As I sit here looking out my window watching the leaves finally giving up the ghost; letting go of their host branches to make a swirly..sometimes spectacular aerobatic flight to earth, I’m reminded that Halloween is neigh. Now, I’m not as crazy about Autumn as some but I always loved Halloween..especially growing up in little, Volga, South Dakota where we kids found this day (and night) to be nearly as fun and exciting as Christmas with society giving us free reign to dress up in crazy costumes then go out and knock on every door in town threatening homeowners with mayhem unless they coughed up candy. What a great deal! Well, it was except for that one year when do-gooders in church laid a huge guilt trip on parents convincing them to stop exploiting their children’s greed and self indulgence by making them take little coin containers around the neighborhoods trick or treating for UNICEF. (The United Nations Children’s Fund. )
Oh, this picture may suggest we were happy to help those starving youngsters overseas but our hearts weren’t in it and, thankfully, for most of us, the UNICEF thing only lasted one season as parents along with their kids, really didn’t want to miss out on that annual harvest of sweets. Oh, we’ll pray for those poor children around the world but this was our night.. We wanted all the candy we could extort for OURSELVES…especially the good stuff.
There were no mini Snickers or Milky Way’s back then. Some places, like Doc Peeke’s and my aunt Leila passed out the full size nickel candy bars on Halloween. They really had to stock up because every kid in town knew it and gravitated to those houses like vultures to a fresh kill.
There were some things that no kid really liked. Cookies, for example, who the heck wants a crumby crumbly home-made cookie floating around in your pillow case which served as a sack to haul our haul. Apples…nobody really wanted them either. Most of us had eaten our fill of green apples plucked from backyard trees on regular night patrols in which all we carried was an appetite and a shaker of salt. People who thought kids wanted apples or some other healthy fruit instead of candy on Halloween usually wound up having to clean streaks from their windows the next morning. Streaks that had been put there by disgruntled trick or treaters who carried a bar of soap in that pillow case too.
There was an exception to the no apple rule, though. A couple people in town gave out caramel apples. They were great but you had to get to those houses early because supplies were limited. And, when they ran out, their back-up was usually a little box of Sunkist raisins or a handful of unsalted peanuts in the shell. Yuk. Caramel apples were also one of those treats that needed to be eaten right away because that little paper muffin-tin liner stuck to the top wasn’t enough to keep other sweet things in your bag..like candy corn..from clinging to the caramel.
Kids no longer have to worry about getting apples or cookies or anything else that isn’t prepackaged on Halloween. Some sicko in some other state brought that to a screeching halt by sticking needles or razor blades in them. Maybe it was all a rumor started by apple hating trick or treaters.
We weren’t big on costumes as kids. Very few of us wore anything bought from a store..except those cheap masks that were later blamed for many close calls because the eye holes were so small, kids couldn’t see the Buick coming at them while crossing the streets. For my brothers and me..our costumes were usually home made; hobos mostly. I can still remember the smell of burnt cork that mom used to smudge up my face so I could look like the bum my old man often said I was.
Sadly, all of us eventually get too old to go trick or treating on Halloween night. But, you know, I’ve discovered that it has almost been as much fun over the years tagging along with my own children and grandchildren on that special night.