Halloween is a time that evokes so many memories for me. Since I mostly tend to associate it with children's activities I think of events in my own childhood and the Halloweens when my kids were young.
My primary trick-or-treating memories come between 1959 and 1963 when my family lived in San Diego. This would have been the time from the third to the seventh grade for me. We had moved into a large sprawling neighborhood of recently built houses--an ideal setting for epic trick-or-treat excursions.
When it fell on a school day, Halloween was an all day affair. We would go to school dressed in our costumes. The morning would begin with a grand parade of young revelers marching before parents and fellow students in their costumes.
Early on, the store bought costumes appealed to me the most until I saw the creative inventiveness of the home-made costumes. Those costumes fueled my imagination and after that first year I chose to come up with more uniquely assembled costumes.
Schoolwork was given more of a Halloween bent since the anticipation of the evening to come totally distracted the students from any serious efforts of regular study. We eagerly watched the clock, waiting for the school day to end and the fun to begin.
While we returned home for our dinners, parents and teachers busily transformed the school into a festive Halloween funland. Returning to the school with my mother and father, my sister and I would join in the games and entertainment, and visit the classroom that had been made into a "haunted house". All of this was merely a ritualistic activity that consumed the hours that were still daylight until the more serious activity of trick-or-treating would begin as darkness set in.
After returning home, my sister and I would set out with a friend or two to conquer as much of the neighborhood as we possibly could in the next couple of hours. My parents apparently felt comfortable with letting us out on our own. Things seemed safer for kids back then and the adults of the neighborhood were good about watching out for each other's children.
We set out at a rapid house to house pace in order to cover as much ground and gather as much confectionary loot as we could. We carried big brown grocery bags or pillow cases to assure that we would be able to amass a goodly supply of candy. Each kid scrutinized the others we passed to see who we knew behind the disguises. Whenever we saw another we recognized we would acknowledge the fact with gleeful cries. Or sometimes we might cautiously peer at someone we thought we maybe knew and perhaps venture a "Who are you?'
There was little time for socializing. We were all on a mission and candy was our main objective. Sometimes we suffered through obligatory pleasantries with the adults who wanted to admire our costumes and tell us how cute we looked, but that was part of the job. Collecting candy was our obsession and desperation grew as the evening waned.
Then as more houses darkened and the streets became emptier, our weary band trudged home with bags bulging from our treasures. When my sister and I got to our house we went inside to examine our take for the evening. We sorted and traded candies. We weeded out the apples, popcorn balls, or homemade goods that didn't look quite as enticing to us as the wrapped candies. Occasionally, there would be anomalies like coins. I had no problem with getting money except the coins were usually pennies.
Sorting and trading would usually go on into the next day after school. All the while we were eating the candy, but we could only eat so fast and with so much candy we had a long way of eating to go. In fact, despite eating some of the candy every day, the goodies would usually last until Thanksgiving. That's when the last pieces were consumed and Halloween was officially over.
Of all the events in a year, when I was a kid Halloween ranked high as a favorite. Back then it came suddenly. There were no pop-up Halloween stores months in advance and you didn't really notice Halloween merchandise in regular stores until shortly before the day. For that matter, you didn't see Christmas merchandise until after Halloween and really there was not much thought about Christmas until after Thanksgiving.
In 1992 I went back to that old neighborhood in San Diego after having been gone for thirty years. It was similar, just older. The houses were much smaller than I had remembered them but the neighborhood still sprawled. The school hadn't changed much more than showing age. I've been to San Diego many times since that first return visit and each time I've been drawn to that old neighborhood. When I'm there I think many childhood memories, but Halloween stands out among them.
Do you have fond memories of Halloween? In your opinion, has the celebration of Halloween changed for the better?