Monday, October 31, 2011

Hallowe'en in the 1950s

I was a child, and did my trick-or-treating, in an era when we did not lock our doors during the day nor our windows at night.  Life was fairly secure, at least in the suburbs where we lived in Jacksonville, Florida.  Crime was something that happened Somewhere Else.

Hallowe'en was a carefree time as well, when few parents felt the need to accompany their children over a certain age on their rounds.  Everyone knew everyone else in the neighborhood, so there was little to no danger of harm coming to us from adulterated goodies in our trick-or-treat bags.  The greatest danger was the stomach aches we got from eating too much of our booty at one sitting!

My brother and I would get ourselves up in home put-together costumes and we would each grab a pillowcase or a grocery bag and off we would go.  Not very many of our group wore store-bought costumes.  Some of us did our own -- a sheet for a ghost; a paper hat, ragged jeans, an ill-fitting shirt and a cardboard sword for a pirate.  Other kids had stay-at-home moms with the time to sit at the sewing machine and make wonderfully inventive and unique costumes.  Hardly anyone got themselves up as any celebrity.  There were more werewolves, ghosts, pirates, vampires, Frankenstein monsters, zombies, and incarnations of the Headless Horseman than there were movie or sports stars.

Someone might host a party, but it would not be a substitute for trick-or-treating.  I actually did not do badly at bobbing for apples.  And there were few organized activities to take the place of trick-or-treating, nor did anybody get their knickers in a knot about children going about impersonating the dead -- or the undead.  We knew what Hallowe'en was -- a modern expression of an age-old observance for the dead, a recognition of the factual existence of death as a part of life, not something to be avoided and denied.  And those of us of certain denominations -- I was Episcopalian -- knew that the next day was All Saints' Day. 

Not to say that bad things did not happen, but they were more on the order of the night when some big boy came running out of his hiding place in the bushes and stole my bag of candy.  I was mad!  My mother's counsel was to get another bag and continue where I left off, which I did.  The boy was lucky that my brother was a bit ahead of me and did not see which way he went, or that boy would have got a beating.  And the next year, I was eager to go trick-or-treating again.  I just took precautions to be sure my bag would not be stolen that year!

Now, the situation is unfortunately different, but kids and their parents are generally coping well.  Churches and towns have supervised activities for children for trick-or-treat.  They still get up in costumes and have a good time, but trick-or-treat itself is a dying tradition.  For the past couple years, nobody has come trick-or-treating down our street.

I'm glad we had the Hallowe'en we had.

1 comment:

NoOceanInKansas said...

Karen, wonderful post! I was just thinking about my childhood Halloween, too! My brothers and I would wander as far as we could with our pillowcase in hand. My grandmother used to hand out homemade popcorn balls. Can you imagine if anyone handed those out today? They would be tossed immediately. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!