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More Stories - The Way We Were
Changing Face of Halloween
Things change, don't they? Back in more innocent years when I was young, children could safely go trick or treating. Homemade treats were usual, along with coveted candy bars from the more affluent. The biggest scandal was usually who put whose cultivator, lawn ornament, gazebo or outhouse on the village green, or who threw eggs at the police chief's car. One year the high school auto repair class swiped the shop teacher's Volkswagen, took it apart, carried it piece by piece up the school stairwell and reassembled it on the roof. A stellar Halloween! When a child was hurt by a razor blade in an apple or a needle in taffy, it made national headlines. Unthinkable!
As more and more people moved to big cities and largely anonymous suburbs, that innocence began to erode. Parents started to worry about their children's safety while trick or treating. The Ex-Lax executives cringed every Halloween as faux chocolate was handed out. Muggers, mooners, snipers, flashers and snatchers became common; the song "The Streaker" hit the top of the charts. That year my pre-teenaged son made his costume himself by cutting legs off his pants and tying the bottoms around his knees. He appropriated one of my jackets that looked like a trench coat on him, and found a fedora hat somewhere. He wore a bikini bathing suit and nothing else under the coat, with a sign printed with a large "Boo!" hiding the trunks so he appeared nude. He spent that cold Halloween night knocking on doors, and when the kindly, smiling neighbors appeared with a bowl of candy he flung open his coat, waited a moment for shock value, and ran. Later his friend Enrique Oropesa, wearing one of those trick arrows that appear to pierce the body and a white t-shirt liberally smeared with ketchup, did the same, dramatically moaning and gasping. Nearly gave any number of us heart attacks. Both a sign of the times.
My late sister Priscilla was unwilling to let David, her small son, trick or treat alone. She made herself a fabulous costume; old-lady shoes and big black purse, saggy stockings, a polka-dot house dress with a cinch belt and the slip showing, absolutely enormous bosom and derriere, big earrings and a hat with a bobbing flower. It was one of the best home-made costumes I have ever seen. Her son took one horrified look and refused to be seen with her.
That Halloween a number of children in Miami were hit by cars, got contaminated treats, were cut by razors and needles in candy, nearly snatched by perverts, hit by flying rocks and debris, and there was one sniping incident.
The following year we'd had enough; we told our kids they couldn't trick or treat. Stringing lights in the fenced-in front yard, we decorated, put up tables, set up an electric pan to boil the hot dogs, bought bags of baby doughnuts and hot dog buns from the day-old bakery and a couple hundred hot dogs from a discount meat place. I made huge quantities of macaroni salad, orange Kool-Aid and grape jello with fruit. We bought discount paper plates and napkins, pickle relish, mustard and ketchup, paper cups and plastic spoons. Wearing costumes, we put on scary music and waited. Every group that arrived for trick or treat was invited inside to eat. We fed over 135 children and adults! Cost: $39.
Times change. When my great-aunt, Amelia Hine, was a young woman over a hundred years ago in western New York State, small children didn't go trick or treating; the emphasis was on tricks. Every Halloween a group of youths snuck in under cover of darkness and snatched their outhouse, carrying it out to the road. This reduced everyone to using chamber pots until it could be relocated on its foundations. One year Great-Grandpa Hine had enough of that. He moved the latrine two feet forward, exposing the cesspit. Near midnight he heard anguished screams from the back yard.
Read about Hints for a Safe Halloween.
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