The Power of Free Candy

Kids today have it so easy. My son gets a Luigi costume at Target, slaps on a fake mustache, then has us drive him around a few minutes so he can come home with enough candy to put Willy Wonka in a ten year coma. Halloween is just a blip between summer and Christmas to my kids. There’s no magic, no sense of adventure anymore.

Back in the 1970s when I was a kid, times were hard and we didn’t mess around. Halloween was Go-Time. The rest of the year my brothers and I rarely got candy (unless you count the Sucrets we stole out of my mom’s purse), so we prepared for this holiday weeks in advance.

And we were entirely on our own. Mom and Dad rarely bought us a costume. We had to cough up our own spooky designs from whatever was lying around the house. And trick-or-treating? Completely unsupervised and lasted until way past bedtime even on a school night, just like God intended.

We’d spend weeks brainstorming wacky homemade costume ideas: “Hey! I know! We can have Dad cut up some of the foam insulation from the attic and make a giant Pac-Man!” We’d analyze which houses would score the biggest payload: “Okay, rumor has it Mrs. Stevens gives out jumbo-sized Snickers but steer clear of Old Mr. Pitts, he throws moldy popcorn balls or crayons at your head and he smells like cheese.”

Once darkness fell, we’d fan out by ourselves clutching our garbage bag costumes. We’d bravely roam the streets, our sad Hobo faces covered in whatever we could scrape out of my dad’s ashtray, and beg perfect strangers for a Charleston Chew.

Whenever I tell my kids about the hardships we faced back then, they interrupt me and say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah…whatever, Mom. By the way, that is the dumbest idea for a costume, like, ever, and can you give me back my Kit Kats now? That’s your third one!”

Let’s travel back in time to my childhood Halloweens, shall we?

I’m not sure what I was trying to be here, I’d guess a gypsy, or maybe Laura Ingall’s long-lost Spanish cousin. Either way, it looks like I’m thinking, OH DEAR GOD, please don’t let me be seen in public with these two freakshows! He used up all my Noxzema for this?
I was a witch this year (again) and my brothers were hobos (again). Strangely enough, they didn’t even have to alter their appearance at all. And the hobo sticks came in handy when my brothers threatened to beat me over the head if I didn’t give them my Skittles. Just look into the cold dark eyes of my younger brother and tell me he didn’t intend to mug me later on for all my Pixy Stix.
This year we were all lucky to have ‘store-bought’ costumes. Still, I felt bad for my younger brother who had to trick or treat with Yul Brynner and the freaky-deakiest Raggedy Anne I’ve ever seen.
I’m not sure what’s scarier about this photo, the giant fork and spoon on the wall my brother used to chase me around the house with… the illusion that the entire room is invisible due to my mom’s horrible paint job or the fact that I chose to go trick or treating at the age of 11 dressed up like an Amish hooker.
Finally, my favorite Halloween photo of all-time. You thought I was kidding about the foam insulation Pac Man? It is a sheer miracle my poor brother didn’t suffocate after five minutes in that thing. Oh, and you thought I was joking about the garbage bag? Behold, my genius idea for a costume. Any guess what we were? We had to wear a SIGN to let people know. Probably a good sign it’s a bad costume. 

Well, duh! We were the Fruit of the Loom Grapes!

I think people gave us more candy because they felt so bad for us. Mmm-mmm! Pity tastes delicious!



Yeah, I admit this post was a re-blog from a post I wrote in 2012. Sorry, but I think eating this Snickers bar is far more important than blogging.

56 thoughts on “The Power of Free Candy

  1. I just about spat out my tea, looking at the first photo. I had the same costume one year: the little bolero vest, head scarf, skirt, etc.; and yes, I was a gypsy. And yes, of course, the witch a year (or two). The most creative costume I came up with was in college. I made a paper mache head of an alligator that I wore over my head. I dressed in my preppiest wide whale lime green corduroy pants and pink oxford shirt, and pasted a little person on my pocket. I was a preppy alligator (in deference to Izod). Just wish I had a photo handy. I think there is one buried somewhere in an old album.

  2. I thought your reminiscence would go along the lines how back then you used to go trick-or-treating in the snow for five miles to the nearest house, and the best candy you could have hoped for was a fistful of sugar-sprinkled wood chips.
    Or was that your parents’ generation?

    1. Oh, no that was my generation too. Most Halloweens we had snow. We would have killed for some sugar wood chips! We were like little Laura Ingalls who would get one candy cane and a penny and be happy about it, dammit.

  3. The jip (how do you spell that super 70’s word?) of the plastic mask was you could only wear it for 10 minutes before sweat was dripping down your face. It was totally ruined when you had to wear it in the top of your head.

    And – kids these days don’t know what a hobo is! Sheesh

    1. Oh dear god, yes. The dreaded sweaty plastic masks! This is why in one photo you can see my younger brother as Snoopy but without the mask because he kept pulling it off his head only to have it snap right back into place. I think it traumatized him. To this day, he can’t watch a Peanuts episode without breaking out into a cold sweat.

  4. Kids have it so easy? Have you finally turned into one of those? Me, too. Pull up a stool. As Bukowski said, “Scramble two.” Down in my dreary little hamlet, since it’s on a Saturday, trick-or-treating is conducted mid-day. How lame is that?! It’s all got to be put to bed no later than 7:00 p.m. Feh.

    The grape outfits are really, really, really lame. Kind of shameful, really. Maybe you got more candy because they thought you were “special.” One year I dressed up as a “girl.” This was before my voice changed. Everyone thought I was a girl. It was humiliating. Not that being a girl is humiliating. It just worked too well. That night stayed with me for a long, long time.

    1. Halloween is just a joke now. Here, most kids actually have to resort to trick or treating in broad daylight going to outlet stores in downtown Freeport. Sad.

      I nearly spit out my coffee reading about your spooky adventures as a girl. Awesome.

      Who the hell is Bukowski?

      1. Bukowski is a poet of some renown. His stuff is straight-on. He doesn’t deal in flowery ambiguities.

        a consistent sort

        at the track
        the other day
        during the
        stretch run
        the announcer screamed:
        “HERE COMES PAIN!”

        I had a bet on
        Pain and
        he finished
        one half-length

        he didn’t win
        that time
        but he will
        win soon
        and you can
        bet on that
        again and
        again and

        get down

        And please click over to this one. It’ll only take a minute to read but it’s a keeper.

  5. Pingback: Friday Favorites #10 | Three's a Herd

  6. Dana

    Worst costume my mom dressed me as? Well, she gave me a cheap straw cowboy hat. Yup, that’s it! You’re a Cowboy, now don’t come back until the street lights come on. (Ah, the 80s!)

  7. Who cares if it’s a re-blog! It’s hilarious! My favorite is the Amish hooker! I had some sad sad costumes growing up but you’re right, the worst ones get you the best candy.

  8. bindmoggled

    Oh my word, this brought back some memories for me. Even at 54 I still remember those tacky, store bought masks and cheesy plastic costumes the lot of us wore out that haunting favorite night. Thanks for taking me back to a memorable time!

  9. So fun to read your trip down memory lane, when Halloween involved scrappy kids creating their own costumes and giving parents a night off. What do you think they were doing while you were out all hours of the night? Now that could be a horrifying thought! Anyway, loved the photos and the captions. Happy Halloween!

  10. Ha! Love the trip back down Halloween lane. I was only afraid of a house that had a strobe light and crazed Halloween scary music. Now I have the house with the strobe light and the crazed Halloween music…

  11. LauraBelle

    That’s awesome that you made your costumes. We had store bought, but we were left to pour own devices to trick or treat. Every once in a while we would convince my parents to take us to the rich side of town where they gave out full size candy bars. My kids are used to me driving them everywhere. Spoiled I guess.

  12. Since cameras had not yet been invented when I was a kid, I do not have any Halloween photos to bestow on you. We rarely got to go trick or treating anyway. I believe my mom thought we were going to be stolen, she also didn’t want to deal with 7 kids on a sugar high. When we did get to go we were hobos also. I had no idea what a hobo was but it didn’t matter, it was cheap. I remember one year I was a hobo with a Casper mask that was a great year.

    1. Yes pennies! My mom resorted to handing out pennies once because we’d get slammed with about 200 kids every year. (We lived right next to L.L. Bean) But nothing beats the year my own daughter actually got a religious pamphlet telling her how Halloween is evil.

  13. Hlarious post! You brought back a whole lot of memories. I have no photos of costumes …. and only remember one outfit – an old sheet with holes cut out for eyes to make me into a ghost! It was the candy that counted – no tricks although we kids talked about turning over milk bottles or soaping car windows. Horrible crime ridden ideas never carried out. Well once we did two milk bottles and ran like hell. Milk bottles? Once they did deliver milk to our front doors. I think this may be age revealing? Parents never accompanied kids and we wandered the neighborhood where everyone knew us anyway. See – you brought back a host of memories. Thank you! 🙂

    1. You are more than welcome. Milk bottles! I wish they would bring the milkman profession back. My mom said he’d bring them a few bottles every morning and my grandfather would skim the cream off the top to use in his coffee. The good ol’ days!

  14. I’m going to spend the rest of the day scratching after looking at that PacMan costume. Itchy, itchy stuff.

    I was driving past a group of trick or treaters on Halloween — there were HOBOs. I didn’t think folks even knew what hobos were any more!

    1. I really wonder how the hell my brother survived in that costume. I remember we had to keep taking it off him so he could breathe. That combined with the deflated balloons in our grape costume falling out here and there, it was a really sad sight.

      1. If he ever develops lung problems, you’ll know why.

        It’s really a wonder any of us survived our childhoods. That’s probably why we bubble-wrap OUR kids!

  15. I never got an alert for this post! Or maybe I didn’t see it from inside my foam costume. These pictures are a-mazing. I think the ‘invisible wall’ paint job is my favorite!

  16. Darla! I am laughing out loud. This post is priceless, and should be reposted again, every Halloween. 🙂 You are a riot! I’m glad I stopped by tonight, you really made me laugh. And if you can believe it — I had a friend who one year also went as the Fruit of the Loom grapes! I totally forgot about that. Must have been something in the water. Anyway, glad to see you are doing well!

      1. I’m good! Busy, busy, busy — like we all are! 🙂 But sure missing my BBFs (best blogging friends). Thanks for keeping on keeping on — I sooooo love your posts!

  17. Oh those plastic faces. They were horrible! You couldn’t see or breathe, and you pretty much just wore it on the top of your head like a hat after the first house.

    I dressed as Raggedy Anne one year, but homemade like. I wish I had pics of my halloweens as a kid but they didn’t survive. 😦

    I love the sign on your costume. Kids still do that now. I get teens who aren’t dressed up at all at my door, with like a post it note to describe their not even a costume, I just want candy, costume.

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