Here in our RV Park – just steps from the sand – in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, I am surprisingly being reminded that it’s nearly Halloween! The “I’m a Happy Camper” flags and “Everything’s Fun & Games until Somebody Loses a Wiener” banners are being replaced with pennants featuring pumpkins and scarecrows.
Of course, I already knew it was right around the corner. Everything these days is a limited edition pumpkin spice flavor – a sure sign we are headed into the “BER” months of the calendar. (Have you TRIED the Little Debbie pumpkin spice rolls!?!) And the seasonal Halloween stores are popping up in shuttered appliance stores at tired strip malls all over town. But I’m surprised to learn that Halloween, and the month preceding it, is a pretty big deal here in beach camping land!
With all of this Halloween Hoopla in my little RV world, I started thinking about how this holiday has changed over my lifetime. I guess you can’t really call it a holiday, though, if you’re still required to attend school and go to work, can you? Nevertheless, everything from the décor to the costumes has changed. Heck, even the CANDY has changed!
When I was a child there was nothing better than returning home after an arduous night of trick or treating only to stake out your space at the table or on the floor for the traditional “Sorting of the Candy”. After accompanying my grandchildren last Halloween and upon returning home, I was surprised to see them just tear into their stash all willy-nilly without any Halloween “order” at all. I suppose I was a bit OCD organized as a child, heck, I even Dewey Decimal’d my vast collection of books – lol, I guess that would be confirmation. But this custom was not purely due to my compulsive nature, even my more scatter-brained friends participated in the “Sort”.
It was great – you dumped your pumpkin or pillow case (at some point in your trick or treating history, you learned that a pillow case was the ideal receptacle for lugging home LOTS of sweet loot) into a pile and started sorting. Some kids sorted by candy type – all the chocolate “fun sized” bars together, all the suckers together, all the Smarties together (they ALWAYS got their own pile), all the bubble gum together, etc. But I was the Queen of Categorization (even as a child) – I sorted by brand. I had a pile for my Snickers, one for my Kit Kats, one for my Dum Dums, even my Bazooka and Dubble Bubble had their own piles. But no matter your method of sorting – there was one pile that you had to have … and that was the “gross” candy pile. The pile that you oh, so generously, gave to your parents or attempted to use for sly trades with your younger siblings. (“I’ll trade you a Twix, a Jolly Rancher, and five of these black and orange things for three Snickers.”)
But candy and the “treats” received on Halloween have certainly changed. Sure, back in the day, you would find an occasional non-edible item in your haul. Usually something like a church tract or even a cleverly shaped eraser or pencil sharpener (I got those once). And the holy grail of non-edibles? WAX LIPS. Any Halloween where you scored wax lips went down in the annals of truly epic Halloweens. (The years when your Pixie Stix all made it home intact without coating everything in sugar were good ones too.) Today’s poor kids dump their pumpkins to find things like boxes of raisins, toothbrushes and floss. It’s true! And a recent ad circulating on Social Media advertised snack-sized packets of SALAD! Good grief – kids today have a produce pile!
While the treats scored on Halloween in this day and age may be less enticing to a kid. Costumes have definitely taken a turn for the better! Although choosing your costume was equally exciting, wearing the costume is generally more comfortable nowadays and probably safer! Our approach to deciding “what we were going to be” for Halloween consisted of scouring the one aisle at K-Mart lined with boxes of colorful characters staring back at you from behind a clear, plastic film.
It was an excruciating process. One that often required taking stock of the aisle on more than one visit to the store before being warned by your parents that “if you did not make a decision, you were going to SKIP trick or treating this year”. The costumes included those one-piece, flame-retardant jumpsuit things that tied at the back of your neck. And if you were to choose your costume carefully, you might even score an additional accessory like an apron or a cape. But what sucked you in was the MASK. Woody Woodpecker, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Spiderman – just how was a kid to decide?!?
And those MASKS! They were made of a hard plastic that sort of fit onto your face via an elastic string that strapped around the back of your head. Which may or may not last an entire night of trick or treating. There were two eye holes, two nostril holes and a thin little slit for mouth breathers. It must have been for mouth breathers because there was nothing else useful about that hole. Although I bet you stuck your tongue through it, didn’t you. (Not a question – I know you did.)
When you breathed through your nose a Darth-Vader-like snore was created by the reverberation in the plastic shell. And the eye holes created those unmistakable Halloween photos from the 60’s and 70’s. You remember them. The ones where you were never quite looking right at the camera because the mask got all twisted around on your head and you had to look out of the corner of your eyes to see.
Kids today aren’t limited by the inventory on the Halloween aisle. Today a kid decides “what they want to be” and a busy mom or dad Googles it, orders it online, and it arrives on their doorstep in time for Halloween. Have a procrastinating parent? Not a problem – with an Amazon prime account you can order it on October 30th and still have it for Halloween night! Want to actually shop for your costume like we did in the “old” days? Just pop by one of the seasonal Halloween stores or a nearby Party City where half the store is devoted to vampire blood, lifelike wigs, expensive rubber masks and giant blow-up lawn ornaments designed to trick your neighbor into thinking a giant spider is consuming your house.
And speaking of blow-up lawn ornaments – how about the Halloween décor available today? My childhood Halloween decorations consisted of maybe a witch I made out of a paper plate at Girl Scouts and then Scotch-taped to the front door. Oh, and always an old-fashioned Jack-O-Lantern with classic triangular eyes and a jagged smile. Today you can buy kits to carve your families portrait or the Starship Enterprise into the flesh of the pumpkin, then cleverly back light the creation as part of your “Halloween porch display”. Clever, indeed!
And I would be remiss without mentioning the beloved Pumpkin Patch. No October is complete in today’s world without an annual family trek to a local Pumpkin Patch. (I do love that our local farmers have created a new market for portions of their Autumn bounty.) The annual Halloween pictures from my youth included the neighborhood kids all costumed and adorned for the one night when we could run amok in the neighborhood AFTER the street lights came on! Today – the annual photo is a fun shot of the kids playing in a corn maze or amid the pumpkins.
I do love progress though, don’t you? But, it is still especially sweet reminiscing about a simpler time. A time before Pinterest and pumpkin spice. A time when the more dollars you spent did not necessarily mean the more fun you had. And while most things evolve, and in an effort to streamline often succeed in becoming more complex, I do know some things about Halloween NEVER change. And that would be the GROSS CANDY PILE! And probably exactly where those boxes of raisins are being tossed today. Happy Halloween – BOO!
Did YOU sort your candy as a child? What are some of YOUR favorite or funny memories from Halloweens past? Share with us in the comments below – we would love to hear about them!