The one Halloween that I can recall was cold; uncharacteristically cold for late October in South Texas. An early cold front had just moved through and I remember being mad that mother made me bundle up in a car coat. Dammit woman! A coat almost completely obscured my costume which defeated the purpose of even wearing one and that year, I was so proud of mine. I donned the colors of a one Casper the Friendly Ghost, my favorite cartoon character. The costume was fairly simple: a satiny white jumpsuit with a plastic Casper mask that had the damnedest chemical smell. God only knows what kind of compounds and dioxins I was breathing in.
I found a photo of the costume in its original box.
Yep, that’s how I remember it looked, but to be honest, I don’t remember it being “Flame Retarded” as it said on the box.
I carried an orange Jack-O-Lantern candy bucket. It was almost as big as I was. There was a smaller size I could have gotten, but no–I had ambitious dreams of making a big candy haul that year. But I had one 4′ 10″ stumbling block that would foil my plan–my mother.
She was extremely particular about the homes at which she’d allow us to Trick or Treat. We could only go to the houses belonging to close friends and family. Mother didn’t trust a lot of people; mainly, she didn’t trust their ability to keep a clean house. She judged people by the dirt on their hands and was relentless in this. I don’t know how many times I was forbidden from going over to play classmates houses–even attending their birthday parties, because my mother just “knew” that the mothers didn’t keep a clean house. I think it was really snobbery at work. And I guess as skewed as they were, she had her reasons.
Not only was hygiene an issue, this was also the mid 60’s and the horrors of Halloween were everywhere, or so she thought. She’d seen the news reports on TV: razor blades in apples. needles in candy bars, ground glass or poison in Pixie Sticks. Certainly, none of the inhabitants of any of Mother’s sanctioned homes would try to kill or main her children, right??
So,with our Trick or Treat target destinations so limited, candy intake was limited, too.
I remember my candy haul was slim pickens at best that Halloween. I think I got a few packages of M&M’s; a couple of Krackles (Hersey’s version of the Nestle Crunch Bar and frankly, not as good), a little snack-sized box of Sun Maid raisins (which I loathed and considered part of a Communist plot), Three Musketeers, a few Snickers…maybe a Milky Way or two…and these gross Sweetharts wanna be’s called “Smarties”. They tasted like sugared chalk. People bought huge bags of them because they were cheap. Seeing one of those dropped into your candy bucket was a bumber. especially if you were expecting a brand name piece of candy.
Those Smarties are and were a horrible, HORRIBLE candy, but nothing was worse than Candy Corn, especially that which was tossed haphazardly in the your candy container. Half the time, it wasn’t even wrapped in plastic, just tossed in naked…and by the handful. They tasted like sweetened wax.
Any homeowner that gave out Candy Corn was just a beggin’ for an eggin’.
That was the first and last Halloween I remember and the horrors at that one in particular, seemed to alter everything. Bad candy selections, plus limited trick or treating locations and a cold front that prevented me from looking outwardly like Casper, took the joy out of the holiday. I was barely six yet I was already jaded and at such an early age, too.
So, after the Halloween Heartache of ’65, I decided to stay home on from that point on. I’d help my parents with candy duty. We doled out the good stuff too. The parents spared no expense at Halloween: Milky Ways….Snickers….Almond Joys…Peanut M&Ms….Mars Bars….Jr. Mints…PomPoms…Milk Duds and Sugar Babies. Word gets around on the street when a house gives out primo candy at Halloween. Ours was known as a ‘hot’ house. We had the good stuff and as they say, if you offer it, they will come. And they did. All night long, there was a steady stream of hobos, fairies, witches, ghosts, princesses, goblins, football players and vampires willing to trick us if we didn’t treat them. Many of the revellers were my friends who’s mothers obviously deemed our house “clean enough”, too.
But that first Halloween after I permanently hung up my costume was an educational one. I learned something. I saw first hand the differences in those who have and those who barely have anything and I understood that very wide gap with amazing clarity. What stood out were the poor Hispanic kids whose families couldn’t afford costumes. They’d rub make-up on their faces, not in any real form or fashion; just smudged on and that was it; that was their costume. They also held empty bread bags for their Trick or Treat candy. They’d walk up to our house and knock on the front door, something that the 60’s racism and class distinctions would never allow them to do at any other time of the year. At Halloween, those lines were blurred…for a few hours, anyway.
This hurt my heart. I’ m being serious, it did. I felt bad, guilty even, for having all that I did. And I know the kids understood the differences. They’d strain their necks while standing at the doorway in order to see inside our house. My mother instinctively knew they were casing the place; I knew they simply wanted to see how we lived, by where we lived. I had a feeling that this was the only time they had free access to candy of this caliber and to Anglo oppulence, as it were. Both, I felt sure were in short supply in their worlds. Because of that, I felt the need to give them a little more candy than the other kids.
Wow!! Little did I know that during that particular Halloween, I went as a Democrat.
Unfortunately, my parents didn’t share my soft heartedness. They grew up in a different world at a different time. Not an excuse, just an explanation. To them, Halloween was politicized and socialized. I only saw it as the one time that everyone, regardless of who or what they were, could through a mask or makeup, be something they’re not. A disguise guaranteed parity….of sorts.
One year, I remember my mother becoming very angry that so many teens were Trick or Treating. She called this a blatant “Candy Raid” during a holiday specifically for young children. That’s when she decided that the trick or treating cut off age at Casa Kendrick was 12 and she even put a sign in the window stating that fact. She turned teenagers away left and right that Halloween. You’d hear them say, “Aasssswwwwwww, really? It’s just candy, Lady!!! Come on, it’s Halloween!” I remember thinking that this evening would not end well. Placing a trick or treating restriction based on age was NOT my mother’s wisest move.
That Halloween evening at the hour of eight, we closed up shop. We turned off the porch light and removed the electric Jack O-Lantern from the window and put it away for another year. Invariably, some Trick or Treaters who were clueless in to the ways and means of Trick or Treating, didn’t understand that a darkened porch meant “NO CANDY FOR YOU!!” and they’d ring the bell or knock anyway. This lack of trick or treating protocol angered my father who went to the door and told the Trick or Treaters regardless of age and ethnicity, that we were out of candy and that they should be home in bed. I also heard him shout, “You’re too damn old to be trick or treating anyway!!”, at some of them.
Retaliation is a messy business. It took three days to remove the stubborn epoxy created by the dried albumin from all of those eggs that had been hurled in anger at the front of our house and the porch.
Three whole days!!!
Unfortunately, we couldn’t clean up the pervasive attitude that prompted the the ova onslaught in the first place. But eventually, enlightenment was reached and all it took was time and a better understanding of the human race which was accomplished ONLY by a move far away from the prejudices of South Texas.