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Go Ask Mom

Amanda Lamb: Halloween of yesteryear

Posted November 2, 2014

In the past week, there have been a lot of great columns about the Halloween of the 1970’s versus the Halloween of today.

They brought back a lot of memories for me. No one bought our costumes, we made them, and usually with very little help from our parents. As far as our candy, our parents didn’t know anything about gluten-free, organic, low-fat, sugar-free, healthy snacks. They simply warned us to look for razor blades in our apples.

Back then, having your parents “check” your candy meant giving them some. And germs, well, that wasn’t a concern. We reached our unwashed hands into bowls full of unwrapped candy corns and took a handful.

As for our bags, they were not fancy tote bags stenciled with our names on them, but pillow cases. Safety? If you were lucky and Dad had been to the hardware store, you might find a flashlight in the back of the coat closet with batteries that worked. Or, maybe not. There was no driving from driveway to driveway. In fact, there was not a parent in sight. As soon as we were old enough to look both ways before crossing the street, we trick-or-treated with our friends sans adults.

The store-bought-costume, gluten-free, safety-vest Halloween of today is a lot less exciting, in my opinion. I’m not suggesting we throw caution to the wind and let our kids trick-or-treat with no supervision. Clearly, we live in a different world today with more cars and more dangers in general to worry about.

But I’ve always loved Halloween and all that it represents — limitless candy, of course, creativity, and a healthy dose of imagination that makes you just a little bit fearful of what lurks around to next dark corner. It’s not nearly as fun from the backseat of a climate controlled minivan with a dad in a safety vest and an industrial spotlight illuminating the way telling you that you can have only one piece of candy before bed.

So, what I am suggesting is a happy medium. Grab the sheet, cut some eye holes, don’t forget the pillow case to carry your loot, and let them eat all the chocolate they want for one glorious night. And parents, if you must go, stay in the shadows and let the little ghosts fly …

Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.


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  • Ashley Lessard Nov 4, 2014
    user avatar

    I grew up in the 90s, and this describes all of my Halloweens, too. I never had a store bought costume growing up. My mom helped us make all of our costumes, and we used pillowcases as bags. My 18 month old went trick or treating for the first time this year as minion, without a store bought costume. He didn't use a pillowcases, but I think it would have been dragging on the ground the whole time if he did. I'm not a fan of Halloween at all, but I hope that his Halloweens will be a lot more like the one you're describing than the one that kids tend to have.

  • snowl Nov 3, 2014

    This holds true for most everything these days..:(.....yesteryear is no more. We sure did enjoy a lot of freedom back in those days. Parents were not so overly involved with our lives and we'd play outside blocks away from home or until they might turn on the outside lights to call us back inside for the night. We could go to the corner store alone and sit at the soda fountain instead of going to church....oops...time to end it. Good night everyone! :)

  • Amy Kunkle Nov 3, 2014
    user avatar

    Love it! I'm a child of the 70's as well and I fondly remember the pillowcase full of candy. My mom made a clown outfit and a witch outfit that I somehow was able to wear all through elementary school. I also remember my dad snatching all the peanut butter cups because "they look like they have been tampered with". I was too young and naive to realize his candy stealing plot. It was definitely a whole lot more fun in the old days.

  • iriemom Nov 3, 2014

    Funny you should mention a sheet with the eye holes cut out. My youngest was a ghost, and his costume was a sheet with the eye holes cut out (per his plan). He looked just like a ghost when he ran, but the sheet came off halfway down the street because he couldn't see the steps at the houses well enough. My oldest was the grim reaper, with a homemade robe. They had fun preparing for the big night, but going door to door with friends was the biggest thrill.

  • Shelly McChesney Nov 3, 2014
    user avatar

    I SO agree with you, Amanda! My Halloweens were exactly like your's and I wish the kids today could enjoy that same level of fun and freedom we had. Great column, thanks for the memories.

  • wayneboyd Nov 3, 2014

    Mine go back a few years further Amanda. I lived in rural Granville county back in the 40's and 50's and I don't ever recall going trick or treating, or anyone coming to our house doing so. I do remember riding the bus to school the day after and seeing all the storefront windows downtown covered in soap and there was an occasional pumpkin smashed in the street.
    Your view of earlier Halloween memories is heartwarming and I wish the times were like they were back then.
    But do NOT encourage your children to do the sheet with eyes thing, half the country will be screaming racism and have your kids labeled as KKK members.