After Gene Gorge's passing, the ritualistic Halloween visit to Sunset Hill Barbershop still goes on -- even if it's not entirely the same.
Halloween without Gene
By Peggy Sturdivant
Folks Donna Williams had never met kept popping their heads into the barbershop all day long on Halloween to ask, “Will you be doing it this year?”
What they were asking was, since the death of Gene the Barber last spring will you be continuing his 31-year tradition of handing out full size candy bars to Trick-or-Treaters and vodka-laced Jell-O shots to adults? The answer, of course, was yes.
Since now-owner Donna Williams also maintains a business in Aberdeen she has never been on Sunset Hill for Halloween, but she certainly heard about it, and managed to co-exist with the utterly creepy barber dummy that usually shared the shop all of October.
Wanting to honor those for whom a visit to Gene George’s was definitive of Halloween, Donna prepared 150 candy grab bags as well as candy bars. She also received boxes of the infamous full size candy bars from folks who wanted to help sustain the tradition. Some of the earliest candy recipients have their own families now.
It was Donna’s first time making the Jell-O shots (two flavors) and she worried they were firmer than the ones that Gene made.
At dusk the first families started the 32nd Avenue NW stroll, in advance of the mobs of children who would return from downtown Ballard already heavy with sweets. The creepy dummy had been on loan and wasn’t able to return to the shop in time for Halloween.
The funny thing was that Donna looked the most worried. If I were a kid I would have been terrified in the old days, between the dummy and Gene’s sense of humor. I fell for his jokes every time. I never learned not to stick my hand in the paper bag or ask the follow-up question. And I never did have one of his Jell-O shots.
So no, it wasn’t the same on Sunset Hill without the maniacal shriek of the dummy and Gene’s personality. But from an old friend wearing one of his smocks with Gene embroidered on the left breast to the people who came by to reminisce as the evening wore on, it was pretty sweet. Only missing were Gene and the dummy, and as he might have asked, how would you tell the difference?
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