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Isn't it funny how a costume can become a moment frozen in time? A few weeks ago, I took a trip to my hometown to help dad move some boxes into storage. While sifting through stacks of memories, I can across a few old Halloween costumes. They were neatly tucked away in a box marked "seasonal". Mom was always keen about preserving childhood memories, and these old costumes sure brought back a few.

Near the top of the pile was a Mickey Mouse costume- my very first. It was still in the original box, and many of you will remember the brand name. In fact, you may have owned a "Ben Cooper Original" costume of your own. You could often find these costumes sold in drug stores. Usually consisting of a plastic mask with elastic strap (held by a single metal staple), the "body" of the suit was vinyl (and smelled like a plastics laboratory). Ben Cooper costumes came in a wide variety of choices, often consisting of popular comic characters (Flinstones, Batman, G.I. Joe, etc).

Setting the Mickey Mouse box aside, I uncovered no less than 5 years worth of additional costumes. Some were undoubtedly hand-picked by mom (before I was old enough to object). You know how parents are. They dress you "cute" instead of "cool". As a result, my early costumes were relatively tame. Characters included Casper ("The Friendly Ghost") and the all-important generic "scarecrow". As I grew older, I chose my own costumes. It wasn't long before I graduated to werewolves, mad scientists, and occasionally comic book characters.

Most definitely, my favorite costume was "Mer-Man" (an ally of Skeletor, if that means anything to you). I remember the day I bought that costume. I had worked all summer with dad earning money to buy school clothes, and I had a few dollars left over. In September, we made a trip to Eckerd drugs (to purchase a Pez dispenser, no less). I came across the Ben Cooper "He-Man" costume collection. And there it was- "Mer-Man" (one of my favorite characters). I played so much in that costume, it was nearly worn out by Halloween.

My son has recently developed a fascination with Spiderman, so our family will be making a trip down the superhero aisle this Halloween. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate this year. October is usually a quiet month, but there are always exceptions. As a viewer recently reminded me, we are long overdue for another "Hazel". For long- time residents, Hurricane Hazel will always remain the standard for hurricane potential in North Carolina. The only official Category 4 storm to make landfall in our state, Hazel struck on October 15, 1954 with 145 mph winds. Pushing a storm surge of 17+ feet, damages topped $150 million.

For new residents, there can be a false sense of security about hurricanes. Recent storms such as "Ernesto", "Ophelia", and even "Irene", are poor examples of what a hurricane really can do. It's been over 15 years since our last "major" hurricane landfall (Hurricane Fran, 1996). Meteorologists define "major" hurricanes as Category 3 or higher. Fran was a low-end Category 3 storm (115 mph winds), but few will forget it.

Let's hope we don't make any new "memories" this year...


By: Jerry Jackson