Halloween in the Spooky Old Woods

As I walk Annie down Birch Street on Halloween, I try to picture kids in costume running from house to house with their bags, the air echoing with “Trick or Treat!”

It’s not gonna happen. I avoid walking through the long dark stretches of forest between houses. What parent is going to let their kids do it? There’s bears out there. Besides, the occupants of four out of the five houses on my street qualify for Medicare. No kids. I suspect the kids that do live in the neighborhood go elsewhere to Trick or Treat. They may have already gone to one of the many public events that happened over the last few days. Merchants on the Bayfront are planning to hand out candy this evening. I suppose if I had children, I’d go there.

Halloween here and now is very different from Halloweens back in the 1950s and early ‘60s when I was a kid. We only wore our costumes for one day—Halloween. We wore them to school, then fidgeted around for a few hours until Mom and Dad were ready to take us out Trick or Treating. Our costumes were sometimes homemade—I went once as a sleepwalker in my pajamas, another time as a gypsy in a long skirt with big earrings. Sometimes they were cheesy store-bought costumes of some highly flammable material that itched and offered no warmth. It was warm enough in San Jose. I remember those masks we used to wear, hooked around our heads with glorified rubber bands. They were scratchy on our cheeks and smelled like whatever we ate. They blocked half our vision, but we didn’t care.

We walked house to house on Fenley and Ardis Avenues, which offered us more than enough houses. Everyone was giving out candy. The adults at the door would peer at us and say, “Is that Susie and Mikie?” and we’re scream “Trick or Treat!” We’d watch the candy dropping into our bags and holler “Thank you!” as we’d been taught. Our friends were doing the same thing, their fathers, like ours, waiting on the sidewalk to escort us to the next place. In those days when we baby boomers were children, nobody worried about crime, razor blades stuck in apples, or any other dangers. We were as safe out there as in our own bedrooms. And oh, the loot. Tootsie rolls, suckers, Life Savers, little Hershey Bars, candy corn, homemade cookies, and popcorn balls. Our moms didn’t have to check our bags for danger or take out things that weren’t considered healthy. It was all good and it was all ours.

The tradition continued as long as we lived in San Jose, although by the time we were the adults handing out candy, we had to offer factory-wrapped goodies from the store. Anything homemade would be thrown away as unsafe. Parents worried about sugar. Some people gave out toothbrushes or granola bars. What fun is that? Homeowners worried about vandalism. The numbers of kids dwindled as their parents took them to safer events hosted by schools and churches.

Here in Lincoln County, Oregon, kids still go out, but not everywhere. My in-laws used to live in the neighborhood behind the Fred Meyer store off NE 20th Street. Police blocked off those streets and kids came by the hundreds. I can remember years standing outside in cold, wet, windy weather handing out candy. The stream of Trick or Treaters didn’t let up for hours. Fred’s frugal mom offered mini Tootsie Rolls, and we were in trouble if we gave anybody more than one. Of course we did it anyway. The last year she was there, we ran out of candy and turned off the lights. A little later, we found that our car had been “egged.” Our windows were open, and the whites and yolk ran all over the blue velour upholstery. The dog did a pretty good cleanup job, but it soured the evening.

In town today, I didn’t see as many people in costume as I expected. At lunch at Georgie’s, the hostess, one waitress, and one busboy dressed up, but the rest were in their usual black garb. At the J.C. Market, one cashier had multi-colored hair and another appeared to be a witch. Two customers roamed the aisles as some type of zombies. One of them waved at me—I had no idea who she was. Otherwise it was business as usual. I didn’t see any kids at all, unless you count the dozens of costumed kids on Facebook. Here, they’d have to a wear jackets over their costumes anyway; it’s expected to get down in the 30s tonight.

Out here in the woods with Annie, I don’t expect to see any Trick or Treaters. On our walk, Annie and I saw the neighbors’ chickens, a squirrel, a Pomeranian, and a tuxedo cat, but nobody in costume. I have a string of orange lights up, but no pumpkins, ghosts or other decorations. The kids will be elsewhere, and we old folks at the end of the road will eat the candy we bought just in case. We always make sure it’s the kind we like. I’ve got Tootsie rolls. Big ones. I’m thinking they’d taste great with Kahlua.

How was your Halloween? How is it different from when you were a kid?





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