Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Halloween ain't like it used to be

Things were different when I was a kid. There's no debating that.

Growing up in that baby boomer era meant two things... One, there were a LOT of kids your age in your neighborhood... Two, you had the freedom to just go outside and "disappear" for an entire day without the need for your parents to issue an Amber Alert. Needless to say this was very liberating for us. AND very healthy - both physically and mentally.

Gone forever are the days of our children running off to the "woods" for hours on end building forts, climbing trees and simply just exploring - not only because responsible parents today would never even dream of cutting their kids that kind of slack, but also because there are hardly any "woods" left to romp around in.

So because of that, also gone are the big Halloween nights we used to live for as well.

Given the freedoms I just described meant we were allowed to literally disappear for hours on end. To say Halloween was a big deal for us would be a major understatement.

I can remember it like it was yesterday:

4:00 - Head over to your friend's house, eat some pizza and start getting dressed in your costume.

5:00 - Grab your empty pillow case and head out to collect your booty. Systematically work the grid of neighborhood streets for blocks on end, never missing a house. Fill your pillow case so full you can hardly carry it anymore.

9:00 - Head back inside to dump and sort your candy. If it was a weekend, prepare to stay up all night playing board games and stuffing yourself so full of junk your mouth hurt from chewing so much.

Yes, things were different when I was a kid. There's no debating that.


Elizabeth said...

About what age do kids around there stop trick-or-treating and start egging and TPing houses instead??

Heather said...

Yeah. Back when I was a kid, everyone made their own costumes too. Not so much anymore.

And we thought nothing of stepping into some stranger's house so the rest of the family could see our costumes.

Elizabeth said...

Where I lived it was always so cold at Halloween that we had to wear snow pants and coats over our costumes. I remember the year I was a ballerina, but no one could tell under the layers of clothes, scarves, boots and mittens. It was very sad :(

Mooselet said...

Ah, memories! Most embarrassing Halloween moment - I was wearing a gorilla mask and answering the door when I was about 15 and freaked some little kid out. I took off the mask to reassure him I wasn't really a gorilla only to look up and see the person who was taking the little tyke around was a guy I went to school with. It took everything I had not to slam the door and run away.

Yeah, thanks for making me relive that memory! :-)

Idaho Dad said...

I have such fond memories of Halloween. We lived in a big, semi-enclosed neighborhood that was just one big block party all night long. Completely safe for kids of all ages to roam the streets with no fear. We never thought of anything bad happening to us. Ever.

We could hit hundreds of houses over the course of the evening, returning home to empty out our bags and start fresh. People set up elaborate displays and decorations, with haunted houses that rival anything they charge money to enter these days. One guy in our neighborhood even dug up his front lawn to make a realistic graveyard with him and his buddies literally crawling out of the ground to scare us.

Yeah, that was another time. Long gone. Last year, we had a warm Halloween (temps in the 50's) and our neighborhood came to life in a way that reminded me of my childhood. But, still, every group of kids had a parent with them. The times have changed, indeed.

Anonymous said...

You systematically worked a grid?
Wow. You were one of those smart kids.

I think I just went in circles which probably explains the high ratio of Tootsie Rolls.

Ed (zoesdad) said...

You mean, I shouldn't send my kids out into the streets unsupervised? You're kidding right?

Susan said...

My 9 year old asked me the other day what she could use to carry her candy in this year, and I almost suggested an empty pillowcase, because that's what we always used too. Maybe I'll mention it to her and see what she says.

Where we live they "schedule" trick or treating on some random day before Halloween, usually the Friday before. It makes no sense to me. Halloween was celebrated on October 31st, regardless if it was a weeknight. And we went out as long as we could, until we hit every house within walking distance and people ran out of candy and turned their porch lights out.

Mom Thumb said...

Yeah, when you have to take your candy to the hospital to be x-rayed to see if it's safe to eat, it sort of harshes the whole sugar buzz.

Anonymous said...

when I was nine I dressed up as Darth Vader (the costume set in the box mind you) wearing very intimidating docksiders or as I liked to call them...Darksiders!!!

"Two, you had the freedom to just go outside and "disappear" for an entire day without the need for your parents to issue an Amber Alert."

As long as you stayed within yelling range. I hated being THAT kid who's mom could yell your name from four blocks away indicating it was time to come home for bed or a meal. Funny now, sucked then hehe...

Windyridge said...

Jeff I gotta disagree with you about safe woods. We moved here just for that reason. It's very safe here. I leave my keys in the car and have yet to lock the doors. The kids are allowed to disappear all day with the only caveat that they use the buddy system. years ago I neglected to load my double stroller into the car. A few days later there was an ad in the local Pennysaver that it had been found. I have left my purse twice (I know I'm an idiot) in my shopping cart. Both times it was given to customer service. These places do exist still. No it's not perfect here, but it's close.

Ed said...

Actually, the neighborhood I moved from I would average 180 trick or treaters! That's more than even when I was a kid. It's definitely different now though. There are nearly as many parents out as there are kids. I remember one particularly nice evening a few years back. It looked like the set from ET there were so many tricker treaters walking around in this neighborhood. I still think pillow cases are THE candy carrying device.

Anonymous said...

My mom has been spending a lot of time over here the last couple of weeks to "help." The more she "helps" the more I have wondered how she managed to raise three semi-responsible adults. Brad asked her and she said she just sent us out of the house in the morning and called us back at dinner time. I do seem to remember playing outside an awful lot.

Jormengrund said...

I have to agree here.

I remember looking forward to that night of freedom, and the chance to make off with some serious loads of candy!

Now? I live in a house near some woods, and I enjoy putting a small campsite with a remotely lit firepit out where it can be seen, just to scare away the trick-or-treaters.

(The serious ones always seem to come up with the nerve to ring my doorbell, though!)

Happy Halloween!

Babs (Beetle) said...

What I can't understand is, Are there suddenly far more child molesters and evil people around now? Did they not exist when we were kids? What's changed to make us all so scared to let our children out alone?

Don't get me wrong. I would never let a child roam the streets either, but we certainly did, and I never heard of any children being harmed back then either.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

elizabeth - Fortunately, we don't get a lot of that around here. But I'd have to guess around 14 or so. At least that's when I... I mean that's what I assume.

heather - The idea of "stranger danger" or "abduction" wasn't even a consideration back then. I'm sure it existed all the same in other bigger cities, but just not in our town.

elizabeth - The Halloween storm of '91 is famous here in MN. Completely shut down the area. They actually had to reschedule trick or treating for the next weekend.

mooselet - Oh to be 15 and embarrassed again. Now I get to embarrass my kids!

phil - Exactly. That's what I'm talking about!

jennine - Tootsie Rolls... bleh! That's a cop-out candy.

ed - I just wish it was still ok to do that. I don't personally believe there are dangers on every corner. In fact studies are showing that kids are safer today than ever, but we've been fed so much information about where the sex offenders live and how every time a child is taken by an estranged parent it's called an abduction, that it is now considered irresponsible to let your kids go out unsupervised. The reality is, only a tiny fraction of kids are ever actually abducted by strangers.

susan - You can't schedule Halloween. That's just wrong.

mom thumb - No kidding. In all my years of eating candy I never once bit into a razor blade. But that sure was the fear, wasn't it?

chris - My friend's mom had a referee whistle she used to blow when she wanted him home. Talk about humiliating!

windyridge - You are one of the lucky few who live amongst the trees. It's good to hear there are still safe places for kids to get lost.

ve - You just can't beat the old pillow case for volume and durability. When I was really little I had one of those little plastic pumpkins. That was a joke!

memarie - Exactly... just be home for supper. Can you imagine?

jormengrund - Same to you! I don't think a campfire would have scared me away. Not if there was candy to be had!

babs - Those are my questions too. Like I said to Ed, I just think we're being given more information than ever so it appears like the problem is worse. Kind of like it appears there is more cancer these days but at the same time we've increased our ability to detect it.

United Studies said...

The costumes were so much more innocent back when we were kids, too.

Meg said...

Yes, I remember the good old days when you could dress like an Indian or Gypsy or Hobo and not worry about being politically correct.

But let's face it--parents stole our candy then and we steal it now.

Kat Mortensen said...

What was your best Hallowe'en costume? My mother dressed me up as Carol Burnett's cleaning lady character. I used a bucket to collect my candy.


Anonymous said...

Wow. That sounds fun. My mom says trick or treat is only 2 hours long. Who decided this? Who in the world has a say when Halloween starts and ends?

Lucky for me, Halloween is on a Friday this year. I'm going with my friend. We're going to be old lady tourists.

Anonymous said...

I quit going out on Holloween, when people asked me to remove my mask, and I was not wearing one.

Roger Miller said...

I remember growing up in Colorado and having to deal with a very cold and snowy Halloween. It was the best one ever, in my opinion because we went out, filled our pillow cases with candy, came home and changed costumes and proceeded to go out again! The third time around the parents were aware of what we were doing, mostly because there was hardly anyone out because of the weather. They didn't care though, in fact, several houses just emptied their bowls into our pillow cases and turned off the light.

It was AWESOME!! 3 full pillow cases full of candy!!

I think we might have finished it by Easter. :)

Oh, and the candy companies didn't have any "fun sizes" yet. I think.

Nowadays, with the 'bite sized' candy and being a paranoid parent, my kids wouldn't even fill up one pillow case. Which actually works well, because can you imagine having six full pillow cases of candy? Besides the kids don't really like candy anyway. (I have no idea what is wrong with them).

Whoa. Long comment, sorry about that. :)

Roger Miller said...

Bite size candy?! Whoever invented that should be shot!! Sheesh.

Shieldmaiden96 said...

My grandmother did insist on pinning my Tinkerbell wings on the back of a coat one year because she insisted it was too cold to go out without it. When faced with the choice between costume faithfulness and not getting any candy, I decided Tinkerbell could wear a brown corduroy jacket after all.

Sandy said...

We lived for that night! It was, seriously, about the only time we did get candy, so we milked it for all it was worth.

I'm one of those parents that thinks we're too overprotective, but I'm scared I'll get CPS called on me if I'm not hovering over my children if they're more than an arm's length away from me.

Michelle said...

We're close to that here... we have sidewalks and TONS of kids (342 trick or treaters last year -- my husband counted). Except we start and end earlier. But as they get older, they go out by themselves. And I fully expect them to hang out with their friends eating and playing games and watching movies on Halloween. But yeah... disappearing for an entire day won't happen.

Anonymous said...

Oh Jeff-

Halloween was like that for me too, and im only 20!

Things have changed so much since I was 7.

Last year, my lil cousin went trick or treating.. she brought back like a ziplock bag of candy.

I was like WTF THATS IT?!?!?!

Ah.. the good ol days.

Maureen said...

Oh yeah. I remember those days too... we would be out as long as we could; actually making pit stops back home to dump our pillowcases so we could go out for more!

The snowsuits WERE hard to cover; good thing the costumes were't all "slutty nurse" styles back then. We had to do the "ghost" with mom's old sheets, or "hobo" with Dad's old clothes over bulky jackets, pants, toques and boots.

Good times. Good times.

Until I came home and found my older brother had taken all the best candy from my stash, that is...

April said...

My parents were never that loose with me about Halloween so I know not of this freedom that you speak.

Meredith said...

I went trick or treating in 91 in the blizzard. I don't remember it being rescheduled. You mean there were actually kids who wouldn't brave a blizzard for free candy?