Fall is…

Memories of fall in Altamont. By Paula J. Drieci.

A color pencil sketch by Paula J. Drieci.

Fall is . . . autumn leaves  

Growing up in Altamont, we had huge sugar maple trees.  I loved walking home from school and seeing the brilliant reds, yellows and oranges!  I loved walking through the leaves, kicking them up, smelling the Fall. In those days, many people burned their leaves and we were no exception.  We raked them into huge piles which us kids would jump into and tunnel thru until Dad or Mom would finally tell us to stop spreading them around…  Then we would rake them to the street, light them on fire and stand ready with our rakes and hoses – just in case. Most of the ashes then went into the garden as fertilizer for next year’s crops. 

Fall is. . . festivals

Once upon a time, I was a Scheutzenfest queen candidate. Years before that, my siblings and I had helped Dad in the bunkers, “throwing” clay pigeons because it was truly a “shooting fest.” When the shooting was done, we used to walk the infield, looking for pigeons that had miraculously landed unscathed in the grass. It was also a celebration of the harvest, a place where the Waterloo German band made regular appearances, the men wore lederhosen, and we drank beer from buckets – REALLY! 

A famous Schuetzenfest bucket. 1974.

Like many other things, the ‘Fest has changed with the years, but is still creating memories of our German heritage for new generations.  Today, there are more fall festivals like the Hob Nob Harvest Market, the annual Wine and beer tasting at the historic Wright Mansion, and “Spooky Night” at the Ballard Nature Center.

Fall is . . . Marching bands

 When I was in the high school band, I played several instruments and in the marching band, I played coronet or French Horn.  The first years I was in band, we had one uniform: a black wool jacket, black wool pants, tall black “furry” hat, and a “dickie” which is kind of a fake shirt that just has a collar and enough material to tuck down into your jacket so as not to come out.  Not so bad if you were marching in the dead of winter, but holy cow, any other time of the year you positively cooked! It looked good though, like we were Royal Guards at the Queen’s palace. Then along came band director Chris Lange and boy, oh boy, did things change!  Miss Chris was an enthusiastic director to say the least. She moved with the music. Sometimes she sang along – with a “one, two, three, four” thrown in occasionally for good measure. She pushed us to our limits. And… she got us summer uniforms! Neon shorts paired with orange and black short-sleeved shirts.  After those hot and heavy wool uniforms, we felt truly free and I’m sure our music showed it. Square corners. Wheeled turns. Marching in line, in perfect step, we could do it!!

Altamont’s marching band.

Fall is . . . Halloween

 To me, Halloween will always be a dark and stormy night.  The air isn’t just crisp, it’s downright cool and when the rain stops, all the kids are happy to be in otherwise hot and steamy costumes.  Growing up, Mom made our costumes. Now you see costumes for sale everywhere:  at COSTCO in St. Louis, at Walmart and the Dollar Store, at the grocery store — !!

One year, Dad made stilts and we, along with our roomer – teacher Valerie Voight – were in the Halloween parade together.  Dad wore stilts and Miss Voight wore a costume made up partly of an old coat of Mom’s that had a fake fur collar. They were either a man walking a dog or a man and a lion, I don’t recall exactly.

Later on, the Altamont Lutheran Interparish School jazzed up things by having the Fall Carnival there at ALIS.  This was INDOORS, which kept folks dry on those dark and stormy nights.

One of my favorite things about Halloween was meeting the kids at the door and handing out candy. That way, I got to see all the costumes and talk to the trick or treaters.

But my brother Dan loved going door-to-door and was THRILLED about getting treat dropped into his orange plastic jack-o-lantern.  This relationship worked out especially well since Dan didn’t really like candy and I had a humongous sweet tooth. He would bring his treasures home, pick out one or two things, and the rest was MINE! Ok, maybe there was some “sharing,” but you’d have to ask Dan about that.

A plastic jack o’lantern for candy, just like the one we used.

Fall is . . .the air.  There is a special feel to the air in the fall.  The day may be warm, but the cool, crisp feel of Fall is unmistakable.  Farmers are bringing corn and beans into the grain elevator lining up from Main Street and beyond, people are starting to bring out jackets put away at the end of last spring – no winter clothes just yet; hot cinnamon apple cider sounds like heaven on earth.  Some of us start looking at the wood pile and thinking “is that enough? Perhaps a few more logs for the fire.” Farmers are busy from before dawn to after dusk, bringing in the harvest while the moisture is down, and before it rains. Meals for those working the fields are being prepped in huge quantities and taken out to the farmers, who may relax for a few minutes in the shadow of the combine.

Fall is . . . bliss.

The changing of the seasons is one reason I choose to live in the Midwest.  Yes, it’s true, I complain about the heat and the cold in their seasons. But.  But! These very differences, and sometimes hardships, make me appreciate each season for its own special gifts.

As I say EVERY time the season changes, THIS is my favorite season.

Right now, it’s Fall.



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