Ah, the rural life. Critters, events, opinions and trivia.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

What Happened to Halloween?

This is one of those "when I was a kid" moments....

The time frame was the 1950's through the early 60's. Overall, I always say "I hated the 1950's -- the politics, the food, the furniture, the clothing". But in retrospect, that was a wonderful decade to be a kid, and the music was great.

Moms mostly stayed at home to raise the family. There actually were morning "coffee klatches" where moms would get together, drink coffee, smoke cigarettes and trade recipies. Favored recipies made the journey from household to household some became traditions -- green bean casserole with mushroom soup and fried onions; yams with tiny marshmallows; ambrosia fruit salad with tiny marshmallows; tuna casserole with crumbled potato chip topping and of course, jello salad. Many of our dads had recently been in the armed services, so Spam and creamed chipped beef were also included in the recipe roulette.

When I was a kid, celebrating Halloween was quite different from today. I can remember the smell of leaves burning (can you believe that it was common to rake the yard, then burn the leaves in the street?). We eagerly anticipated dusk or the earliest sign of darkness, so we could dress in our home-made costumes, select the appropriate size paper bag for goodies, and get started on our search for sugar treasures. It was a major milestone when we were old enough to trick or treat without parental chaperones.

Our journey started in our own neighborhoods where we knew most of the families and we would visit every house that had lights on. We quickly learned which houses had the "good" treats -- goody bags with candy corn, loose candy and candy bars and which houses had the less desireable "healthy" treats -- apples, popcorn balls and the like. There were always the homes where the owner (usually the jokester dad) demanded we actually earn our treat by performing a trick. I have no recollection of what tricks we actually performed.

Next, our search for treasure expanded from our own neighborhood to houses that were quite far from home. Our parents were not particularly concerned about our peronsal safety or the safety of our Halloween treats -- their biggest concern was that we not over-consume our candy en route home. I can't recall hearing of a single incident of inappropriate behavior toward children, or of candy tampering. Some years, we were overcome with altruism and bypassed the candy treats and carried Unicef cans instead

I do have many fond memories of those Halloweens. One outstanding memory involved an annual visit to the "Burr mansion", former homestead of Aaron Burr. I can recall huge solid silver trays covered in candy and two lovely eldery genteel ladies serving us. I think they were distant relatives of Aaron himself.

Today, in 2006, traditions involve sponsored Halloween parties at town locations and I'm sure those events are much safer, and will be cherished memories for children today. Nonetheless, I long for a return to the times when children were safe and protected throughout the town and were free to explore.

Happy Halloween from me and the furkids!