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Rockridge’s Lawton: a trick-or-treater’s oasis

on October 28, 2008

Story by MAGGIE FAZELI FARD, slide gallery by SAMSON REINY

Oct. 31 — They come from the hills and they come from the east. Every year on Halloween, children from all over Oakland descend in the hundreds on Rockridge’s Lawton Street. Spare in its decorations — just days before the holiday only a handful of homes had adorned their homes with plastic ghosts, skeletons and cobwebs, with most opting to forgo the traditional macabre regalia — Lawton is not an obvious choice. Yet every year, it’s the same story: Lawton Street residents run out of candy.

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“People bring in van loads of kids,” says Emily Filloy days before her 24th Halloween as a Lawton Street resident. They flock from the hills, where the landscape makes it difficult to go door-to-door, and even as far as East Oakland, she says. 

“Kids are coming from places where people are too afraid to open their doors,” says Filloy, “too afraid to be on the street. But in 23 years, I’ve never had a single incident of vandalism. I’ve not had one problem.”

Filloy is one of dozens of Lawton Street residents who open their doors–and their candy bowls–to the masked monsters, princesses and pop stars who parade up and down Lawton every Oct. 31, led by the dim orange glow of open-mouthed Jack-o’lanterns that line stoops and windowsills. 

While Filloy can’t remember a time when Lawton wasn’t filled from one side of the street to the other on Halloween, her friend and neighbor, Adrienne Yank, has memories of a quieter holiday. 

“We moved here in ’75 and Halloween wasn’t such a production as it is now,” says Yank. “It just kind of just exploded.”

Neither Yank nor Filloy can pinpoint exactly when or why the new population of trick-or-treaters began streaming in. It could be a matter of driving by and liking the looks of the the neighborhood, catching a glimpse of the block-party atmosphere while waiting for the bus on one of Rockridge’s nearby thoroughfares. 

“One year, it was really late and we were surprised to hear the bell ring,” recalls Filloy. “The last trick-or-treaters were a Latino couple and a kid who was almost too young to walk. I got the sense that the dad had just gotten off work and brought his little one here. There’s a community feeling that we’re doing something happy and fun.”

While neither of the longtime residents knows how Halloween on Lawton got to be such a big deal, a sort of vacuum drawing in children from down the street and across town year after year, they agree the appeal in coming back is obvious. Wide and flat, Lawton is a trick-or-treater’s delight. Neighborhood children have always been a fixture. “The difference now,” says Yank, “is it’s not just our kids walking up and down our block.”

And local or not, all children are after the same thing on Halloween: candy. 

“When somebody moves onto Lawton, we have to warn them to buy a lot of candy. They never do,” says Filloy. “When we first moved in, we ran out. When our next door neighbors moved in a couple of years later, they bought what they thought was enough. But it wasn’t.” 

It never is, she says. 

“I currently have in my Halloween stash, one, two, three, four…” Filloy counts, her voice slightly muffled under the rustle of plastic bags. “I have five. I have three regular-sized bags and then I have two big bags with more than a hundred pieces. My husband told me I don’t have enough.”

Filloy is confident she has plenty to go around this time. But if her husband has to make a last-minute candy run by himself, he won’t be alone. 

“One year I ran out and sent my husband out to buy more,” says Yank. “There were four other husbands at Eddie’s Liquors buying more candy!”

Yank has since come up with a different solution to dealing with a shortage of sweets on Halloween.

“When I run out of candy,” she says, “I just turn off the lights.”||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

1 Comment

  1. Richard on February 25, 2009 at 7:30 am

    I miss trick or treating. It is a shame grown ups don’t get to dress up and do this anymore. I always enjoyed running around with my friends trying to get as much candy as possible in the few hours we had to do so.

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