Wednesday, October 27, 2010

When Kids Ruled Halloween

I feel for kids today. Modern-day Halloween has turned them into Halloweenies. It’s too dangerous to roam the streets alone, so they go to parties with adult supervision or hang out at the mall. In the olden days, us kids held the keys to the city. It was our night out. Like gangs of little goblins, packs of 10-year olds roamed the neighborhood in scary costumes with pillowcases in tow, in hot pursuit of all the sweets we could scare up in a few precious hours. Grownups lurked in the shadows, only to answer doors and dole out the cavity culprits that we sweet-toothed sleuths looked forward to all year. This wasn’t just a night to dress up—it was a major holiday. A pillowcase full of candy was right up there with Santa’s bag of toys.

“Trick or treat!” we’d shout in unison when an adult answered the door. But that’s as far as our vocal chords went. We weren’t interested in chitchatting about how cute our costumes were or helping them decipher what we were dressed as. We had places to go and candy to meet. It was a numbers game, and we became little Einsteins and Magellans, carefully charting our course to reap the largest sum. Of course, if we were invited inside a dark, eery corridor to retrieve our riches, we would gladly veer off the beaten path. With white pillowcases and dark streets to penetrate, we’d follow wherever the candy trail lead. Occasionally someone wouldn’t be home, and we’d find a bowl of treats sitting on a porch that worked on the honors system. It was Halloween etiquette to only take one, and we usually stuck to the rule—unless it was late and there were lots of pieces left.

After walking for hours and the evening was winding down, all the free-flowing sugar seemed to evaporate into thin air—as if the night had been a dream, and adults hadn’t really been giving away candy for a mere knock on the door. Night had reverted back to the forbidden-candy time zone. And when I got home, my mom was waiting anxiously, not just to confirm my safety, but to see what I had in my pillowcase. Because my love of candy was not just in a child’s nature—it was in my DNA. So I’d throw mom a few bones since she let me stay out so late and eat as much as I wanted that night. Even though it was late, I was not too pooped to peruse my pillowcase with Sherlock Holmes-like zeal. And she was my eager assistant.

Mom liked all the chocolate and candy bar-type offerings—you know, those miniature versions that allowed you to keep scarfing them down while telling yourself you weren’t really eating a whole portion. There were Hershey’s, Snickers, Reeses, Milky Way, Mars Bar, Heath Bar, Almond Joy, Mounds, Mr. Goodbar, Nestle’s Crunch, Baby Ruth, Butterfinger, Three Musketeers, Payday, M&M’s, along with Hersheys Kisses, Tootsie Rolls, Bit-O-Honey and Kraft caramels.

The kid candy was my domain: the Pixy Sticks, SweeTarts, candy necklaces, wax lips, Candy Corn, Jolly Ranchers, Sugar Daddies, Sugar Babies, Milk Duds, Red Hots, Starburst, Good ‘n Plenty, taffy, lollipops, candy cigarettes, Tootsie Roll Pops, Blow Pops, jawbreakers, Lifesavers, Brach's individual pieces you could pick from those bins in the supermarket, and all the hard candies. And then there was the bubble gum: Bazooka and the other one with the waxy-feeling comic inside. There were also individually wrapped bubble gum balls in cellophane, and big bubble gum cigars.

Most kids had strict parental candy supervision once they got home, and they were only allowed to eat a rationed amount. Their candy lasted for months, but mine only lasted a week, tops. Mom couldn’t very well have given me a candy curfew since she was the one who introduced me to candy binging in the first place. We had a shared activity that we reveled in together. There was nothing like mother-daughter bonding over well-earned nausea. At my house, it just wouldn’t have been Halloween if you didn’t go to bed sick that night. And what a sickeningly sweet night Halloween was.

My Puking Pumpkin won second prize in a pumpkin carving contest.


  1. I couldn't agree more - every year I find myself saying how sorry I feel for kids these days that they can't experience the kind of Halloween we enjoyed while growing up. Such a shame!

    You've really captured the feel of my Halloween's past and I loved reliving it with you here. Great post!

    p.s. Love the spewing pumpkin too! LOL

  2. Oh gross!! Puking Pumpkin is delightfully disgusting.

    I just relived my childhood Halloween through your post. I remember getting home and being super excited about dumping out my pillow case full of sweet loot. My brother and I would trade for each other's favorites. My parents never supervised how quickly we ate it either. Jeez, those were the good ol' days. Sweet ignorance.

  3. Great post. You brought a smile to my face and so many memories. Since I lived in a town of about 1500 people growing up, we pretty much hit all the houses in the "city." And, we were never chaparoned.

    Your comment on the numbers game hit home - there was an older senior couple on our block who always invited us in for hot apple cider and some sort of baked good. We were polite enough to stay for a few minutes - but there was always catch up to pay for the gesture. Even though we were kids, we realized that it gave them some pleasure (our mama raised us right).

    As for my favorite candy - the chocolates!

  4. Puker Punkin' is GREAT! I do so long for the old days as you describe. My bro and I operated in truly historic times ... candy bars were FULL SIZE. "Fun size" had yet to be invented. Once we fought our way up a long and winding driveway in the freezing dark, hounded by barking dogs, only to have the people at the dark house (we should have clued) tell us they "didn't believe in Halloween."

  5. I, too, Trick 'n Treated back in the unsupervised days. The best part for me was getting home after the last house was visited and dumping all my candy out on the floor, and sorting it into piles of like items. An oh-so-satisfying OCD activity. My little brother would do the same and we would make trades. Ah, the good old days...

  6. Adair, thanks for sharing your Halloween memories with us. I too recall the good old days of wandering the streets in pursuit of the ultimate stash of goodies.
    LOVE what you say here:
    "There was nothing like mother-daughter bonding over well-earned nausea." LOL
    Hope to have the same hard earned memories with my little gal :) xo