Friday, October 30, 2009

Murray's Malarkey

He was a sales rep for Procter and Gamble's soap division when I was a boy. Murray Malarkey (that really was his name) was a gregarious, cigar-smoking, back-slapping, laugh-out-loud, Irish-gift-of-gab kind of guy. He lived in Milford, Ohio, when I was growing up, and Dad had worked with him on one project or another. He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it, and was one of the bright spots in my childhood.

His own childhood was spent in that town as well. Now, the night before Halloween has always been known by various names throughout North America; Cabbage Night, Devil's Night, Gate Night, Goosey Night (huh???), Mischief Night -- the list goes on. But in our town, it was simply "Damage Night." People tipped over garbage cans, threw toilet paper in the trees of front yards, and used soap bars to draw silly faces on windows. It was all harmless stuff.

But to hear Mr Malarkey tell it, we had nothing on him. One night before Halloween, young Murray went to the public school in the middle of town, and ran several metal garbage cans up the flagpole. The school ended up calling the police the next morning, but he got away with it. And of course, the understanding was that, if you got caught by the property owner or another responsible adult, they could punish you pretty much as they saw fit. Such was not the case by the 1960s.

Mr Malarkey died several years ago, and the place of my youth lost one more remnant of its uniqueness. But I remember him well, as one of the truly unforgettable characters, in a small town which had its share of them.

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