.
Inside the Spookster's Studio
The worst thing to get while trick or treating was religious pamphlets and pennies.
My favorite thing to get was those peanut butter taffy things in the orange and black wrappers. I know I am a rarity in the world!
My favorite monster cereal is Franken Berry
Where can folks find you online?
They can find the soon to be relaunched podcast The Last Hometown on Twitter and Facebook.
Thanks to Charles for stopping by to chat!