When I was a kid, Halloween was completely awesome.
It was a much more innocent time in the world. Sure, it wasn’t perfect. If it was cold, we had to wear our winter coats over our costumes, which may have been a good thing in some cases. We weren’t allowed to eat any candy before our parents carefully inspected each piece to ensure that no crazy psychopaths had tampered with them. Apples that were probably thought to be a healthy alternative to candy by a well meaning neighbor were discarded on sight. For those of you who weren’t around for this, this was in case they had been injected with poison or were hiding a razor blade–this was rumored to be a strong possibility back then. Still, it was a blast!
Store bought costumes were different characters yet all the same, so no one was trying to outdo everyone else at school, and no one was singled out for not being able to afford the hot costume of the year. They all had a molded plastic mask with a flimsy piece of elastic stapled to each side of the face. This was supposed to stay securely around your head, but if the elastic made it through the whole night of trick-or-treating, it was a Halloween miracle! Not that you wanted to keep it on all night because the eye holes never lined up quite right, the plastic made your face sweat, and the mouth hole was too small to get sufficient oxygen to your brain. We kids were making Darth Vader breathing sounds before he was! The rest of the costume was nothing more than a piece of fabric attached around the neck like a hairdresser’s cape. I remember being the Wicked Queen from Snow White, and that mask was pretty creepy…but not as creepy as what I stepped up to the next year.
I am not sure that the Yogi Bear costume even qualifies as a costume, even by 1970s standards. The head was made out of thin card stock and you put it together by putting Tab As into Slot Bs. I’m not kidding. When finished, you had a three dimensional and quite angular Yogi Head. All the running and jostling caused the Tabs to become detached from the Slots in different sections throughout the night. Plus there were even bigger eyehole issues since it sat atop my shoulders so the eyeholes were too high and I had to stretch my neck out or look down and out the bottom of the head. It was one of those not-so-well-thought-out costume ideas. Believe it or not, the head was not even the most embarrassing part. Nope. Over my regular clothes, I wore the sleeveless zip-out fur lining from my mother’s winter coat. By the end of the evening, the head had been destroyed in frustration and this was all that remained of my costume. I looked like a homeless person, and not intentionally, like my sister who went as a hobo that year. (That was an easy costume too—raggedy clothes, a bandana tied into a pouch at the end of a stick, and five o’clock shadow produced by burning a cork and smudging the ash on her face.)
When my step daughter was little and we took her trick-or-treating, most of the porch lights were off—the universal signal for ‘Don’t bother knocking, kid. No candy here’. In my day that would have lead to the older kids throwing eggs at or toilet papering that house. She got barely enough candy to fill one of those little plastic jack-o-lanterns they sell at the drug store. When we went out as kids, my father would pull along our red wagon to put our full bags in while we kept trick-or-treating. Seriously–full bags and full pillowcases that were much too heavy for us to carry as we raced from door to door, increasing our haul.
Those were the days when people would actually run out of candy, and your mom would make you freeze half of yours, rationing it out until Christmas. Those were the days when you could trust the majority of the people in your neighborhood to not tamper with the treats or the steal the kids. Those were the days when there was only one aisle of Halloween products in Kmart—candy on one side, costumes and decorations on the other side. Those were the days when you could make orange frosted cupcakes and bring them in to share with your classmates without being sued or suspended. Those were the days when the kids ringing your doorbell lived within walking distance, and ran from house to house instead of being driven around by dad.
Those were the days when Halloween was fun.
What were your memorable costumes from childhood? Embarrassing, or wicked cool? What do you miss most?