Once Upon a Halloween

costumes_1970sI grew up in New England where weather in the Fall was fairly unpredictable. While we rarely got Fall snow, it was pretty much a guarantee for me and my brother that any cool Halloween costume we were to find at the store would be deep-sixed by the cool October weather.

I can’t tell you how many years I would be so excited about my costume. Yes, you know the kind, not the cool and sleek costumes of the 21st century, but the cheap ones of the 1970s and 1980s. Remember those cheesy plastic masks that would begin to shred or break into pieces? The rubber band would break requiring your parents to reattach it, albeit a shorter version of itself, to the plastic mask, causing it to dig into the back and sides of your head. And when you tried to get the thing off, your hair would get all caught up in it. Am I the only one who remembers this?

That was the mask, forget about the actual costume that you would wear. It was mostly comprised of some kind of flimsy material with a tie in the back and looked like a body smock of sorts. I’m glad I didn’t get too close to any open flames, otherwise I probably would have gone up like Michael Jackson’s hair in a Pepsi commercial.

Yes, those were the cool costumes, but there was nothing that could say “uncool” about your costume more than having to wear your winter coat over it. Since the costumes were made of material that was about as thin as a piece of toilet paper, to think that they might actually protect you from the elements was a joke. In fact, I would imagine that if my parents had let me go out on Halloween in Connecticut with my costume and an outfit underneath that they would be soon receiving a visit from Child Protective Services soon after.

Yes, many a Halloween night was ruined because of the need for an outfit that would actually protect me from getting miserably sick. As I got older, I smartened up and realized that a simple rubber mask could suffice if I found the right combination of clothing to go with it. I began to strategically choose a character or costume in which I could actually incorporate the clothing, making me look a little less uncool.

Back then, there were no fancy baskets in which to collect candy, we used Stew Leonard’s bags (if you have to ask, you’ll never know). We carried around these little cardboard boxes in which we were supposed to collect money for UNICEF. I’m not quite sure how many of those little boxes actually made it to school the next day. I’m pretty sure that there had to be at least 2 or 3 of my classmates who pocketed that money. Hey, what does a young kid living in a privileged white collar community know about starvation and the Third World? Apparently, not much.

As I got older, the UNICEF boxes were no more, neither were the cheap plastic and nylon costumes, but the pranks started coming out. I learned the art of melting the Barbasol shaving cream dispenser to enable shaving cream to shoot up to 5 or 6 feet (maybe 9 or 10 if you were really good) away at your enemies. Smoke bombs. Toilet paper. I never used eggs, but I knew plenty of people who did. All of these things were reserved for each other, never on houses or cars….although they were occasionally used on mailboxes.

These were the days when you could actually give away unwrapped candy and not worry about it. It wasn’t unusual for apples to be given away either, at least until the time when people started putting razor blades in them. Oh yes, those were the days.

Now, I live in Virginia and my kids don’t usually have to worry about winter coats with their costumes. We live in a pretty cool and tight community where they can walk around a few blocks and have their entire bags filled up. Occasionally, the costumes might actually be too hot because it was 70 or 80 degrees that morning. The neighbors all gather in the cul-de-sac and hand out candy together. We even have a neighbor who gives special Halloween treats only to the kids on our street. Some people with recreational vehicles will even fill their trailers with hay and take kids around the neighborhood for a hay ride.

Yes, just like everything else, Halloween has changed. Well, I guess I had better figure out what I’m going to dress up as tonight!

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