Today's children will never know the joys and thrills that my
friends and I enjoyed when we celebrated Halloween.
Back then, we didn't have to worry about someone putting poison
or drugs in our candy. We may have checked an apple for razor
blades but most of the apples were given to the adults anyway. We
would never have dreamed that a stranger could be watching and
waiting for a chance to grab a child to do God only knows what to
them. We lived in gentler and less cautious times.
I remember my friend Carolyn and I walking for what seemed like
miles in our quest for a bag brimming with treats during those
Halloweens that occurred on weekends when I would be at my
grandparents. I don't think there was a house in West Raven whose
door we didn't knock on. A couple of Halloweens we even walked up
I don't remember the two of us wearing elaborate costumes. I just
remember that one Halloween was glorious. It wasn't cold and
the moon provided us with plenty of light so we didn't even have
to carry the extra burden of a flashlight.
If memory serves me right, that was the first year that we were
allowed to go without an accompanying adult. No two little girls
could have felt as free and invincible as the two of us did that
night. We were expecting a new adventure around every corner and
at every door.
In those days it was not unusual for my Grandma to have more than
200 trick-or-treaters come through the gate, up the sidewalk and
across the front porch to knock on her door. The costumed children were not hauled around in cars as so many of them are
today, but walked through the neighborhood. The smaller children
clutching the hands of adults and all the rest of us out on our
own, feeling very brave and believing that we could handle
I remember that on that special moonlight Halloween night there
was one older lady whose house was one of the first we visited.
She had not remembered that it was Halloween and had no candy
when we knocked on her door. She would not turn us away empty
handed - so we left her front porch eating a donut covered in
powdered sugar. You had to eat treats like that at once because
they made an awful mess if you allowed them to be dropped into
There were only a few donuts left in the box and Carolyn and I
both hoped that no one would get upset that she had no candy and
soap her windows or give her a hard time.
Another year, I went out with Nancy, my neighbor in Lake Park. I
was in fourth grade and she was in third. We had planed to wear
matching Frankenstein costumes and masks, but the weather was
rotten that year, rainy and cold and we ended up with our hated
all weather coats (which matched) over the top of our costumes.
We stomped and fussed and begged our mothers not to make us wear
those long coats with their heavy lining, but like the dutiful
mothers they were, they would not give in. We talked at great
length about waiting until we were out of sight and then taking
them off and hiding them in the bushes or in a neighbor's trash
can, but we gave up the idea as the rain continued and we knew
that we would get soaked. Not that we were the least bit
concerned with being wet but we knew it would be a dead give away
to our mothers that we hadn't worn the coats.
One of the ladies on our block, Mrs. Compton, had made pop corn
balls and as soon as the other children knew where we had gotten
them they made a bee line for her house. What they didn't know
was that she was only giving them to the children that she knew.
Everyone else got a regular treat.
Nancy and I made our rounds through the neighborhood in record
time and then enjoyed all of our treats for days after Halloween
- especially the chocolate bars.
I vividly remember one Halloween. I was sick. In fact I was so
sick that I didn't even care that I wasn't getting to go out with
my friends in the neighborhood to trick-or-treat that year. Group after group of costumed kids came knocking on our door as
Mom handed out bag after bag of candy.
I sat in one of the rocking chairs in front of the fireplace
wrapped in a fuzzy blanket and watched the different groups of
children for someone that I might recognize. One boy, who wore only soot for a mask, grinned when he saw me.
When he spoke I immediately recognized him as a boy in my class.
He was the one that I am sure many teachers hated to see enter
their classrooms - because he was behind the others in reading
and math and never seemed to catch up - he caused problems by
being disruptive and down right mean.
We all thought he was tough and while many of the boys looked up
to him, he did not have many friends in the class. When he asked if I was not going out trick-or-treating, my Mother
explained that I was sick and couldn't. He stood there a minute
in the open doorway and then handed Mom his bag of treats. "You
can have these for when you feel better," he said to me. With
that he was gone.
I couldn't believe my good luck or the fact that he had given me
his bag full of candy - much of it chocolate. However, when I
finally got to go back to school I learned that he hadn't gone
without. He had taken several bags of candy away from little kids
on his way home.
Then came the year that my friends and I were too old to go
Trick-or-treating. One set of friends - twins - eased the pain
of growing up by having a Halloween costume party. The party was
held during the day, but we didn't mind. We were still getting to
plan and plot over our costumes.
I worked very hard to construct my costume. I cut and sewed and
patched. When I was finished I looked like a first class hobo.
Two of the girls had dressed as Frankie and Johnny and preformed
to a pantomime the song.
I was surprised and shocked when
everyone voted on the best costume and I won. My prize was a
gold charm bracelet with a little golden rabbit on it.
The world and Halloween had changed by the time my children came
along. We only took our oldest child, Sarah, around to four or
five houses right around ours. The first year I pinned pink ears
and a tail onto her white fuzzy snow suit. Then I came up with a
way to get out of even doing that.
I told my children that the Great Pumpkin was real. Yes, that is
the mythological character that Linus waits for in the Peanuts
cartoons. The catch was, he would only come and bring a present
if the child didn't go out on Halloween. That was Linus's mistake
because he always went out and waited in the pumpkin patch.
That worked for years and years. Of course as the kids got older
the small stuffed animal or game ended up being a new Barbie for
the three girls and later even included makeup. It was a bribe
and it was worth it not to have to risk life and limb walking out
on the Baptist Valley Road while they knocked on strangers'
Now, Emily has missed out on the tradition of the Great Pumpkin.
We take her to do her trick-or-treating at the Malls. It is
relatively safe and we don't have to worry about where the candy
I got away with a couple of easy costumes such as a witch or
simply drawing whiskers on her face and letting her wear her
sweat suit that looked like a skunk. Now she always wants an
elaborate costume - usually the newest Disney movie heroine. She
has been Esmeralda and Megra and one year she wore her pageant
dress and was Miss America 2010.
This year she will be a
butterfly because she has started taking dance and I had to spend
a small fortune on the outfit and three different pairs of shoes
- tap, ballet and jazz. So for a very small price I found a
butterfly costume that can be worn over one of her leotard and
Most years we meet up with her little friend Nathan and they go
through the Malls together. Or rather he goes where Emily tells
him to go. This is not to say that Nathan is meek or mild but he
has learned a very valuable lesson - let the girl be the boss
and just follow meekly behind - it saves time because you don't
have to argue.
While the Malls are safe, I do regret that Emily will never know
the thrill of taking off up the street with Nathan or one of her
friends to go trick-or-treating all by themselves. Not all
changes are progress.©Tazewell County Free Press Oct. 1998