The Spirit of Halloweens Past

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This post is by Joe Stephens

I got home last night in plenty of time for trick-or-treating. Sadly, it was because my school’s volleyball team, which played amazingly considering they were playing through a tragedy (The head coach lost his son suddenly. The team took a double hit because one of their starters is the coach’s granddaughter and the child of the man who passed away.) lost out in the semifinals of their conference tournament. Be that as it may, I was there when the steady stream of ghouls, goblins, and superheroes came to our door.

Two of our seven trick-or-treaters, my adorable great-nephews. Sadly, Trenton is allergic to peanuts, so he doesn’t even get to eat most of his treats. We gave him a pear, if you can believe it.

Only they never came. We had a grand total of seven trick-or-treaters (not tricks-or-treatsers, despite what Charles Schulz said) four of our relatives and the grandkids of the people across the street. Nowadays kids seem to trick-or-treat by going by car to homes of people they know. I’m sure there are still neighborhoods where the kids go door-to-door, but it’s not like it used to be. And who can disagree? There are a lot of scary people out there. But back in my day, it was just a simpler time. We were more innocent, more naïve. And somehow, all my friends and I survived. Each year on whatever night trick-or-treating takes place (Does anyone else remember when it was just always on Halloween or am I making that up?) I am taken back to vivid memories from my childhood.

The first costume I can remember having was a Frankenstein’s monster outfit. I don’t remember where we got it–probably Arlan’s, which was as close as we had to a Wal-Mart back then. I loved the green mask and wore it all the time. Except at dinner–the mouth hole was too small. I got it because I loved the movie, which I saw when Mom and Dad let me stay up to watch Chiller Theater on channel thirteen one Friday night. It was scary but in a good way.

This isn’t mine, but it’s just like the one I had.

My favorite costume coincided with my best haul ever. I got a hard plastic Batman cowl for the previous birthday, if I recall correctly. It was adult size so I had to put a folded towel in the back to make it fit, but it looked amazing! I hadn’t planned to wear it for trick-or-treating, but it rained hard that evening. I didn’t want to miss out, so Dad pulled out an old dark poncho and I put on the cowl. I was toasty dry the whole time. And as a bonus, the weather kept all the wimpy kids at home. By the end of the evening, people were pouring their entire bowls in my bag because no one else had come. I was sick for a week!

My least favorite memory is tempered by a really good one. We had some neighbors who lived at the end of a short wooded walk. My cousins and I were nearly done with our rounds when we stopped there. I was last in line and, just as we entered a dark spot on the walk, somebody darted out from behind a tree and ripped my bag from my hands. It happened so fast I didn’t even get a glance at the person. I had a bag full of goodies and then suddenly I didn’t. I stood there, too shocked to even shout. When I finally got words, I told my neighbors what happened. They got a spare bag from their house and gave me everything they had. My cousins even split their haul with me. I ended up with as much as I started with. My cousins Jan and Joyce (known by our whole family simply as “The Twins”) were, and still are, wonderful and generous people.

So what are your most vivid memories of Halloweens past?

Joe Stephens is a teacher at Parkersburg High School. He is also the author of Harsh Prey, Kisses and Lies, and the recently released In the Shadow, all of which are available in paperback and Kindle formats. The paperback may be purchased from Createspace, Amazon, and most online booksellers. In the real world, you may purchase from J & M Used Book Store in Parkersburg and from the author’s trunk.

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22 Responses to The Spirit of Halloweens Past

  1. Neva Bodin says:

    Great post that brought back memories. How sad for your coach and team however. I only went trick-or-treating once in my life as we lived on a farm and we just didn’t do that. The time I got to go (I was maybe five) was when we were visiting an aunt and uncle in a large city on Halloween. My cousin, who was about 6 years older I think, took me. I was enthralled with having a costume, being with my “grown up” cousin, and getting treats. And I remember one time when kids from neighboring farms, (a farm every mile in those days) walked the country block, (about 6 miles) and stopped for treats. I remember because the neighbor boy whom I had a crush on was one of the kids. We only had about 8 kids last night, last year we were in another state and the year before no kids came.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Doris says:

    My deepest sympathy to the coach and the family. Never easy to lose someone.

    I have fond memories, but they all flow together. Growing up in a small town, there weren’t many children, so it was more group activities with a small amount of going door to door. Still overall I do remember the day fondly. Doris

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can’t believe someone would steal your candy! But I love that the neighbors gave you everything they had. I usually wore my ballet recital costume from that summer, whatever it happened to be. My favorite costume though was when my mom made me a bunny outfit. I loved rabbits growing up. My mom didn’t like me to have processed sugar. She always made desserts from scratch and substituted applesauce for sugar. I guess it rubbed off on me because whenever I came home from trick or treating, I’d immediately dump the bag of candy in my closet despite my mom allowing me the candy for Halloween. Over the years, I collected several bags of old candy. I have no idea why I just didn’t throw it away. Thanks for the memories, Joe!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wranglers says:

    We went as a family. My parents went, and all of 5 of us kids. No age limits back then. We’d go trick or treating, and then rush back to our house in the country to hand out treats. It always rained, and if we had on store-bought masks the humidity would be so high that the masks would be wet against our faces. We usually made costumes. There was a store-owner who would act like he was putting in a candy bar, and he’d actually be taking candy from out bags. My Mom caught him, and he ended up giving us great treats.

    Sorry about the coaches son.

    We had trick or treat the night before Halloween, that way if someone didn’t give you treats the next night you could give them a treat as in soaped windows. Cher’ley

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    • Joe Stephens says:

      Our age limit was 12. I thought it was some sort of law when I was a kid. My dad even kept rocks at the door to throw through the bottom of the bags of older kids who tried to sneak in. In fairness to my dad, the only older kids who tried to get candy were the neighborhood troublemakers–there’s even been talk over the years that one of them is the one who stole my candy.

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  5. Mike Staton says:

    I too have noticed comments from people saying they’re not getting many trick-or-treaters nowadays. The news is filled with shootings and all kinds of crime nowadays, so I think many parents are just nervous about letting kids do the trick-or-treating like I did when I was a kid. Also, many kids go to church get-togethers or other social gatherings at Halloween, removing the need for trick-or-treating. When I lived in North Carolina, one nearby town had a downtown trunk-or-treat instead of trick-or-treating. Car trunks would be filled with candy on the town square; also, stores and shops would offer treats. I do want to add my condolences for the untimely death of the coach’s son.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joe Stephens says:

      Same is true here–a growing number of organizations, such as churches and our mall have started having trunk-or-treats. I imagine that’s where the majority of the kids go now.

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  6. katewyland says:

    We just moved into an older neighborhood with no young kids. I was told only one came around last year. We dutifully bought some candy but no one appeared last night. 😦

    I’ve always enjoyed Halloween. Loved taking my kids around when they we little. My son came up with some unique costumes–a computer one time, complete with blinking lights. (This was back before home computers, so he was a mainframe.)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Most of the time when I was growing up, trick-or-treating took place on Halloween, but there were some years when Halloween fell on a Sunday so trick-or-treating was moved to the Friday or Saturday before.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joe Stephens says:

      Now that you say that, I think that’s how it was when I was little. I remember loving it when it was on Friday or Saturday because it wasn’t a school night and we could stay out and play longer and also stay up and eat candy longer!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Nancy Jardine says:

    I went ‘guising’ on Hallowe’en as a kid, my costumes always home made and cobbled together from bits and pieces lying around the house that could be quickly sewn together or taped in place. I was a coalman one year and an Egyptian mummy another time. The streets in my neighbourhood teemed with kids dragging their full pillowcase or canvas shopping bag, but you had to earn your hallowe’en by singing, saying a poem or joke or doing some sort of dance routine. The usual reward ranged from a small sweet, some nuts like peanuts still in their shells, a tangerine, or an apple, or sometimes I was lucky and got a homemade cake or biscuit (cookie). My mum made toffee apples but only for the very local neighbours- i.e. a whole apple dipped in liquid toffee which hardened to become a ‘candy apple’ on a stick. I only had my granddaughter and grandson at the door this year but then people don’t tend to go guising on the main street of my village where I live. I used to have pupils entertaining me when I was teaching at the village school but that doesn’t happen now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joe Stephens says:

      All we ever had to do was knock and say trick-or-treat. And even back in the late sixties and seventies when I was a kid, it was almost exclusively store-bought stuff. We did make caramel apples, but not to give out. We just ate them. 🙂

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      • Wranglers says:

        At some of the houses, they would make us go inside and try to guess who we were before giving us a treat. I think having our parents with us helped to keep down all the bad stuff that started happening in later years. Also we gave out candy or fruit to all the people who came to our door. Since we were out of town we were hit last. Back then you turned your light on if you were home and had treats.
        Cher’ley

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    • Wranglers says:

      Nancy, Sounds like the fun we had. Cher’ley

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  9. So sorry for the tragedy that befell the coach and the others who were affected. You bring back such delicious memories, Joe. I grew up in the ’50s and like you, we had Halloween on Halloween, unless it was Sunday and then it was the night before. I’ve always loved Halloween (and since I lived in Mexico for awhile, Dia de los Muertes (Day of the Dead). My first recollection of a costume was an Indian Princess when I was four or five. My aunt (who was closer to my age than to my mother’s) took me to her one-room school for the day for her Halloween Party. I loved the costume, but by the time I got home I was really uncomfortable, because the dress was made of a burlap feed bag! My mother was a master at creating costumes for my siblings and me. We lived in a fairly small town and were allowed to trick or treat as we pleased. Some nights we walked miles and had such a good time we didn’t mind at all. We came home dragging our booty behind us, tired, but looking forward to the candy. My funniest recollection of Halloween was when I was about ten. My aunt and uncle came to visit and brought their two boys. We had a big Halloween party at our house and then went trick or treating. My cousin was probably six or so and dressed as a mouse. One of my sisters was eight and my other sister was also 6. We were traipsing through a neighborhood a ways from our own and some bullies came up, stepped on my cousin’s tail, grabbed his paper grocery bag of candy and started calling him names while he stood still sobbing. My sisters and I ran after them and told them they’d better give up the candy or we’d tell our dad. For some reason they dropped it, so we got our cousin, went to a nearby house, asked for a bag and spent a lot of time picking up all of my cousin’s candy. Then we were back on the prowl. This is a story that we tell every time we get together and then we can’t stop laughing. I was a lucky kid. I only have very good memories of Halloween. Sorry my comment is so long!

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  10. Travis says:

    It’s funny that the Batman cowl gave me a stronger flashback than Halloween memories. Before I was in school, my mother used to drop me off at a daycare once a week. A place called House of the Wee People. There was a Batman cowl there and I would bolt out of the car so I could get to the toy box and get it first. I loved that helmet.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. WOW stealing your bag of candy — how low is that?! Hopefully, though, it was a homeless person who didn’t have anything to eat and at least had some type of meal… however, still…. I don’t remember too many Halloweens — we lived in the country for a large part of my life and going “door-to-door” just didn’t happen. I do recall being a cat, probably when I was 7 or 8 and had my first cat — went to Grandma’s house because she lived in town and lived a bunch of very generous people! We get little munchkins around here, usually 30 to 50 each year. We missed it this year, though, due to taking a little vacation — but I took a cat “trick or treating” as you’ll read about on Friday! 🙂 Sorry to hear about your school’s tragedies — that greatly impacts a community in many ways.

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  12. S J Brown says:

    Halloween has always been a favorite holiday for us. My favorite memories are a mix of our annual pumpkin carving party and Halloween. The last several years that we lived in the city we no longer got trick or treaters, so the pumpkin carving party became our Halloween celebration. Now that we have moved out of the city we get lots of trick or treaters. But they do it a bit different here. The houses are spaced a bit and most of us have long driveways so the kids ride in cars, or in trailers pulled by 4 wheelers. So now we celebrate Halloween twice.

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