Halloweens, Come and Gone
What was my favorite trick-or-treat candy? Hm. In the 1950s the best prize came from the lady on the corner who made candy apples. I also liked Mrs. Hagenbuch’s rice krispie treats with orange and black sprinkles, round like pumpkins. My grandma poured fresh apple cider into little paper cones for thirsty trick-or-treaters. My mom made piles of popcorn balls and we wrapped them in wax paper twisting the ends shut.
The three stared at me, looked at each other, then the tall girl on the end spoke up.
“I, um, I think…isn’t that like against the law…or something?” “It is,” said the second girl, “like, weren’t you afraid? I mean, like, you could get poisoned…or something.” “But,” said the boy, “that was probably how it was in the old days…or something. Right?”
They wanted to know what my favorite costume was, did I walk or did my mother take me in the car, and what was my favorite tradition.
I could recall several costumes duck-taped together, and the fun of doing it; maybe the pirate. My mom stayed home to hand out our popcorn balls. I walked for blocks with my friends, brothers, and cousins. I carried a flashlight and got to stay out after dark.
My favorite tradition was painting windows. “Ooh,” they all said conspiratorially. “Did you get in trouble?”
“Oh no, not soaping windows, painting them. We signed up with friends and were assigned a store window. We planned our design for weeks. We showed up in our oldest clothes, with sketches, poster paints, and brushes. From the inside of the store every group painted away at their entry. The entire town walked the streets to see every store window, painted with Halloween pictures. Then the judges awarded the ribbons. We never cared if we won or not. It was the most fun being there and creating, laughing, and making the window the best one we’d done yet!
The three reporters stared. Then they smiled at each other, and said, “That could be fun! But where could we go? The mall? No one would let us do that at the mall.”
I reminded them, “You have a very nice downtown, with storefronts and sidewalks, just like where I lived. Newnan. I’ll bet they’d let you do that.”
The interview was over, and as most things in middle school, forgotten and replaced with a great new idea. Look out Newnan!
I haven’t seen a trick-or-treater since we left Sandy Springs (Atlanta) twenty years ago. The only reminders I see of Halloween are billboards about haunted houses, which are seriously horror-filled and for adults. Only commercial candy, hermetically sealed, untamperable, is given to kids kept safe in well-lit open spaces like malls or parking lots, organized by adults, where store-bought costumes compete for prizes. Jack-o-lanterns, cut with ergonomic and safe tools from pumpkin-carving kits, are beautiful works of art, unlike mine carved with kitchen knives and spoons.
The Halloweens of my youth, and the Halloweens with my own children walking up and down the sidewalks with flashlights, “scaring” the neighbors, was all about kids having fun in our neighborhoods. It was during the years of raising my own children that the experts began talking about how evil the holiday is, and how it could traumatize or influence the dark side of children, how it was an affront to Christianity. Danger was introduced with razor blades in apples. Atlanta’s children were being abducted. The genie was out of the bottle; Halloween can never go back to safe kid-manufactured-fun. Those worry-free Halloweens have come and gone, like the wisp of a ghost.