Mr. Calendar has turned another page and we now find ourselves careening headlong toward Halloween, or the Halloween Season. I like Halloween. I really do. We’re talking a nearly unlimited supply of fun-size Milky Way bars. What’s not to like?
I’m not sure however, that Halloween as it is practiced today is an improvement over the Halloweens of the Golden Age of Kidhood, the 1950s and 1960s.
It was a Total Kid Holiday then, maybe the only one on the calendar. Christmas and the Fourth of July were good, but you had to share them with grown-ups. Halloween, however, was all about kids, or to be more specific: kids, costumes and loot.
Back in the day, it was all about gangs of costumed kids roaming from house to house and extorting candy from the neighbors, and more. Before the razors in the apples panic, the bounty might include homemade cookies, fresh peanut brittle and caramel apples, and my favorite, popcorn balls.
A good night’s take would fill a grocery bag and would contain examples of every item on your dentist’s most-hated list: the entire product lines of the Hershey, Mars, Hollywood, Peter Paul and Nestle companies, Tootsie Rolls in all sizes, taffy, licorice and lollypops, caramels and Cracker Jack, bubble gum cigars and candy cigarettes. Properly hoarded and rationed, a good Halloween haul could carry you past Thanksgiving, in time for Christmas.
And then there were costumes. Costumes were actually kind of problematic for me. As Mom lectured to us every Halloween, we weren’t one of those rich families that could afford to buy those Ben Cooper or Collegeville costumes-in-boxes every year. Mom made our costumes; apparently a hand-sewn Batman suit was superior to some flimsy store bought thing. Obviously, Mom did not know a thing about Halloween costumes.
We also handed down our costumes. My first time trick-or-treating I had to wear my big sister’s old witch costume, complete with a skirt. I was so embarrassed I refused to lift my mask or even speak, lest anyone find out who I was. My sister took care of it, though, by informing one and all that her brother was wearing a girl costume.
I accidentally got even with her, though. I peed my pants and she had to take me home early. She was furious.
For that reason I still count it among the better Halloweens of my life.