Way back yonder in the 20th century, Halloween was second only to Christmas for most kids. Easter was number 3 when it came to getting neato stuff, if you can call copious sugar… stuff. Sugar was cheap and parents gave us more candy on those 3 days than we got the rest of the year.
My brothers and sister would grab over-sized pillow cases for booty sacks and rush from house to house for a trick or a treat. Very often the prize was a whole candy bar too and not the puny offerings we have these days either. Candy bars were big and heavy... and delicious. I once heard my mother tell someone that I could eat my weight in candy, as I loved the stuff. I was a candy consumer, while my brother Gordon was a hoarder and a saver. He would have candy for months and having it secreted away kept the rest of us from partaking of his loot.
With pillow cases so full they couldn’t hold more, we would rush back to the house and dump the contents on our individual beds and head back out. We lived in a suburb of Toledo, Ohio and on any street; there might be one or maybe two houses that did not hand out candy. It was a monster, pirate, or hobo character’s dream come true.
I remember one time when a lady handed each of us one of those giant individually wrapped mints with the chocolate coating. We rushed off and swapped pieces of costume and came back for seconds. She looked us over and asked if we had just been there and we blatantly denied it, wanting more of the giant candy. She dropped a Tootsie roll in each of our loot bags and this prompted my hoarder brother to retort, “Whatsa matta lady? You outta mints?”
It was ha-ha funny to all of us and we ran off laughing and as happy as kids can be.
I can’t remember ever wearing a store-bought costume either. We made our own and used make-up for our masks. It was innocent and mischievous times where a trick wasn’t destructive or malicious. We had imaginations as big as the nighttime’s unknowns. Boogiemen were headless horsemen or a cornfield’s scarecrow coming down off its anchor and chasing us. I was 11 the first time I read Robinson Crusoe and when he rescued Friday from the cannibals, the thought of a human eating another was so traumatic, I put the book down a week. Kids didn’t know what they now know.
At the time I am referring to, monster craze was in full swing, with Frankenstein, Dracula, the Mummy, the Wolfman, the Addams Family and the Munsters on TV. Friday night horror theater had a host named Morgus who would lead in a scary movie. I would watch through my fingers and pull something over my face each time the horrible whatever attacked. It was both the worst and best of times. It was scary delicious times and I miss the innocence of it.
Today’s Halloween is a weak facsimile of the days 50 years ago when my siblings and I ran unescorted through Point Place, Ohio’s streets. We knew better than to get hit by a car. Sheesh. Any kid back then knew that. Today’s kids walk in front of cars and never know they are there. How could they? They have their eyes glued 18 inches in front of them.
We can blame one our own Texans from Pasadena for killing Halloween. Ronald Clark O’Bryan poisoned his own 8 year old son with a potassium cyanide-laced Pixy Stix for insurance money. Sadly, this Candy Man from Pasadena not only committed the worst kind of heinous crime against his own child, but he ultimately killed Halloween all across the country. Since November 1st, 1974, parents are scared to death on every level and rightly so. These times have indeed changed, like Old Bob said they were.
I haven’t participated in any Halloween celebrations in about 20 years, I guess. The fun has left it for me. Back then it was simply monsters and boogie men and that was before I realized there were real monsters and boogie men out there. One of our kids can fall prey to them and that is why many civic locations and church groups stage a safer version and again, rightly so. Some things change for the better, but the Halloween of my youth is gone for good.