When Halloween night was a frightOct 03, 2022 12:57PM ● By Michael Murphy
The anticipation leading up to Halloween was sometimes more than I could bear as a child. The annual candy cascade started days before the spooky night.
It’s very subtle at first. Innocently enough, my mother would pick up a few bags of bite-size candy bars and slyly hide them in the cupboard behind the gallon jar of wheat germ my older brother planned to add to his morning oatmeal to build muscles but quickly lost his taste for.
Of course, it wasn’t long before we kids uncovered the secret hideaway and began to pilfer tiny bar after bar, leaving a telltale tinfoil trail. Dad stepped in and cut off the gravy train, only to make a mental note of the location so he could undertake his own stealthy sugar heist.
Initially, Dad would justify a few bars to supplement his lunch at work. Next, he topped off his regular dessert after dinner with a bite of chocolate to satisfy his craving. Eventually, he grabbed a bar every time he passed the cupboard, so that by Halloween night all the “good stuff” was gone. Costumed beggars at the door had to be satisfied with one of those rock hard peanut butter-tasting lumps permanently sealed with something like Gorilla Glue inside orange or black paper.
By the time Halloween night ended and parents had eaten more candy than they handed out, they had such a sugar buzz that they would run up and down the walls like Spiderman, Batman and Superman all morphed into Glucoseman.
It’s obvious the potential hazards for those left at home on Halloween night to hand out candy. But it was even more perilous for us kids going up and down the streets avoiding tricks and seeking treats.
Halloween masks have come a long way since we were kids. Today, the mask possibilities are seemingly limitless. If a kid has the money to spare, he can be the spitting image of Boris Karloff in the 1931 movie “Frankenstein.”
Back in the 1950s, kids were pretty much limited to those stiff half-masks that covered around the eyes and the top of the nose—the ones held on by a thin elastic strap that snapped if you so much as sneezed.
While trick-or-treating, it was impossible to keep the eyeholes lined up with your eyeballs. One slight head movement and you got jabbed in the eye. Start running to get to the next house and you were momentarily blinded by the mask sliding over your eyes.
Parents back then didn’t seem to worry obsessively about stuff like their children being able to see and breathe. We were just tougher, I guess.
I also marvel at how many kids trick-or-treating today are accompanied by their parents on Halloween night. As far as I can recall, my parents never did that. It was basically a matter of “wait until you’re old enough to go with friends,” which in some cases was more dangerous than going solo.
Like me, most kids I knew back then had their favorite treat to pursue on Halloween night. I preferred Baby Ruth, Snickers or Hershey’s chocolate. Getting one of those absolutely made my night.
There might’ve been only one family in the entire neighborhood wealthy enough to hand out full-sized candy bars. Since word traveled fast amongst kids about which house was giving them out, it was every kid for himself in a mad dash—crooked mask hindering every step—to get there before the supply ran out.
I don’t know if it’s still a problem today, but when I was a kid, we had to deal with bag snatchers—bullies who saw no need to waste time and energy walking around to collect candy. Instead, they waited on the street until treat bags were surely full, and would run up behind victims, snatch the bags out of their hands and run like the dickens while cackling like the Wicked Witch of the West.
Sometimes around this time of year I wonder whatever became of those kids that were bag snatchers. What did they grow up to be? I have my theories, but I will keep them to myself.