Monday, October 15, 2012

Shades of Fall - Trick or Treats - UPDATE - Found the Cat Costume Photo!

I was out walking Barkley with a friend, noticing the Halloween decorations (Barkley noticed the plastic black cat in a downstairs apartment window). A quiet. old neighborhood like this, houses 50-100 years old, brings back a lot of memories.
Trick or Treating was big in my house, even as it came with its own set of rules. It was on Halloween, not a Friday or Saturday or what was convenient or politically correct. School night or not, we were out and we were going to get our loot.

My earliest memory of it was early grade school and that Cat outfit mom bought.  She was recently out of the hospital following cancer surgery and didn't have a lot of energy to sew one (she made most of my clothes with her little Singer machine), so she splurged on a store bought costume.  I still have a photo of me in it, the black pants and top with a big glittery cat on the front, my cheeks flushed with the cold, one front tooth missing and a smile that said  "Look at all the candy Mom!"  As we got older, she encouraged us to make our own costumes, to spark our creativity (note to self - wearing Superman Cape does not enable user to fly).

As an adult, I do the same, though it's a rare party I'll go to, preferring a home cooked meal with the company of just one or two people, or even myself, to a crowd.  But sometimes I will venture out if the people are those I really enjoy spending time with, showing up with a smile and something hot from the oven to add to the table.

One party at a doctors house, I wasn't sure I'd be off duty so didn't get a costume. A friend from work, also invited, was going and he was in the same predicament.  He was a pretty tall guy and ex military, so I had an idea. I had him bring over a pair of fatigues. I wore the top half, which fit just down to mid thigh,with flesh colored tights beneath. He wore the bottom half with combat boots and a flesh colored T shirt that I'd picked up with the tights at Wal-Mart.

We showed up and the guests, most of them as well, in the medical field said - "What ARE you two?"

Upper and Lower GI !

As adults we can still laugh, even if it's sometimes just at ourselves.

Childhood Halloween traditions never varied. There was always Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin to watch.  For dinner we'd have hot dogs with sides of orange jello and some carrot sticks and a glass of milk.  Then we'd suit up as quickly as firemen, eager to be out the door, out into the night where the cool Fall breeze shivered and stirred the grass where the leaves had long since fallen.

I paired off with a brother who was older. We were limited to where we could go but we had pillow cases  that would hold a LOT of goodies.

There would be an occasional homemade caramel apple, popcorn ball or other such treat from a couple of  older ladies up the street, but they put little commercial address labels on the wrapped treat with a note so our mom's knew immediately who sent it and that it would be good to eat.  But the occasional popcorn ball aside, what we were after was the commercial loot. Hershey's and Tootsie Rolls, Fruit Stripe gum, Sugar Daddies, Smartees, Milk Duds (still a favorite), Crows, Skybar, Nestle Crunch, Dots, Pixy Sticks, Big Hunk, Boston Baked Beans (those were given away, I still don't like them), Gobstoppers, SweetTarts (more, please), Charms, those little candy necklaces, Necco wafers, Slo Pokes, Jolly Ranchers, Chic-o-Sticks, Bazooka gum.

The only thing Mom wouldn't let us keep was the Sugar Daddies. For some reason she thought those would just ruin our teeth and would hide them away with a plan for them to be rationed out one by one over time. Usually however, after a month, she'd forget about them. We'd run stealthy espionage missions into the kitchen until we found her hiding spot and would capture them and hide them in our secret fort to ruin our teeth at our own darn pace.

But the trick or treating wasn't just about the candy. It was being out, imaginations running free, flashlights shining into a future as exciting as we could imagine.

One year I was a ghost, that year a lot of kids were ghosts, the lumber mill having laid off a bunch of men, and money for costumes sorely lacking. An old sheet, a couple of holes cut for eyes and you were a ghost.
To each porch that had a light on we'd go, candy bag in hand. Trick or Treat, though with my front tooth missing, more like Twik or Tweat. Still that missing tooth got me extra candy (oh aren't you cute).

One house, always anticipated, had its owner dress like a witch, press on warts and all, and she'd have a steaming cauldron of dry ice and spooky music playing. That was the best part of that whole street. We'd approach the door, it would open with a haunting creak, the interior of the room blooming with light, a flutter of slender muscles in our arms as we held out our bags, trying to show we weren't really scared. That's just some kids Mom. . right? She really doesn't turn into a witch every Halloween? Then she would laugh, more of a honeyed laugh than a cackle, blue eyes, sparkling, holding us silent with her lifted hand from which would pour down sweet goodness, not toads or bats or other scary things.

We then trudged on home, tired, happy, stuffing what candy we could get in around our masks as we waited to cross each street, looking left and right as we'd been taught, crossing with someone who had at least one flashlight. We were of a generation that for the most part obeyed our parents rules, for with disobedience came punishment. None of this "throw a temper tantrum in the store, I'll just BUY you that toy to get you to shut up". We were of the "spare the rod, spoil the child generation" and my backside met Mr. Ruler more than once. Making promises of punishment that never happens does not work. Doesn't work with rogue countries, doesn't work with children.

We'd gather our loot on the floor, our Mom going through it to check for unwrapped Candy or a homemade treat that didn't have a little address label on it, to show which lady up the block made it.  There was no cautions about eating too much, or sugar and cavities, for just this moment in time, we were kids, just being kids, there in that sweetness of memory that remains with us always.


  1. Those years vanished much too quickly . . . and the innocence that was part of that age. Mr. Green's front porch, Aunt Emeline, Emma, Aunt Agnes . . . . a long list of names along the main street that held our house.

    Thank you for taking me along on your walk Ms. B . . . . I enjoyed your memories as well as those of mine that you awoke from a 50+ year nap . . . .

  2. I miss trick or treating, though it rarely worked out as well as I would have liked.

    Being abnormally tall, looking old for my age and living in sketchy neighborhoods all conspired to keep me from having pillowcases stuffed with candy.

    What I miss even more is taking my small kids around the neighborhood and gathering treats from the neighbors.

    All too soon they preferred gathering with their friends over trick or treating in the 'hood.

    Someday, I'll don an old helmet and grasp the hand of a grandkid and we'll visit the neighbors pillowcase in hand.

    Not TOO soon of course.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. I'm so sorry for the children of today, many of whom will never experience the freedom that my generation knew as kids. You've captured that with such poignancy that I won't even try.

  4. You sparks many memories - especially getting the occasional homemade goody! No one cared about possible food sabotage, and there was none.
    Caramel apples!
    Now it seems everyone is trying to ruin the holiday with unproven tales of poisoning and other evil deeds.
    Sad, really.


  5. All time best costume I've seen was in 2001, a little girl came to the door dressed as Red Riding Hood, with a BIG long haired German Shepherd dressed as the wolf! Her dad said she picked out the costumes herself, and the dog actually let her put it on!!! :-) Good memories from your post, thanks!

  6. "An old sheet, a couple of holes cut for eyes and you were a ghost."

    We went through similar hard times, and had similar makeshift costumes. The only problem was I ended up with an old fitted sheet for my ghost outfit and stumbled every other step.

    But that was okay. It prepared me for my later years... :-)

  7. Wonderful Halloween memories. We, too, went out on Halloween - not the night before or the weekend. Great memories. :)

  8. Ah yes, Halloween in the sixties. 'Tis not the same now. The last several years we've only seen 4-6 kids all evening. This year might be different, as there's three families now on the block with little kids.

    Still, it is different now. It really probably was a safer time then.

  9. What Rev Paul said :)

    I too was blessed to grow up in the time frame that you so eloquently expressed. Good times, back then. I also remember the last few years of trick or treating coming home full of shaving cream, a middle school version of trick or treating, LOL.

    I also chuckled at the ghost candles, I have those too and know how long I've had them, heh.

    Great post, as always :)

  10. We get few kids, if any.
    Our house is way off the road and, at nearly 200 years old and surrounded my many mature walnut trees, provides the kind of creepy backdrop that Halloween escalates to paralyzing fear for a little tyke.

    I parked my butt up by the road one year and served (drank) hot cider. Lots more kiddies for the candy, but seemed like too much effort on the giver's end to haul all the props down there and run electric extension cords.

  11. Trick or treating was fun back in the day...though the parents had to cart us to we lived in the back of beyond.
    We were encouraged to share our bounty with neighbor kids that didn't get hauled to town. I would like to think we did it with good graces...but I don't remember it that way.
    Have taken the grandkids, but it's really not the same, too many weirdos, rude Big Kids...etc.

  12. Living in a gated area. the most we get is a 'ding dong' with a geezer and an empty wine glass.
    A dollop of Maker's, a hug from a friend, and off they go.
    I really miss the little people.

  13. When we lived in Columbus, OH, there was "Halloween" and then there was "Beggar's Night," and the two were mutually exclusive. Beggar's Night was trick-or-treat night. In the decade I lived there, it was never actually ON Halloween.

    Here it's different. Here, it's been on Halloween every year except for two: the year that Halloween fell on a Sunday, and this year, when Halloween falls on a Wednesday. It's the day before. That's largely due to the fact that this is the Bible belt of south-central PA, and Sundays and Wednesday nights are reserved for church stuff.

    We were surprised to learn that it had been moved to the 30th this year, but relieved, since Hubby would have to work on Wednesday night and I am not so good with the walking and the hauling and the cold temps in late October.

    Last year, Large Fry was a princess, and the twin Fries were candy corns (SO cute). Large could probably get another year out of her princess costume, but the twins' candy corn outfits are now really too small. Pity. They're adorable candy corns.

    My folks will come out for trick-or-treat, and Boppa and Daddy will take the girls while Gramma and I stay at home and hand out candy.

    I love that.

  14. I didn't like candy much. Still don't. Tootsie Rolls and Dum-Dums (the orange ones) pretty much did it for me, I just gave the rest away. I am presently a sucker for Kit-Kats, especially since I discovered that Frys Electronics sells ones made of dark chocolate.

    I had two older brothers and no sisters. We went in more for the "Trick" half of "Trick or Treat". I got to hang out with the older kids instead of the kids my own age because my advanced knowledge of chemistry enabled me to figure out how to take the materials in my Gilbert chemistry set and make superior stink bombs (powered iron and sodium hyposulfite in water yields iron oxide and hydrogen sulfide). I also learned about the general hilarity that can ensue from the proper use of a combination of dog crap, small paper bag, lighter fluid, matches and a doorbell. We never smashed pumpkins or vandalized decorations, though.

    It was, however, the shirt and pants pinned together, stuffed full of straw and thrown out of a tree in front of cars that got the cops called on us. We took off and they never caught us, but we never did that stunt again.

    Halloween was Oct. 31st, regardless of when that day was. There was rarely an adult on the streets - kids too young to go out by themselves usually went with their brother or sister or a gang of kids. Homemade treats were common in my neighborhood. Nobody ever thought twice about them. It was a small (and old) town 20 miles outside of Boston. No so small now.

    One fine Halloween Mom and Dad did the whole family up in extremely politically incorrect blackface and ragged clothing and drove the whole family around town to various of their friends homes. My brothers and I got our bags stuffed full of goodies. Mom and Dad's treats were liquid. After a while Mom drove.

    Halloween's been spoiled for the kids now. It's too bad they don't know it. Helicopter parents and all that. Towns that set hours for it that end before Halloween even starts (i.e., when the sun goes down). I don't get any trick or treaters where we live. The houses are spread out by us, whereas a mile away there's a couple of higher-density concentrations of houses. More candy. And "safer". In the 20+ years we've lived here there's been fewer than 10 trick or treaters total. We always get a bag or two of candy, eat about 1/4 of it before Halloween and then eat the rest in the weeks afterwards. On the rare occasions when someone has come by we give them most of the bowl.

    I still love Halloween, though. I just wish that the local stores would honor it and Thanksgiving instead of having all their Christmas decorations on sale in the stores for the last two weeks already. Make me King and Christmas decorations and advertisements could not be up or on sale in the stores until the day after Thanksgiving.

  15. Excellent story, B. It took me back a few years. :) Maybe more than a few.

    It isn't the same today. Our granddaughter goes trick or treating downtown rather than to the neighborhood houses. Or to the mall. Both provide an incentive for the adults to come down and shop while the kids trick or treat.

    Sad. One of the best holidays of the year.

    Thanks for sharing.

  16. So many good stories here.

    eiafinfo - it's fun watching the next generation, but it has changed so, so much.

    Capt Schmoe - the grandkid will be fortunate indeed.

    Rev. Paul - thank you, I imagine we are about the same age, so you understand.

    armedlaughing - there might have been some concerns in the big city as to the candy, but not in a neighborhood where we knew everyone, but mom appreciated the note with the homemade stuff so she knew who made it.

    OldNFO - I would have paid money to see that!

    CenTexTim - hopefully it wasn't also in flannel with flowers, that's the ghost "kiss of death".

    Lois - I'm sure you've made some of your own for your own family. You remind me much of my mom when she was young, fun and oh, so creative.

    PPPP - Dad will have a couple dozen. He's rigged this ghost on a zip line that is hooked to the screen door so when the kids open it it flies in their face and they all squeal (well the little ones do). He still enjoys it, this year someone else will have to hand out the candy, he can't get up and out of his chair well.

    I bet he will still make hot dogs and orange jello, as will I.

    naturegirl - I've some of the 60's Christmas elves from our tree as well.

    OnceFreeMan - those were the best houses, somewhat scary. It's a lot of work, last year, the best I could do was this bat stuck in my hair that was wired so that it's eyes glowed and flashed. Surprised I didn't set fire to my hair, but hey.

    Brighid - enjoy it, whatever you and the little ones end up doing.

    Skip - Thunderbird was never my treat of choice at the door. Thanks for the laugh.

    Auntie J - I will have to look in your archives for the candy corn costumes. I bet they were SO cute in them.

    RonF - thank you for taking the time to share all of that. I think the majority of people here, echo such thoughts and memory.

    Blue - Barkley says if you show up with your pretty wife again, he'll share one of his treats with her(she'd probably prefer real chocolate though). Best to you.

  17. Love me some doggie treats! (Yep, the missus prefers chocolate)


  18. Love your pic... you haven't changed a bit...

  19. Brighid - thanks my friend, I think I had that same haircut last time I saw you.

    But I DO have both my front teeth now!


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