1974 and it was Josey and the Pussycats, The Jetsons, The Flintstones, Scooby Doo, or the old stand-bys: Cinderella, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Superman, Batman and Robin, or Frankenstein. Plastic, suffocating masks with holes for the eyes and mouth which would be attached to your face with a rubber string that pulled your hair from the roots, all night long. The masks themselves would be lifted up and down on the face most of the night, and then finally pushed onto to the top of the head or discarded all-together.
Kids of all ages from the neighborhood would walk in droves, many times unescorted, every porch light was on for miles, it was pitch black dark, and no one ever seemed to be scared. The loud rants of “Trick or Treat!” could be heard from pretty much wherever you stood. All the neighbors knew the children by name, and no one seemed worried or anxious about who would be knocking on their door or ringing the doorbell. We would all go home, dive into our bags/buckets full of candy without another thought about it.
1998 and my boys and I have moved to a new town and we live out in the country. All the houses are miles apart, and Hwy 65 is not made for door to door trick or treating. A friend tells me about King Street in Quincy, and all the avenues that branch off from it. It’s the perfect place to take your kids; it’s safe, well lit, and neighborhood friendly.
When we arrive, the streets are already swarming with The Powderpuff Girls, Pound Puppies, Smurfs, Barney, little Madonna’s and Michael Jackson wanna-be’s. The roads are blocked off by the city police to prevent driving and accidents, but now, parents line the streets as far as the eye can see as well. Sadly, the days of children trick or treating alone or with older children for guides was out of the question. It’s even discussed quietly amongst the adults as to whether the candy needs to be taken somewhere to be X-Rayed for foreign, deadly objects. Scarily enough, this has become a common practice at all hospitals and emergency rooms every year, free of charge.
As each year passes, there are more Fall Festivals and recreational park events offering games, bobbing for apples, and face painting; home parties with adult supervision by people you know and trust which are safer ways for children to have fun and still celebrate the Halloween costume traditions.
It makes me sad when real life interferes with anything that has to do with innocence, fun, and what makes children happy. That you have to explain to a child why his/her candy must be checked before he can eat it; well, I don’t even know what those words should be. I expect by the time I have any grandchildren, trick or treating will be extinct. Instead, I’ll be trying to explain to them the pictures of their Daddy’s in albums, with the costumes, painted-on faces of Halloween’s gone by. How sad indeed.