Friday, October 29, 2010

Flashback Friday - Frightful and Fun

What  was Halloween like when you were growing up? Did your family participate? If not, was there a substitute activity? Did your school or church have a fall festival or carnival? Were there stipulations regarding costumes? What sorts of activities did they have? What about Halloween parties? Have you ever bobbed for apples or been on a hayride? What are your memories of "haunted houses"? (I'm not referring to the ultra-scary, secular ones, just the fun kid ones, with bowls of grapes and cold spaghetti!) If you went trick-or-treating, what were the rules, both for trick-or-treating and for candy consumption? What types of costumes did you wear? Were they store-bought or homemade? Did you carve a jack-o-lantern? How are your children's experiences similar or different to yours? And the most important question: Do you like candy corn? What is your favorite (and least favorite!) Halloween candy?

We had two Halloween costumes and I think my mom had made both of them. One was a ghost, which I assume was made out of a white sheet. The mask was also made out of a sheet - a white hood with holes for the eyes, nose and mouth. The witch costume was a black skirt and a cape; that costume had one of those storebought plastic masks with the elastic that went around the back of the head. When I was in early elementary school, the costumes were so long I remember tripping over it as I tried to climb the stairs at a neighborhood apartment complex. By the time I quit trick-or-treating years later, they were both considerably shorter!

In the early years, there were no stipulations other than an adult walking with us. We went to houses and apartments whether we knew the folks or not and didn't think anything about it. My mom had us throw out unwrapped or homemade candy, but that was primarily due to her germiphobia than safety.

Then the crime that changed Halloween happened in 1974. I will never forget hearing about the eight-year-old boy who died after eating a giant Pixy Stix, the top of which his dad had filled with cyanide. And as horrible as it was, it was even more chilling because it was in Pasadena, just outside Houston and probably less than 5 miles from my house. (I posted about the incident last year on Halloween.) The man had put cyanide in six Pixy Stix and gave them to his son, daughter, and their friends as they were trick-or-treating. (At one house where no one was home, he hung back as the kids ran off and then produced the stix and said the owner had finally answered the door.) It was only by the mercy of God that his son was the only one who ate his; one child fell asleep with his in his hand.

I was surprised last year to realize that this happened in 1974; I would have guessed I was eight or ten. I was actually 13, so I was likely outgrowing trick-or-treating by then, but it still impacted me, as well as families across the USA and even in other countries. For several years no one trick-or-treated. Then slowly folks began letting their kids go, but only to houses of folks they knew. I'm kinda amazed Pixy Stix didn't go out of business because so many folks were scared to eat them. (Even today, I cringe when I see my girl eating a Pixy Stix!)

Haunted houses were another struggle for me. I've mentioned being easily scared as a child as a result of burglaries. My haunted house phobia had its roots even earlier, and it is one of my first memories, when I was around three years old. A couple in our church who did lots of stuff for the youth decorated their house as a "spook house" and invited the church to visit that Sunday night after church. I don't know where my dad was--probably at the church counting the offering since he was the church treasurer--but my mom took my older siblings, and she carried me. I'm sure it was perfectly innocent fun and simple decorations--they were Christians and this was the mid-sixties!--but I was absolutely petrified. I just remember being in her arms and crying as she walked through the house, which was dark and had things hanging from the ceiling.

Even years later when I was in the sixth grade or so and we had a GA sleepover (GA's is the name of the missions group for girls), the leaders had done a haunted room. It mainly had the grapes (eyeballs) and spaghetti (brains), plus someone in a costume in a corner pretending he would grab us, but I hated that one too. I can't even fathom going to one of the modern secular haunted houses, even if I weren't a Christian and didn't want to expose myself to that. And I have NEVER made my children go through one, no matter how tame it might seem!

The best part of Halloween was always the candy. We rarely had candy when I was growing up, and I remember coming home and dumping my jack-o-lantern bucket out on the living room floor and sorting my stash. Since I only got to eat a piece or two a day, and not even every day at that, it always took me until January to finish it!

Well, this is too long and I haven't even talked about some of the other stuff. My school always had a Fall Festival, but it wasn't associated with Halloween. My favorite part was always the Country Store and I would carefully spend my tickets on some drinking glasses or cup and saucer that I thought my mom would like and presenting them with pride to her when I got home!

And I've been on plenty of hayrides, but they weren't necessarily part of Halloween either; just parties in the fall. I do have to share one more party memory. When I was in college, the college group at the church I attended had a Halloween party at the home of a student's parents. They lived on a ranch and had a big "barn" with the top floor enclosed for parties. I think I either went as Mary Poppins or a nurse from M*A*S*H*. Anyway, one of the activities was a square dance. Mercy! When the Baptist deacons heard about that, their reaction was such that you would have thought we had been strip-dancing! It cracked me up - I told my friends, "They wouldn't have batted an eye if we'd had a swim party, and we were much more appropriately dressed for the square dance!"

My kids enjoyed trick-or-treating when they were little, with my girl enjoying it the most. My boy doesn't like candy or dressing up in costumes, so he bowed out fairly early. But my girl still likes to go with friends in their neighborhood. This year she's using the costume from a kid's church musical she helped with this summer and is going as Baal. I think she's decided to forego the gold hairspray paint this time, however!

Oh, and for the record, I HATE candy corn! My favorite candy to get when trick-or-treating was always Mounds or Almond Joys!

What about you? Share your memories and link up here!


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SusanD said...

Ha! I'm early this week. Gotta love that. This was a fun post with lots of memories. Thanks. Blessings, SusanD

Jim said...

This is good, Linda. I could identify with a whole bunch of your stories.

The cyanide was close to our home too. Mrs. Jim and I had just had our daughter, Karen. Since she was only a few months old it didn't affect us. And the older kids couldn't trick or treat because Deer Park had banned it.

Now one of them is in charge of the LaPorte city's haunted house every year. The kids there all love it so I don't think it is very scary, mostly just plain fun.

Would you believe that Mrs. Jim's Sunday school class party had square dance instructions in church this year? Baptist too! "Times are changin'."

As usual, this was a fun post. Thank you for all your work on it.

Nel said...

What a fun post. I love the memories. I had forgotten all about the popcorn balls mom always made until I started my post. Thanks so much for hosting this meme. Enjoyed reading your memories.
until next time... nel

Pamela said...

Mounds and Almond Joy fan here too!

sara said...

when you said the mask with the elastic on the back, soooo many memories came back. I had forgotten about those! I had several!

so sad about that father. We did have one in our town where someone stuck a razor blade in a caramel apple. I remember then my parents making us throw away anything homemade.

funny what you remember after reading someone else's!!

Barbara H. said...

I couldn't remember the specific incident but I did remember that there seemed to be a lot of stories of tainted candy or hidden razors and such at Halloween for a few years.

And, oh, those elastic-backed masks! My breath always condensed on the inside and made it all wet and unconformable. I wonder if they even still make those things.

Joyce said...

Thanks for hosting...this was fun! Once I started writing I remembered quite a few traditions. I didn't mention the haunted house my parents set up for the youth group in our basement. Like yours I'm sure it was tame but I never really loved the basement before that and my fear of going down there only got worse after the haunted house event. Have a nice weekend!


I enjoyed this. Thanks for making me drag out the old memories box from my so tired brain.

Kathy said...

Another fun Friday Flashback! I always wait in anticipation to see what the topic is going to be!

I'd never heard about the Pixie Stix incident, but that's awful. I do remember the razor blade and straight pin scares, and having to check our children's candy for unwrapped or suspicious-looking pieces.

Thanks for the memories...Until next time, Kathy

Unknown said...

I did the same thing with my candy after trick or treating too! It was my favorite part of the whole experience. Getting it home and seeing how much you had!!!!!

We very rarely got candy so Halloween was a huge treat for me!

I remember hearing about things like razor baldes in apples and different sharp or harmful objects found in candy. Many of the local hospital in our area advertise free x-ray for halloween candy, which is very sad and scary!


Cindy Swanson said...

I did mine podcast-style--hope y'all will take a few minutes to listen; it's about 7 minutes long.

Happy Friday, everyone! said...

This was like taking a page out of own book! What a good read and brings back so many memories. My mom made me into a chef one year, with dad's tall white chef BBQ hat and a long white apron. She gave me rosy cheeks and tied a string aroung my wait with spatulas, whisks, measuring spoons etc. I think a padded potholder mitt on each hand would be added if I were doing it now.

Even when our 3 were little, trick or treating was innocent, and they dumped the whole shebang on the floor and my hubby 'bought' and paid for Snickers from them every time!

Yes, sadly, it's a different day and age. I think the church Fall festivals are a good alternative for the kids. I am really aware of the whole dark side, but when we were kids, it was just a fun thing to do, no one thought of witches and satan and the rest.

I used to hate candy corn too, but this year I kept dipping into the bowl so I guess I like it now! :)

I really enjoyed this, Linda!

quilly said...

I don't have a lot of Halloween memories as a kid. Mostly just door-to-door trick-or-treating. In '74 I was already 14 and hadn't been trick-or-treating in several years.

I could tell lots of stories as an adult, but not this year because I am too far behind to ever catch up.