Trick or Treat, then and now

 

I am old enough to remember when…we kids trooped around our neighborhood collecting candy from the neighbors. We mostly wore homemade costumes. Unless there was an old enough family child, our father was riding herd, while Mom held down the fort and doled out the candy to other little monsters, in accordance with her rules. Over the years, and with our incredible surge in material wealth, Halloween became an increasingly adult event, with slutty [occupation here] outfits and other costumes in adult sizes sold or rented from seasonal party stores.

For the past several years, yours truly has attended an adults-only party, but not like that. A couple with whom I am friends has a house party without the bacchanalia atmosphere. Yes, it is a costume party, a costume party with a difference.

Sometimes the party is without a costume theme, and sometimes everyone is challenged to pick a costume within a theme. A theme like, say, MST3K. Now I’m not saying we’re a bunch of geeks, but I did show up as Joel, after pulling together Gismonics Institute insignia to attach to my old Army coveralls, with a nametape that furthered the joke. And most people got the references.

I assign any credit or blame to my parents, especially my father. I do not really remember most childhood Halloweens. I know my mother put our costumes together, often or always. I vaguely remember that plastic loot buckets were not a thing, that we likely trooped around with old pillowcases, which would have much greater loot gathering capacity, by the way. What I most clearly recall was my father escorting us as an old-style ghost.

Back then, you went as a ghost by cutting eye holes in an old sheet. Dad went as a visual joke ghost, the ghost of the Hubert Humphrey or McGovern campaign, as I vaguely recall. Well, over the years, I’ve turned out to be a chip off the old block, or maybe a boulder off the old cliff.

Yes, I’m cheap and like to assemble my costume from the Dollar Tree store and other steep discount sources. One year, I was driving and noted a hospital uniform store was going out of business. I popped in, grabbed a white lab coat for dimes on the dollar, added a couple of dollars worth of fat tipped markers from the Dollar Tree to appropriately mark the lab coat with visual clues, and topped it off with a few pocket Constitutions for a dollar apiece online. What? Doctor of Democracy, dispensing the Constitution for what ails you, of course.

Another year, I grabbed a large piece of white foam board, red, blue, and black markers, and blue and red shoelaces from my favorite cheap source. I cut the foam board sheet in half, formed a sandwich board sign with the laces holding it all together, and went as a ballot box with a political message about choices and about voter turnout overwhelming Democrats’ customary ballot box stuffing. I even rolled in one time with a simple extra-large white t-shirt, marked up front and back to represent the two faces of the American trade union movement, AFL-CIO and IWWW (the Wobblies).

I won’t claim everyone else is just as nerdy. In fact, one year we have had a near Heath Ledger quality Joker. I’m not revealing real-world identities with photos, but they do exist. OK, so we did do a WKRP theme costume party. Nothing wrong with that, not a thing.

What is especially right about it is that there are not drunken incidents, and no regrets the next day. It is a chance for friends to gather and laugh or groan over costume ideas. The only thing missing is that moment from childhood when we all would dump our loot out on the dining room table, taking stock of the evening’s haul. So, what has been your experience of Halloween costumes and celebrations over the years?

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There are 25 comments.

  1. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    This stroll down memory lane continues October’s theme: “Trick or Treat!” Treat yourself to a post, nothing tricky about it. Our schedule and sign-up sheet awaits.

    Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #1
    • October 2, 2019, at 1:30 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  2. Arahant Member

    I think my most recent costume was as Death, but that was around 1992. These days, I’m far too fat to play death.

    • #2
    • October 2, 2019, at 3:06 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  3. Tex929rr Coolidge

    Last time I remember dressing up was wearing a cleric’s collar with a suit to a college Halloween party. Several good looking girls came up and asked me in all seriousness if I was a priest. I didn’t take any advantage of the confusion.

    In our neighborhood now (acreage subdivision) we do a hay ride with trailers behind pickups towing the kids. We run fire trucks in front and behind to stop traffic. Neighbors who want to give out candy come out to the roadside. At the end we have a big bonfire party with food and adult beverages as appropriate. We have enough designated drivers to get anyone home who overindulges. 

    • #3
    • October 2, 2019, at 6:38 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  4. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    Last year at work, I dressed up as “everyone’s worst nightmare”, for Western Washington, an avid Trump supporter. I wore my Trump t- shirt and MAGA hat and made some signs to wave around. I got booed in the costume contest. I just laughed it off.

    • #4
    • October 2, 2019, at 7:33 AM PDT
    • 12 likes
  5. Stina Member

    That year of the environmental costumes, I wanted to dress my kid up as a wind turbine with those cheap little foam birds with heads lopped off attached haphazardly to his costume…

    I make my kid’s costumes. It is not cheaply done, but usually fun. I get to dive into a strange world of experimentation that challenges me on my skill. I’m not that good, but I’ve had shining moments… like Legend of Zelda korok for our 5 month old…

    I have learned that joanne’s is out on fabric for halloween. Walmart is cheaper fabric, but the price is right for a one and done.

    • #5
    • October 2, 2019, at 10:14 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  6. Aaron Miller Member

    I remember those days of putting costumes together from scraps. Once I went as a “hobo” by combining my dad’s long coat, a boony hat, a smoking pipe, a hand hook (a wall hook, I think), and dirt. But in earlier years our mom had sewn together actual costumes. 

    The only adults I have known to dress up for Halloween do so to escort kids or hand out candy. 

    • #6
    • October 2, 2019, at 10:49 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  7. OldPhil Coolidge

    When we were growing up (50’s/early 60’s) neighborhood kids and adults would dress up (yeah, usually their parent) and when they came to the door, were invited in and the homeowner tried to guess who it was. I can remember my parents lobbing out guesses and the costumed characters just quietly shaking their heads.

    • #7
    • October 2, 2019, at 1:08 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  8. Front Seat Cat Member

    Very creative ideas Clifford! As a little kid, I had a witch costume I loved. It was just a black hat and Cape, but the cape had boiling, firey cauldrons on it with cats. I loved it so much I wore it until I ripped it because it was way too small. I then advanced to Casper. I was jealous of my best friend’s tiger costume because it had a huge tail that stood straight up. There was a big town parade and any kids could march in it. We had to stay near our streets but our folks never worried.

    I remember one year getting an apple with a razor in it and a few tainted looking lollipops and that was it. I wasn’t allowed to eat anything till I brought it home for inspection. We love all the scary black and white movies. I play a spooky tape each year (acquired from a drug store) and its so scary some little kids won’t come to the door – there are gun shots, screams and yelps, owls, creaky doors, breaking glass……My husband wears this green rubber alien head and hides behind the door as I hand out treats and he peaks from behind the door. It gets the usual effects. I also have a very realistic hand that I put in the middle of the candy basket.

    We had some fun parties at the international consulting firm I worked at. The directors were the biggest joksters. They’d leave twitching mechanical dead rats in the hallway, fake blood, a leg or arm sticking out – funny. We had a crazy hat contest one year. A co-worker rigged a light bulb above her head – get it? Some of the foreign consultants didn’t know what Halloween was – they loved it and one came as the cat in the hat. Another co-worker wore a flower pot as a hat – complete with flowers in it. I was Minnie Pearl – with price tags hanging from a big straw hat.

    • #8
    • October 2, 2019, at 1:21 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  9. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    OldPhil (View Comment):
    When we were growing up (50’s/early 60’s) neighborhood kids and adults would dress up (yeah, usually their parent) and when they came to the door, were invited in and the homeowner tried to guess who it was. I can remember my parents lobbing out guesses and the costumed characters just quietly shaking their heads.

    I remember this from the late 60’s/ early 70’s.

    • #9
    • October 2, 2019, at 1:44 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  10. USAhafan Member

    The year the live action 101 Dalmatians came out, I dressed up as Cruella DeVille. It was fun because we had a carnival for the kids before the Halloween dance. Many of the kids were dressed up as dalmatians. I scared a lot of them and posed for pictures.

    I actually had a friend looking for me so he could answer me for a dance I asked him to. He didn’t recognize me. Good memories!

    • #10
    • October 2, 2019, at 4:31 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  11. Samuel Block Member

    I remember the elation I felt while dumping out my pillow case and watching the loot pile up on the floor. Then carefully separating the different kinds into their own smaller, organized piles. Obviously, there was a trash pile of candies like “Whoopers,” “Candy Corn,” and everything else that wasn’t candy, just gross.

     

    • #11
    • October 2, 2019, at 9:09 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  12. Jarvis Morse-Loyola Coolidge

    I think my strongest memory of Halloween is after all the ridiculousness was over, taking my sack of loot up to bed and going through it all, listening to the Shadow or X-1 on the radio (I was an OTR dork even then). There’s something special about those moments as a kid entirely because you don’t realize at the time it is a moment.

    This year’s theme is, appropriately enough, Old Time Radio and TV, so we might just get a visit from a shadowy character who knows what evil lurks in the minds of Men…

    • #12
    • October 2, 2019, at 9:48 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  13. OldPhil Coolidge

    Samuel Block (View Comment):

    I remember the elation I felt while dumping out my pillow case and watching the loot pile up on the floor. Then carefully separating the different kinds into their own smaller, organized piles. Obviously, there was a trash pile of candies like “Whoopers,” “Candy Corn,” and everything else that wasn’t candy, just gross.

     

    That’s funny, because Candy Corn was one of my favorites.

    I hated Milky Ways, but was resolved never to waste any Halloween candy.

    • #13
    • October 3, 2019, at 6:14 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  14. Samuel Block Member

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    Samuel Block (View Comment):

    I remember the elation I felt while dumping out my pillow case and watching the loot pile up on the floor. Then carefully separating the different kinds into their own smaller, organized piles. Obviously, there was a trash pile of candies like “Whoopers,” “Candy Corn,” and everything else that wasn’t candy, just gross.

     

    That’s funny, because Candy Corn was one of my favorites.

    I hated Milky Ways, but was resolved never to waste any Halloween candy.

    I could always rely on a few kids that loved them – and we could get in some good trades on November 1.

    • #14
    • October 3, 2019, at 8:40 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  15. Franco Member

    I have come to hate Halloween. Not October 31st and Trick or Treating but the SEASON. Halloween season is longer than Christmas and less worthy. 

    As a kid in the early 1960’s, it was great. You just had to come up with something and go around and collect free candy! I was usually a ‘bum’ the costume is easy. I may have been a ghost once but it was too hard to see through the holes. The whole thing lasted a week at most.

    Then came the gays in the 80’s. They love to dress up and party as someone else. That did more to popularize Halloween than anything else.

    I’ve been putting on costumes for decades to make money, so it’s quite tedious and boring for me. As loving of attention I may be for my opinions, I have no interest in dazzling anyone with my outward accouterments. 

    I went to a theme park with my 8 year old daughter once in mid-September and guess what? It was Halloween already with everything scary and ominous. That pissed me off royally. Boo! ( pun intended) We were there for fun, not to be spooked, or to focus on horrific possibilities.

    The other thing is, it’s so easy to scare people. Try making them laugh. That’s hard. 

    Min a philosophical note, the emphasis on Halloween and death-like fixation might be portending where our culture is going. And more and more, they have to top the virtual horror in films. Does this itself lead to real-world depravity?

     

    • #15
    • October 3, 2019, at 2:21 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  16. OldPhil Coolidge

    Franco (View Comment):
    I have come to hate Halloween. Not October 31st and Trick or Treating but the SEASON. Halloween season is longer than Christmas and less worthy. 

    Around here people had their yards full of Halloween junk in mid-September. Nuts.

    • #16
    • October 3, 2019, at 2:25 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  17. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Franco (View Comment):

    Min a philosophical note, the emphasis on Halloween and death-like fixation might be portending where our culture is going. And more and more, they have to top the virtual horror in films. Does this itself lead to real-world depravity?

     

    Perhaps it is a feedback loop. Halloween has changed as our culture has changed; Halloween media messages reinforce and perhaps help channel cultural change. 

    There was some commercial demand for “slutty [cop/nurse/…]” costumes. That message, filling costume stores and attracting attention at parties, may have helped drive demand for more.

    Where other holidays cue us to look outside ourselves, Halloween has become a bacchanalia, not just a drinking day like St. Patty’s or Cinco de Mayo. You may have something with the death component as well. Why eat and drink and more? Because tomorrow we die. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may…even if it is not true that only the good die young.

    • #17
    • October 3, 2019, at 3:19 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  18. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    I can’t imagine what kind of reaction a kid would get if he dressed up like a bum now, as the breed has been redefined out of existence. 

    But I went as a bum at least once. I remember too a plastic mask with a mouth slit and nose and eye holes. It was held to the face by a thin thread of dispirited elastic stapled to the sides. It smelled weird and alternated between clammy cold and steamy hot depending on how long it had been on. 

    I felt pretty darn spiffy. 

    • #18
    • October 3, 2019, at 4:20 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  19. AUMom Member

    I loved making my children’s costumes back in the late 80s and 90s. Let’s just say most every one had a stellar cape.

    Now when I check out the costume section in the pattern books, the adult costumes outnumber the children costumes by a factor of ten. I know some are cosplay. 

    Folks should do what they like. I couldn’t understand for such a long time and then realized a good many of the young adults aged 35 and less never had an unstructured childhood. Every minute of their every day was scheduled. It makes more sense they don’t want to act like adults. They rarely got to be children. 

    • #19
    • October 3, 2019, at 5:49 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  20. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    AUMom (View Comment):
    Now when I check out the costume section in the pattern books, the adult costumes outnumber the children costumes by a factor of ten. I know some are cosplay. 

    Yes, cosplay is a whole other thing from the sexualized adult commercial costumes, although there are certainly particular characters with skimpy uniforms/outfits.

    • #20
    • October 3, 2019, at 6:09 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  21. Front Seat Cat Member

    Franco (View Comment):

    I have come to hate Halloween. Not October 31st and Trick or Treating but the SEASON. Halloween season is longer than Christmas and less worthy.

    As a kid in the early 1960’s, it was great. You just had to come up with something and go around and collect free candy! I was usually a ‘bum’ the costume is easy. I may have been a ghost once but it was too hard to see through the holes. The whole thing lasted a week at most.

    Then came the gays in the 80’s. They love to dress up and party as someone else. That did more to popularize Halloween than anything else.

    I’ve been putting on costumes for decades to make money, so it’s quite tedious and boring for me. As loving of attention I may be for my opinions, I have no interest in dazzling anyone with my outward accouterments.

    I went to a theme park with my 8 year old daughter once in mid-September and guess what? It was Halloween already with everything scary and ominous. That pissed me off royally. Boo! ( pun intended) We were there for fun, not to be spooked, or to focus on horrific possibilities.

    The other thing is, it’s so easy to scare people. Try making them laugh. That’s hard.

    Min a philosophical note, the emphasis on Halloween and death-like fixation might be portending where our culture is going. And more and more, they have to top the virtual horror in films. Does this itself lead to real-world depravity?

     

    You dress up for money? As what, as I might try it!

    I agree that the movies keep churning out horror and evil – is that what sells or is it more – ? TV is the same. They put horror movies on at Christmas – All the stores were putting out Halloween stuff mid September.

    • #21
    • October 4, 2019, at 5:45 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  22. OldPhil Coolidge

    TBA (View Comment):

    I can’t imagine what kind of reaction a kid would get if he dressed up like a bum now, as the breed has been redefined out of existence.

    But I went as a bum at least once. I remember too a plastic mask with a mouth slit and nose and eye holes. It was held to the face by a thin thread of dispirited elastic stapled to the sides. It smelled weird and alternated between clammy cold and steamy hot depending on how long it had been on.

    I felt pretty darn spiffy.

    I once won a school costume contest as a mummy (my Mom spent hours cutting up sheets!). Today I’d probably be thrown out for cultural appropriation.

    • #22
    • October 4, 2019, at 6:45 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  23. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    I was in Costco today and they had a Halloween rack which included some Hulk™ costumes of the puffy-muscle variety. 

    These are a good design as they let a kid feel mighty and keep him warm. 

    The above by way of saying the season isn’t wholly the province of drunken pervadults. 

    • #23
    • October 5, 2019, at 12:05 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  24. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    TBA (View Comment):

    I was in Costco today and they had a Halloween rack which included some Hulk™ costumes of the puffy-muscle variety.

    These are a good design as they let a kid feel mighty and keep him warm.

    The above by way of saying the season isn’t wholly the province of drunken pervadults.

    Do they include a Hulk Smash voice recording?

    • #24
    • October 5, 2019, at 1:09 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  25. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):

    I was in Costco today and they had a Halloween rack which included some Hulk™ costumes of the puffy-muscle variety.

    These are a good design as they let a kid feel mighty and keep him warm.

    The above by way of saying the season isn’t wholly the province of drunken pervadults.

    Do they include a Hulk Smash voice recording?

    I suppose they could have. I looked at them from afar, but clearly should have examined them from a-near. 

    • #25
    • October 5, 2019, at 8:50 AM PDT
    • 2 likes