By: Jana Greene
Being a child in the 1970’s at Halloween was just the best. Am I right?
If you are a 40-ish person, you know what I’m talking about.
This is not a blog post about Halloween as a celebration of evil, because in 1976, I had no idea that there was a dark side to the day. It was not about evil (or breathing or seeing in a mask.) I am no fan of modern-day Halloween, or what it represents, but when I was seven years old, it was all about the candy. And all about fun.
If you were a child in those days (oh Mercy…did I just say ‘in those days?’ Also, did I just say ‘mercy’? OLD) you might remember that:
The coolest thing was to be ‘ready’ to trick-or-treat at 6 p.m. That was the earliest acceptable time, because “you wouldn’t want to interrupt anyone’s dinner.”
You gladly wore the standard plastic and vinyl costume (see photo above. I assure you it is not photo-shopped. No, not even the plaid couch is photo-shopped.)
While in costume (mask must be engaged before leaving your house,) your eyes never lined up with the holes. They were not really for seeing out of; just holes punched randomly in a factory, and seldom over the actual eye design.
Actually, “pants” weren’t part of your costume at all. It was, more of a Onsie made from a good-quality lawn bag – with other holes for your limbs, and a tie on the back of the neck that your mother always tied way too tight.
As a result, you stumbled around over your plastic pants like some kind of wonky-eyed mutant cousin of whatever character you were trying to portray.
You collected candy from strangers who weren’t really strangers, because all the neighbors knew each other, at least casually. Nobody checked your candy for razor blades or poison, because such a thing nearly never happened (and, if it did, it was the stuff of Halloween-lore instead of a daily news event.)
Your parents told you ahead of time – before you set out with your friends unchaperoned – which houses to skip (“Don’t go to that house….the man that lives there gives your mother the creeps!”) Every other home that displayed a lit porch was open for business, and that was nearly every single one.
You trick-or-treated with the standard-size orange plastic pumpkin. No pillowcases. Greed was not a virtue then, and greedy children were frowned upon.
If you dilly-dally at someone’s door to check your stash, it was considered rude.
Also … if you dilly-dally at a door, you might walk home with an entirely different group of kids than you set off with (since there were many Caspers, princesses, H.R. Puff-n-Stuffs, and yes…sheets with eyeholes cut in them ala Charlie Brown.) Somehow, that was okay. You eventually wandered home, having only lifted your ill-fitting mask to stuff candy in your mouth.
No self-respecting teenager would caught trick-or-treating. That was for babies. Sure, every year there was a random sprinkling of young teens in lame costumes, trying to milk the last Milk Duds from their childhoods. But there were not roving gang going door-to-door, comprised of people old enough to vote in an election (or run for an election, for that matter.)
Driving to other neighborhoods for better candy was not groovy. It was tacky.
You always said thank you, even when there were no parents around to nudge and remind you.
If you were the kid whose front tooth was lost in a caramel apple, yours were ultimate bragging rights on Nov. 1st.
And yes, you ate genuine candy apples, and bobbed for the regular kind – in a bucket of water, and without wearing a life vest or having your parents sign a waiver prior to bobbing. Quaint in retrospect.
Your neighbors held Halloween parties in their living rooms, and you were invited to them without social media. All you had to do was ring the doorbell, say “Trick-or-Treat!” and you were invited in for purple punch and cookies with icing-spiders on them, while Monster Mash blasted from the speakers from an 8-track. Nobody issued an Amber alert for missing trick-or-treaters, because it was a different world.
When you were a tween, it wouldn’t have occurred to you to dress as the “naughty” versions of superheroes, cartoon characters, or inanimate objects. You didn’t try to sex-up Raggedy Ann, not even ‘just for Halloween.” Childhood icons were not fodder for making naughty, and if you did – you were perverse.
(Sidenote: It’s sad to me that any beloved character can be made “naughty” now. That Raggedy Ann – perfect in her innocent doll-ness – is so often sluttied up with stilettos and a gingham bustier, and society is A-OK with it. It’s not sad because I’m a prude, it’s sad because, well – it should make all of us sad.)
When you were a trick-or-treater in the ’70’s, things got real at dusk, and legit scary at dark, when the “older,” 8-12 year-old kids made spooky ghost noises in the dark.)
There were no store-bought, life-sized Frankensteins from Lowe’s adorning the porches in your neighborhood, mechanically raising zombie-menace arms. Inevitably, one of the Old Fart neighbor dads would have painstakingly painted a Monster-face on, giving you a personal (but purely fun) scare.
You traded candy with your friends on somebody’s front lawn after trick-or-treating, and after divvy-ing it up, took care to wipe the blades of grass off each piece.
After the swapping, you didn’t feel entitled to better candy ..,.an “all-Hershey Halloween.” Your parents had just sanctioned the pillage of sweets from the whole neighborhood! How could it BE any better?
By the end of the evening, you returned home thoroughly winded – mostly from breathing in your own carbon dioxide – infused with the smell of plastic – from wearing your mask for hours. But, who needs oxygen when you have this much CANDY?
So. Much. Candy. And evil-free fun.
You didn’t get treats every day, which made the veritable sugar buffet even sweeter.
I’m not a fan of Halloween now, because it’s a different world and there is so much wickedness on the daily. Back then, when I was seven, the only dark thing about Halloween in my young life was the Mounds bar in my orange, plastic pumpkin.
It was a different world.
Mercy, it was glorious.