Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Now and Then

The number of trick-or-treaters this year was down significantly in our neighborhood. Just a few years ago we planned for about 200 kids, but this year there were only about 50 to 70. That’s fine with me, because we now have leftover candy.

When I was thinking about this post, I tried to remember the Halloween’s of my youth – mainly in the 1950s. None of my costumes stick out in my memory and I can’t remember any store-bought ones. There are no pictures of any of us in our costumes in the family photo albums, so it apparently wasn’t a major holiday. Older siblings and cousins were put in charge of the younger kids.

There were a number of us who dressed as hobos; this mainly consisted of old clothes, pants held up with rope, and a bundle made from an old piece of cloth. Our faces were smeared with something black to represent beards. I understand that this costume is no longer politically correct as it might be perceived as making fun of the poor and/or homeless.

Then there were cowgirls and cowboys. This involved wearing Stetsons, handkerchiefs, vests, and our cap guns. Now that I think about it, there may have been cowboy or Indian costumes that could be purchased, but I don’t think I knew anyone who bought a costume. Nowadays Westerns are no longer popular and cap guns are forbidden, so I didn’t see any Roy Rogers or Dale Evans.

The only other costume that I remember was the one where you dressed up like an adult. Boys would wear shirts and ties, hats, and jackets and carry an attaché case, just like on Mad Men. Girls wore dresses, and hats and actual makeup. Now that the grownups and the kids all dress the same it wouldn’t even be recognized as a costume.

The only memories I have involve being out after dark, shuffling the fall leaves (which are cleaned up these days even as they land on the ground), and traveling in groups of friends. We would arrive on a front porch and then altogether call out in a singsong “Any-thing-for-Hall-o-ween?” or chant a chorus of “Trick or Treat.”

And the candy collected was special as we didn’t have candy every day. In fact I can remember that even soda was a special treat. My mother saved pennies for weeks and would throw a few pennies into each bag. There were also the kids collecting for UNICEF carrying a little box that resembled the school cafeteria milk containers.

Not that many years ago the local morning kindergartners used to stroll by in the early afternoon, but now their parents are still at work as are the neighbors who give out the candy. And I’m not sure the kids still have half-days in kindergarten as even pre-school has gotten more serious. Maybe our neighborhood has just gotten older. The first kids at our house arrived about 5:30 p.m.

Now they just ring the doorbell and stick out a container. Or they take the candy in their hands and then give it to the adults who accompany them to check it over before it goes in with the rest of the stash and remind them to say “thank you.”

Sigh. Happy Halloween.


Dogwalkmusings said...

Thanks for pointing me in your direction! I love the fact that we all have such memories.

Chris Jensen said...

When I was of that trick or treat age, we lived in a Norman Rockwell-eske type of setting. We were very rural, and there was no door to door treats there. So, someone would hoist the bunch of us to the closest little village nearby, and the trick or treating was fantastic. The whole town was decked out for the holiday. Since we all went to the same school and churches, everyone knew everyone else, and there was never any worry about anyone ever getting in trouble or getting a ride home. There were many turn of the century homes there, today most of them have been "renovated" rendering them drab and charmless. But back then you could easily imagine them as housing all kinds of spooky stuff. They gave out big candy bars then. None of these little bite size things, nope, you got a real almond joy or snickers bar. A pillow case or shopping bag full was the norm for the evening. Candy apples, popcorn balls, oranges and apples all appeared with gum, BB bats, gummy bears and if you were really lucky the occasional quarter. Thanks for reminding me about the unicef boxes, I had forgotten about that. Those memories are some of my fondest. To this day I still carve a very special jack o' lantern and light it up, even though living in a rural area once again we rarely see a costume. Happy Halloween to you too.