You’ve got a great looking costume on and you’re sweating bullets in the plastic jumpsuit and mask. You walk up to the door of some stranger and knock in anticipation of the great treats you might receive. The door opens, and an apple is dropped in the bag.
What a downer. Fortunately that was the rarity of my youth.
Halloween was always a favorite time when I was a little kid. It’s one of the few times you’re allowed to beg for candy and eat all you can get your hands on, no questions asked. There were always a few apples or oranges mixed in with the desired candies, but they were easy enough to discard, admittedly sometimes in the mailbox of the person who gave it to you. Of course that was nearly 40 years ago. Today’s trick-or-treaters don’t get the same experience I once did.
Today’s costumes are so elaborate, so realistic, so comfortable. My costumes were never any of those.
I recall one year I was obsessed with Spiderman. My dad even took me to the Howard’s (the Fred’s Dollar Store of its day) in Clinton where on one special day you could meet the “real” Spiderman. The long line of kids weaved through the store’s warehouse until you turned a corner and there he was, just like he looked on the “Electric Company” on TV. I got a picture made with him and treasured that grainy Polaroid. I even took it to school to show all my friends.
When Halloween rolled around I got my wish and my mother bought me a Spiderman costume. It didn’t look like the real Spiderman. The red and blue Hefty-bag like jumpsuit was hardly skin tight like “Spidey’s.” It was extremely hot, too. I don’t recall if it was 30 or 70 degrees that Halloween, I just remember sweating like a turkey on Thanksgiving inside that suit, and the Superman suit the next year, and the Batman suit the next year.
Even worse than the suit was the plastic mask. If it wasn’t slicing your eyelids with every blink, the elastic band holding it on was pulling your hair, at least until it broke after 15 minutes of wear.
Invariably, I would get through three or four houses and it would break and I would have to hold it on with my hand. I would eventually get tired of it and just scrap it all together.
People had true sympathy for you in those costumes, or else they were overflowing with Halloween spirit. Every house in my neighborhood dished out candy by the handfuls. I loved the Sweet Tarts, Smarties, candy cigarettes, powder-filled straws, jawbreakers, and Blow-pops, but my absolute favorites were Reeses Peanut Butter Cups and the mini-Snickers.
I always helped my mom carve our own Jack-o-lantern. We set an old chair in the front yard, threw a white sheet over it and set the carved pumpkin on it with a lighted candle inside. Every house had a smiling jack-o-lantern greeting the trick-or-treaters.
Some of the houses had more than that. We had one house in the neighborhood where the older kids that lived there would run a fishing line from the roof to a tree in the front yard. They cut up white sheets, put them over something round like a volleyball, painted menacing faces on them, and hooked them to the line. They would wait on the roof for some trick-or-treaters to approach the front door and then release the ghosts that would come flying down at you with them screaming from the rooftop.
As a 6-year-old, the first time you saw it you nearly jumped out of your plastic suit. From then on it became cool and you kept going back to see it again and again.
I would end up filling a grocery bag full of candy, sometimes two. I’m not talking about the flimsy plastic bags. We didn’t have them back then. I mean the big brown sacks.
The candy would last me two or three days. The memories I still carry today.
You may email Joel McNeece at email@example.com