Trick Or Treating In The ’60s

We’re getting ready for Beggars’ Night in Columbus, but that’s just part of what has become an increasingly big, and prolonged, celebration of Halloween in America.

In German Village, we’ve already had an adult trick or treat night that gave “grown-ups” a chance to don costumes, act like kids, and go to designated locations where they could have special drinks and eat Halloween food.  If you turn on your TV, you’ll see lots of commercials about preparing special Halloween-themed foods, decorating your house with spiders, fake cobwebs, and other scary stuff, and making or buying elaborate get-ups for your kids.  It all reflects the reality that, every year, Americans spend more and more on Halloween.   

f22c4ef1e347c837bc8f82d4dbf0581aIt was . . . different during the ’60s.  Halloween was almost exclusively a kid’s holiday in those days; I don’t remember adults being very involved or all that interested in participating themselves.   Most of us kids came up with our own costume ideas and made them ourselves, because there weren’t a lot of other options — you could buy a cheap costume from the local store, but it was impossible to see or even breathe in the hard plastic mask with a slit for the mouth and little holes for the eyes that was always of the package, and the flimsy bodysuit part of the costume was ripped to shreds almost immediately unless you stood perfectly still, like the unfortunate kids in the photo above.  After one year where I, too, went as Batman and wandered around with a sweating face, unable to see or make myself heard clearly, I decided that the homemade costume route was definitely the way to go.

I don’t remember much about the costumes I made, except that they were pretty simple.  One year UJ, Cath and I went as three of the four Monkees — I think I was Mickey Dolenz, my favorite Monkee — but our costumes didn’t matter much because it was unseasonably cold for trick or treating that year and Mom made us bundle up to the point you couldn’t see our Monkee outfits, anyway.  One year I was a pirate, one year I donned a jersey and went as a generic “football player,” and another year — I’m embarrassed to admit — I went as a “bum,” putting on some beat-up clothing, a battered hat, and smearing some of Mom’s mascara on my chin to give the appearance of unshaven beard stubble.  The hobo outfit was common in that pre-PC era and was an easy costume to make and blessedly mask-free, but I’m guessing that nobody goes trick or treating as a “bum” these days.

That’s one of the many ways in which Halloween has changed since I was a kid.  One thing that hasn’t changed:  kids still want chocolate to put into their trick or treat sack.  No apples or popcorn balls, please!

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At An Office Coffee Station On The Day After Beggars’ Night

IMG_7433Last night was Beggars’ Night, and we bought too much candy.  (We had no trick-or-treaters at all visit our new house, so any candy would have been too much.)  Kish’s edict was unequivocal:  get the candy out of the house, immediately!  So, to the office and the counter next to the fifth floor coffee station it went.  By 8 a.m., another of my office mates, who had a cool witch serving bowl, also had weighed in with her extras, and the coffee station was ready for the inevitable onslaught.  I’m guessing that this same scene was duplicated in countless offices around the country.

IMG_7435By 1:30 the hungry denizens of the fifth floor had made an appreciably large dent in the candy supplies.  The Snickers bars were the first to go, followed by M&Ms and Milky Ways, and the Three Musketeers bars were bringing up the rear.  There was a huge post-lunch, “its-kind-of-like-a-dessert-so-its-OK-for-me-to-have-one-or-two” rush on the candy, and one grateful consumer left a nice thank-you note.

IMG_7437By 4 p.m., the human tide had subsided.  Only a few lonely, somewhat pathetic-looking candies remained in the witch’s straw bowl.  The plate had been removed entirely, and the jar was empty.  Even the boring Three Musketeers bars had been consumed by the chocolate-craving occupants of the fifth floor — if not by colleagues on other floors who heard through the grapevine that there were good candy pickins on 5.

How much candy do you suppose is consumed in offices on the day after Beggars’ Night, anyway?

 

A Mean-Spirited Busybody Who Desperately Needs To Learn The True Meaning Of The “Trick” In “Trick Or Treat”

Today NBC’s Today show reported on the Beggars’ Night plans of a Fargo, North Dakota woman who sounds like a hopeless jerk.  Rather than handing out candy to every trick-or-treater, this officious busybody will judge whether the kids showing up at her door are “moderately obese.”  If she concludes that they are, she’ll decline to give them candy and instead will give them a note that reads:

“Happy Halloween and Happy Holidays Neighbor!

“You’re probably wondering why your child has this note; have you ever heard the saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’?  I am disappointed in ‘the village’ of Fargo Moorhead, West Fargo.

“You [sic] child is, in my opinion, moderately obese and should not be consuming sugar and sweets to the extent of some children this Halloween season.

“My hope is that you will step up as a parent and ration candy this Halloween and not allow your child to continue these unhealthy eating habits

Thank you”

This sounds like a fake story, but there are so many judgmental tools in the world it is completely plausible that it is, in fact, the unfortunate truth.  It’s hard to imagine what kind of supercilious dolt would tell a costumed child that they are too fat to get candy, but maybe that’s just the logical end of our increasingly patronizing, nanny-state approach to parenting and nutrition.  Setting aside the misspelling, poor grammar, and bad punctuation, which reveal the author of the note to be a poorly educated pretender, what kind of paragon of physical and ethical perfection does this woman think she is?  Can you imagine living next to such a person?

There’s only one response to this kind of behavior — and it’s why the “trick” is in “trick or treat.”  If I were a kid who got this kind of a note, it would be time to break out the soap, the toilet paper, and maybe the eggs, too.  And if I were the parent of a kid who got such a note, I might “step up” to toss a roll of toilet paper myself.

The Halloween Balloon

IMG_5114Every year, Halloween seems to get bigger and bigger.  What used to be a holiday for little trick or treaters and some juvenile delinquents back in the ’60s has become a huge retail money-maker, with billions of dollars being spent each year on costumes, candy, and decorations.

On Saturday Kish and I were down in German Village with our Bahamian buddies, and there were costumed people everywhere you looked, even though Halloween and Beggars Night don’t officially arrive in Columbus until October 31.  Throngs of zombies, superheros, and cultural figures lurched from bar to bar in search of a good time.  Halloween has become a week-long excuse to party, dress up, and act out.

That’s all fine with me, so long as the little kids get their chance to go door-to-door for candy, and I can carve a few jack-o-lanterns to greet them on their way to our door.  When you think about it, Halloween is one of the few remaining times where parents let their kids out of the house to roam freely and ask complete strangers for food.  It’s good innocent fun, and I expect most adults remember it as such.  No wonder so many grown-ups like to dress up and relieve a little of that childhood Halloween magic!

Pumpkin Fail At Webner House

I smelled the reek of failure all day today.  Because the weather has been so foul, we utterly failed to carve our pumpkins into jack o’ lanterns and then convert the front entrance to our home into the traditional Webner House Beggars’ Night pumpkin walk.

When I walked out of our downtown Columbus offices today for lunch meeting, however, my spirits were lifted when I saw a pickup truck filled with pumpkins parked in the lot next door.  At least the driver of that truck, I thought, is properly keeping the pumpkin spirit alive — even if we at Webner House have failed abysmally.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Pumpkin-Carving Day

Tomorrow is Beggars’ Night, so today was our pumpkin-carving day.  This year, we had 10 pumpkins to be gutted, carved, and made ready to be implanted with candles and placed on our walkway to light the way for trick-or-treaters.

I love carving pumpkins.  I like doing the emptying and carving the day before, so that the pumpkins can dry out before the big evening.  I love getting ready for it, and laying out the carving implements like a scrub nurse placing the surgical instruments on trays in preparation for an operation.

Pumpkin-carving is an occasion that demands proper tools.  Our implements include a plastic ice cream scoop, knives, shallow spoons, and two excellent pumpkin carving tools that are blunt but with serrated blades — perfect for puncturing the tough orange skin of the pumpkin and then slicing, safely, through the pumpkin flesh.

I especially like the tactile sensation of pumpkin carving.  It seems basic and ancient, somehow, like skinning a rabbit, whittling a stick, churning butter, or performing another chore that would be done on the frontier.

You cut carefully around the stem, slicing horizontally to avoid the possibility of the pumpkin lid falling into the interior.  You feel the resistance yield and hear a satisfying tearing sound as you slowly pull the top, heretofore bound like Gulliver by the tiny threads of pumpkin innards, free from the rest of the pumpkin.  You look inside, and see the slimy strings and goop and seeds and smell that heady, rich pumpkin smell.  You know that your hands will be smeared orange and covered with flecks of pumpkin, because emptying the gut is something that requires you to use your hands, grip the spaghetti-like strands, and yank them out.

Our plastic ice cream scoop is exceptionally well-suited to scraping the insides of pumpkins until they are free of the wet threads and seeds.  (This year, we contributed the seeds to our neighbor, who will bake and salt them and use them for snacks.)  I like to scour the inside walls thoroughly, so that the interiors of the hollowed-out pumpkins are as smooth as a baby’s behind.  That allows the pumpkins to dry overnight and makes them better suited for candle placement and candle lighting and burning.  And if your interior pumpkin walls are thinned by vigorous scraping,  the candlelight will give your pumpkin a cool-looking, eerie inner glow on Beggars’ Night.

After the preparation comes carving time — when all creativity can be loosed, and the pumpkin can become a temporary, soon-to-be-discarded testament to your artistic sensibilities.  I’ll share some pictures of our jack-o-lanterns, and our pumpkin walkway, when they are lit and on display tomorrow night.