Trick and Treat

HALLOWEEN tstAs Muri and I were driving into L.A. this weekend, we noticed how many huge Halloween stores like Spirit Halloween had sprung up in empty stores and warehouses along the freeways.   Parking lots were packed and crowds … mostly adults … wandered in and out of the buildings.  In those stores that had window displays, 90% of the costumes in the windows were for adults.  Of course, for the kids, there were countless so-called pumpkin patches, really low-grade amusement parks with inflatable jumpers and slides and petting zoos surrounded by piles of pumpkins selling for five times what one costs at Target.  Here in Socal, every real amusement parkHAUNT from Disneyland to Knott’s Berry Farm has a frightening Halloween Haunt aimed at teenagers and young adults.  When Halloween arrives on Thursday night, we’ll have only a dozen or so Trick or Treaters, half of them junior high kids who have hardly bothered to put on a costume.  The rest of the kids will be Trunk or Treating at local churches or Trick or Treating at the shopping center.  On my way home from my Thursday night meeting, though, I’ll have to be on the watch for inebriated, costumed adults on their way to and from parties.  Nothing ruins a Halloween like being hit by a French maid and a Zombie in a Beemer.  So, here on the Top Sites Tuesday before Halloween, my Two Thoughts are on Halloween back in the good old days.

doorbellBack in the Pleisticene Era, when I was a kid, Halloween was a four night holiday.   Doorbell Night was three days before Halloween, although to tell the truth, most of us would start ringing doorbells then hiding a week or so early, just for practice.  I’ll bet few kids today have ever heard of ringing doorbells, even though there’s a good chance their grandfathers did it.  I’d probably catch hell for for telling mine about it.  Two nights before the big night was Window Night.  The prescribed activity for Windowwindow soaped Night was soaping windows of houses and cars.   Until 1957, soaping consisted of mostly random scribbles but that year, Zorro first appeared on TV and every reachable window in our neighborhood was marked with a Z.   That year we also discovered that paraffin was harder to get off glass courtesy of my mother.  No she didn’t tell us, she just introduced paraffin bars to our Cub Scout Pack for waxing leaves and we discovered the rest on our own.  At about the same time, she found a Halloween Noisemaker project that we made at a Pack Meeting.   You’d take a wooden thread spool and notch it along both edges, then put a pencil through the hole and wrap string around the spool.  Held against the outside of a trashcanwindow while the string was pulled hard, they made an awful noise, scaring the crap out of whoever was inside. Mom received a lot of calls about that project and the noise makers only lasted one year.  The night before Halloween was Trashcan Night.   Any prank using a trashcan was acceptable, a favorite being to pile the cans in front of the door then ring the doorbell.  Or filling the milkbox … this was a LONG time ago … with garbage.  Just good clean fun, right?

Then it would be Halloween and we’d be bravely standing in front of the very same houses we’d pranked saying, Trick or Treat.  And people actually gave us candy even though a few Zorro Zs still adorned their windows.  After all, it was Buddy, that nice kid from down the street.  I don’t ever remember buying a costume.  My Mom was very imaginative and would come up with clever ideas from things she’d find around the house or at the Goodwill Store.   One year, shedeath found an old black graduation gown with a hood.  Paired with a white skull mask, it made a horrifying Death costume.  The next year, it came back as the Headless Horseman.  We’d travel as far as we could and make it home by curfew, the object being to collect enough candy to keep ourselves hyperactive for a month.  No one worried about poisoned popcorn balls or razors in the candy.   So, Thought Number One is this:  It was good to grow up when Tricks were harmless but annoying pranks and Treats were safe.  And Halloween was for kids.  And Thought Number TwoI sometimes look back and wonder how my parents could let me roam the streets at night. I think they saw some Halloween mischief as part of growing up for a boy and were willing to look the other way.  Unless we did real damage or got caught … then there was trouble.  I guess it worked.  After all, I turned out OK.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s Windows Night … has anyone got a bar of soap?

Have a safe and Happy Halloween.  And if you enjoyed this bit of nostalgia, please be sure to push my button … gently … to make me Number One on Top Sites Tuesday #227.

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9 Comments on “Trick and Treat”

  1. Frankly, much as I always truly enjoyed trick or treating (back in those lovely dark ages, ya know) I really don’t look forward to it now.

    For openers, the grandkids won’t be here to make it a fun time both in the house as they get ready to go out and the kids who will be showing up don’t play by the same games on Halloween that I grew up knowing. The key to the fun back then was to devise a costume that your neighbors couldn’t guess, right away, who was behind the mask or costume and a lot of the kids today don’t even “dress up.” Plus, the overwhelming majority of them will have been to several of the trunk or treats thing offered in the area, and I am of the opinion that there is only so much candy that you can have around the house that will last through to spring! Plus, older kids have a tendency to show up in large groups, with some of the members of these groups just showing up in hopes of getting A) some candy, sure and B) hitting a house that has run out of treats or didn’t buy any and decided to just hand out dollar bills instead! (The latter will definitely not take place a my house!) And some of the groups of older kids often have members who show up with a bag for treats in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other! Now, yes I do smoke but I figure at my age, I am long past the legal age and if those kids then think I’m going to add to their larder, they are sorely mistaken!

    • oldereyes Says:

      I don’t know why it is we get so few kids. There are certainly many around. Muri always make sure we have plenty of candy and we always have lots left over. We’re not giving dollar bills away either!!!

  2. cherperz Says:

    I had never heard of the multiple night version of Halloween. That is so interesting that you could prank and it was built into the holiday.

    Our Halloween was much as it is today. One evening but the difference is there was no fear as far as letting little ones go around to collect candy and no worry about the safety of the candy,

    I agree with Jeni Hill Ertmer, Halloween is not among my favorite holidays. Mainly for the reasons you mention. There are far fewer little children and more reasons to be concerned for safety…both personal and property.

    I always go to my daughter’s neighborhood as it is chocked full of little kids and my grandsons get to go to all the houses in the neighborhood. Over there they tend to all know each other. In my neighborhood, I would have busloads of strangers brought it. (and a lot of those would be older kids)


    • oldereyes Says:

      As with any story about my childhood, there’s a degree of fictionalization to make it more interesting. We did all those things and we did them for a week, I really only remember Doorbell Night and Trash Night. But we did soap a lot of windows.

  3. Wolfbernz Says:

    Hi Bud,

    I’ll never forget when we toilet papered the goofy guys house down the street. We were probably 8 years old at the time. The father of the house came out to get us and two of us hid in empty trash cans until he went back in the house. Today we would probably be arrested and get 10 felony charges and set to Juvenile hall, and of course our parent would be fined.

    Times have changed.


    • oldereyes Says:

      One night, we were on the run after dumping a trash can with a Dad in hot pursuit when we ran smack into a wire stretched across the yard about shin high. Talk about airborne. It hurt like hell but we got up and kept running.

  4. Trina Says:

    When I was a kids we chanted “Trick or Treat, Smell my feet, give me something good to eat. If you don’t, I don’t care, I’ll pull down your underwear!” We too were dressed in homemade costumes that had a significantly more fabric. We collected candy until late. Times were good.

    Last year while trick or treating with little man I noticed many kids don’t say “trick or treat” or “thank you” and almost all costumes look as through they were bought at a store that morning. And trick or treating is only allowed in certain areas during certain times and the cops actually drive down the streets when it’s over to send the kids home.

    It’s odd how things change as time goes by, I’m really not sure I like the changes though.

    Great thoughts!

  5. territerri Says:

    When I once asked my dad if he used to go trick-or-treating, he said no. Instead, he told me stories of soaping windows and greasing the streetcar tracks. I had a VERY strict dad and I couldn’t seem to wrap my head around the stories of his pranks because I knew darn well that if HIS kids ever did anything like that, he’d tan our hides.

    My parents weren’t big believers in trick-or-treating, but they went along with it I think because all the other neighborhood parents allowed it. My siblings and I were allowed to have plastic masks but no costumes. Mine was a witch mask and I wore it for years before an aunt passed on my cousins’ hand-me-down costumes. We were THRILLED!

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