Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Halloween (Yours)

You guys sent in an excellent assortment of Halloween observations and memories, so let's take a look.

First off is Ian Jalbert, from north of Toronto:
This year we only had about 35 kids come by. When we moved here 8 years ago it was about 80. The neighborhood has refreshed itself over the last 2 years, and the average kids age is younger than ever, but less turned out.

I was talking to one of my friends yesterday who had a similar experience with the dropping numbers. She was saying that when we’re older and have grandkids we’ll be talking about this experience of how once a year we’d get dressed up in costumes, go door to door, and people would hand us candy. The grandkids would think we’re insane, because how would something like that ever happen? And it’s true, it is such a big difference from when we were kids, and every year there’s less and less kids trick or treating, and less houses handing out candy. I’d say only 1/3 of the houses in our neighborhood had the lights on--when we were kids, if one house had their lights off it would be like a personal insult, and that house would get egged or toilet papered.

That's right. If you turned off your lights, you lived in fear for the rest of the evening. Buy more candy next year, Scrooge McGrinch.

Next, from Stephen T.:
I have two brothers and a sister and grew up in Massachusetts during the 80's. On Halloween, we used to get bundled up and head out right after dinner. We lived in a good size town and would spend at least 2 hours walking around hitting every house on every block we could reach. My grandmother lived about 1.5 miles away and I remember the years we ventured that far (quite a trek for a 10,9,7, & 4 year olds). The hauls were epic. The grocery stores used to give out plastic trick or treat bags and we would each fill two. They were bigger than today's grocery bags, but not much thicker, so there was always the threat of the bag tearing as it got full. When we moved on to the second bag, our parents somehow had to corral all of us and carry the four already-full bags.

Since sweets were a real treat in our house, our hauls were guarded something on the order of Fort Knox. Bags were clearly labeled and inventoried each day. The goal was to enjoy it, but make it last. One year, I made mine last until Easter - when we got even more candy. It was the Year Of Sugar.

I think I actually made a physical inventory list of my candy one year. Sheer candy volume demanded documentation.

Next, from Matt Kreuch:
First, my childhood experience... Halloween for me was always a huge event. There were bragging rights at school for who commandeered the greatest loot. My costume of choice (just about every year) was a hobo. I don't think kids even know what a hobo is today, but for me it was a broom handle with a bag of of clothes hanging from it, dirty face, corn-cob pipe and raggedy hat. As a habit, I would bounce the pipe up and down between my teeth and without fail, I would return home at the end of the evening without the pipe because it flew out of my mouth without me realizing somewhere along my travels. My prime "trick or treating" childhood years were spent growing up in Winston-Salem, NC. Times were much different then. At the age of 9, I would set out with a group of friends scoring as much candy as possible as well as wreaking havoc on neighbors yards in the form of toilet paper. Throwing rolls of toilet paper into the trees was a common practice back then, and the day after Halloween a good percentage of the houses on our street would be covered in white streams. Most of all, I remember having a great excuse to run wild in through the night with a pack of friends. When our bags were full of candy, we would dump them at home and head right back out for more. Silly string and shaving cream were essential.

I can't imagine letting my kids at 9.0 and 10.7 roam the streets today. The world a scarier place today and the fear of losing one of them is everpresent.

As for this Halloween... such a disappointment. I try so hard to recapture the same excitement and thrill I felt during Halloween for my kids, but it's just not that important to them. Leading up to Halloween, I thought they had that excitement building in them as we planned costumes, carved pumpkins, etc. Our Trick or Treating experience lasted less than an hour (including drive time to a better candy neighborhood). We were at it for about 10 minutes when my 10.7, Alex, nudged me and then looked up and said, "I'm really not into this". I encouraged them to keep at it for the next 30 minutes, but they were completely not interested. We called it a night and were home before 8PM. I think I was the only one who was disappointed.

Eli 9.3 wasn't nearly as interested this year, either. In past years, he would talk about his costume for months, but this year, he barely mentioned it. Kids just have so many cool things to do today that a one-off holiday (unless it involves lots of presents) just doesn't mean as much.

Of course, if I could choose, I'd be a kid now, what with video games and NHL Center Ice readily available.

Next, from Joe Lewis:
I have to agree with you that trick or treating in the modern era is pathetic. Most of the kids that came by my house had those little plastic pumpkins. Those things can't hold nearly enough candy! Back in the day, we lugged around at least one pillow case filled to the brim. You had to bring around a reserve pillow case just in case the first one couldn't hold any more. We planned out routes based on previous year's experience and optimized the amount of candy we could get.

Hell, yes. When I was a kid, I used a little plastic pumpkin as a ladle to dip into my pillowcase full of candy.

Okay, last one for today (more tomorrow), and it's from Bill. T.:
I totally agree with you on the pathetic piles of candy. And also totally agree with you on the Karo Syrup popcorn balls. There was a house in my neighborhood in Seattle when I was a kid that gave them.

Trick-or-treating is still pretty awesome in Seattle, though—at least in my neighborhood. It’s hard to say how many kids we had this year, but it was somewhere around 70. I know this because I had bag of 70 mini-bags of Candy Corn that I gave out, along with the mini candy bars. The kids who came to my house and said their trick-or-treats were told “If you say ‘trick or treat’ you get one. If you say ‘Go Ducks!’ you get two.” I went through the entire bag of candy corn plus six other bags of candy, and only had a few left over after giving out two for most of the night—-a beautiful chorus of 'Go Ducks!' (followed by groans from Washington Husky parents).

Also, we still get vans of kids bussed in from other neighborhoods. And my son (6.0) and his friends were out for a good 90 minutes of trick or treating.

More tomorrow.

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