Friday, October 9, 2020

Insight: Ghosts of Halloween Past

By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

The familiar old pattern just might be shaken up a bit this Halloween for our family.

With my wife being an elementary school teacher and not having much time to shop for Halloween candy, that task usually falls to me and it’s a responsibility I do not take lightly.

For me, I can recall how exciting it was to decide on a costume to wear to go out trick or treating every Halloween in the 1960s and then dumping out my collection on the kitchen table when it was over to see what goodies I had amassed.

Among the assortment of saltwater taffy; Razzles; Fruit Stripe Gum; Atomic Fireballs; Dum Dums; Bazooka Bubble Gum; Dots gumdrops; Bottle Caps; Oh Henrys; Junior  Mints; Sugar Daddys; Milky Ways; Baby Ruths; and Hot Lips, there were always a few apples and occasionally some pennies to go to the corner store and buy a pack of new baseball cards.

This was before the days when “snack size,” or “bite size” or “mini” bags of candy was sold and I could end up with a haul of full-sized candy bars that would last well into the month of November.

Bearing that in mind, at some point in the 1990s, when I had worked my way up to a consistent income, I made the decision to purchase full-sized candy bars for trick or treaters who visit our home every Halloween. My wife thinks I’m crazy for insisting on doing this and chides me for the money that I spend doing this.

But I want the kids who stop by our home to know what it was like back in the 1960s before Halloween candy was merely an afterthought and neighbors wanted to buy the cheapest candy possible available and be done with it.

Every year I buy around 100 full-sized candy bars and typically end up with about 65 bars left over. I probably buy more Halloween candy than I should, but I believe it’s always better to have more on hand rather than to run out early and have to disappoint the trick or treaters.

With that much candy left over, it’s inevitable that I end up eating what remains, so in my book, it’s a win-win situation. Not so for my wife, who will always try to give the leftover candy away to neighborhood children instead of letting me overindulge my Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup habit each year.

Overbuying Halloween candy has become a tradition in our household every year as is hiding the stash of full-size Hershey chocolate bars, full-size Skittles, full-size Kit Kats and full-size Butterfingers until Oct. 31 rolls around. Typically, a handful of the full-size bars always seem to be missing ahead of when we fill the candy basket for our Halloween visitors.

And speaking of visitors, a trend I’ve noticed lately in my neighborhood is parents pushing young infants and children under the age of 2 coming up to our door trick or treating. The full-size candy bars are probably not being consumed by these very small kids and my suspicion is Mom and Dad are eating the candy when they get home. But in my book, it’s all good. It’s Halloween and who can be unhappy, other than dentists, about a holiday in which candy is freely distributed across America?

There’s nothing better than to open the door and see excited little ones who have spent hours preparing their costumes while their moms and dads truly look on in awe when they find they can reach into a large bowl and come away with a full-sized candy bar. It makes me happy to hear them proclaim to their parents that they want to come back to our house again next year because we give away the best Halloween candy.     

And that brings me to this year with the uncertainty about health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Do I buy my usual complement of full-size bars again and if so, how many children will be trick or treating this year?  

My thoughts are that I’m probably going to scale back my purchase of full-sized candy by at least half of what I normally purchase.

In years past, we’ve had about 35 kids stop by our home and I just don’t see that many visitors this year. It saddens me that a virus has disrupted our lives to the point that even timeless traditions such as Halloween are affected. Hoping we can soon return to normalcy and the doorbell rings many times on the evening of Oct. 31, 2021. <

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