Random Thoughts

Halloween -- a good time to meet neighbors

... but it's just not the same

Eleanor Jenkins

Today is the thirty first day of October better known as Halloween. The kids are getting geared up for their evening rounds to collect their treats dressed in all sorts of paraphernalia depicting the heroes and non heroes of the day. Little Patrick (who lives across the street) will be dressed as a super hero. He is only four and he will be acting like a big man this evening I am sure. Alexander and Peter (my grandsons) told me how they had planned to travel tonight to a town that has sidewalks to do their trick or treating. I have placed 60 pieces of candy in a bowl on the washstand on the porch. I also have eight packages of pretzels. It will be interesting to see what kind of ghoulish critters will be ringing my doorbell tonight. I discovered earlier this past week that my light bulb on the front steps had burned out. This is not the time for that to happen. Fortunately, I saw Chris playing with Patrick and enlisted his aid. Within a few minutes the light bulb had been replaced and I am in business for tonight. The football game will be over by then since they are at the quarter time now and it is only 2 in the afternoon.

When I was a little girl, my friend Elsie and I used to canvas all of Montgomery Avenue and Belgrade Street. We went first to houses where we knew the people and they knew us and hoped they couldn’t guess who we were. That was very important. We were supposed to be in disguise and occasionally that worked. I guess they recognized our voices or our hair if it wasn’t hidden enough or as some would say I recognize those eyes in spite of the mask. Then they would give us our treat. Many places gave out pennies they would drop in our bag; we often got loose peanuts and apples. They certainly were healthier treats, but we kids liked lots of candy. Hershey Bars, candy cigarettes, butterfingers and Mary Janes were very popular in my day. In the candy store there were lots of choices to buy for a penny and that is why some of us oldsters still refer to penny candy. Nothing is that price anymore. When I visited Nancy Ray Roberts in her home town of Tyrone, Pennsylvania we visited the local candy store that still makes its own chocolates and does indeed have a section that sells “penny candy” but every thing was a nickel.

When Elaine moved back home after college, she used to love being here to answer the door. She bought a lovely witch’s hat one year and wore it when she answered the door. She made everyone say “Trick or Treat” in a very loud voice and if it wasn’t good, she would make them repeat it. She really had the children in the palm of her hand. When she and Karen were little I had bought some cardboard figures of skeletons and witches and had something on every window on the porch. (The windows were always washed in October so I could do that.) Karen and Elaine would say that my house was the only one with any decorations. Today it is as much of an affair as Christmas getting the homes ready for Halloween. There are all sorts of inflatable things one can buy to put on your lawn. People make up false tombstones, etc. to put in the front yard. Some have lighting in orange and black much like they would put out Christmas lights. I used to tape threads from the door jam so they would hit a child’s face as he came through the door so he thought he was going through cobwebs. Now you can buy the cobwebs. Mark, Karen, and Elaine one year spent a day or two making up a tape of spooky sounds to see if they could scare the McCabe boys when they came to their Halloween party. They had a ball making up the tape. Now you can go into a Halloween store and buy a tape that some one else has done commercially. Indeed Halloween is not the same.

Some one recently wrote an article that was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer about how things are so different today for children on Halloween. Indeed, they still ring door bells and expect a treat as they try to conceal who they are supposedly, but for safety reasons today few children actually wear masks. Also they are not allowed to sample any of their treats until they get home and their parents examine them. That is because today there are some weirdos out there contaminating the treats one way or another and parents are afraid to let their children eat anything that they aren’t too sure about. I thought about making cup cakes one year and making them fancy, but I was warned that would be a lot of work for nothing. The parents, who don’t know you, will throw them out before they even get them home. Some hospitals open their doors on Halloween night to allow the children to bring all of their treats in to be x-rayed to be sure they don’t have anything foreign in them. This is certainly a very sad society we live in that can’t keep a simple children’s pleasure safe for children.

When my girls were small we certainly didn’t have the worries that the parents of today’s youngsters have. Even crossing the street can be dangerous for children on Halloween night as many drivers don’t take into account that there will be little ones dashing from one side of the street to another. I can remember driving home from work about 5:30 PM along Walnut Street and watching these little ones, who were alone, running back and forth across the street. They were oblivious to traffic, their only concern was ringing the right doorbell to get the best candy.

I just turned off the lights. I had children from two weeks old to teen agers tonight. There were 60 people in and out of the house in the past two hours. Skeletons, cats, cheer leaders, scarecrows, bunny rabbits (one very big one) and lots of other sundry people. A little girl dressed as a clown (2 and a half years old) arrived in her own special green carriage. She lives in the house directly behind Mrs. Casey. (Some kids were all alone; some had a parent standing by at the curb waiting for them to collect their treats before going on to the next house. Three little boys arrived with their fathers; they were ages three, two, and one and a half. The dads and kids live in the next block of Yale road. This is the way to meet one’s neighbors. At least the children.

November 4, 2005

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