PAUL NEWELL: I went as a skeleton but I was so skinny nobody noticed

I spent my formative years growing up in the 1970s on the new Gatcombe Park estate at Hilsea.

Thursday, 10th November 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 4:51 pm
The sprawling Hilsea Barracks about 1923 which would be replaced by the Gatcombe Park housing estate

We moved in when I was three in 1975. It was popular with young families so Hallowe’en was a hive of activity. I was not particularly fussed about the whole trick or treating thing and don’t recall ever going out.

However, we had plenty of callers knocking the door and on one occasion unknown older kids pelted our front door with eggs which took the trick aspect a little too far.

As a result, the next year I took it upon myself to keep a look-out for unruly vampires by sitting in my parents’ bedroom with the window ajar armed with water bombs to ward off ghostly menaces.

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As expected, our young neighbours would knock and we were prepared with some treats. I don’t think I threw any water bombs as I was too scared of what might be thrown back.

One year, I did attend a children’s Hallowe’en party with my friend. He went as a ghost and our sisters went as witches. I wore black and a cardboard skeleton outfit which looked quite good except I could not see very well. I was so skinny at the time that not many people realised I was dressed up. I remember the obligatory apple-bobbing which was tricky wearing a cardboard mask and we also played musical chairs.

Unfortunately, as my peripheral vision was limited I went to sit on a chair that was not there and ended up in a heap on the floor bruising more than my pride. My bones ached for a few days afterwards. I stuck to pumpkin carving after that.


Every year it was traditional to traipse the route from Gatcombe Park to the King George V playing fields up the road at Cosham for the bonfire and firework display.

I loved it as it was dark and atmospheric. I liked the smell of the bonfire.

I don’t recall there being funfairs in the early days, just a bonfire which was lit to a great cheer followed by the fireworks.

We usually went with my friend and his family and would huddle together to try to keep warm.

When the fireworks started my friend and I would pretend to shoot them and guess if the resulting explosion would be green or red.

If it was green I won and vice versa. It kept us amused.

Towards the end of the display the big fireworks were let off and I can still remember the thump that seemed to go right through you as it was fired into the sky and the slight delay as the sky lit up followed by the explosion.

Obviously we had to shoot each firework with our imaginary laser rifles to ensure they exploded or else the people of Cosham would have been disappointed.

As kids, we were obviously drawn to the merchandise and I remember coming home with a glow-in-the-dark plastic necklace, which we used as halos.

Sometimes we had a toffee apple which took me days to eat.

One year we went to a small display at St Mark’s Church in North End for the cubs.

The firework box was thrown on to the fire at the end and a forgotten firework shot out along the ground and hit my sister in the foot burning a hole in her sock.

Fortunately there was no other damage done, but it was amusing to see how quickly people fled the scene.