Feature Writer Karen Crowder – Celebrating Halloween: Then and Now

In the late 1950s children always went trick or treating with their parents. Parents often created costumes for their children; my mom put together a ghost costume from a sheet, rubber ball and short pole. At the age of ten, I walked, with my mom, out of our home on Halloween in 1959, dressed as a ghost with two heads. I happily went trick or treating and our neighbors liked the creative costume. I would dress as a ghost for the next two years.

In junior high, I went to Perkins annual Halloween parties. They were in the gym of the Howe building. There were many activities: creepy scavenger hunts; bobbing for apples; and eating a doughnut from a string. In 1963, the party was held on a Thursday night. It ended with students chatting while they enjoyed delicious plain doughnuts and sweet apple cider.

After my marriage to Marshall, we began our own Halloween tradition. After moving into our home in Fitchburg, we opened our home on the specified Trick or Treat night in Fitchburg. For the first two years, we did not get many kids coming to our house, but our stepchildren always arrived for candy and homemade cookies. By 1993, I began doing things in a more organized way.

By mid October, we got several bags of miniature chocolate bars and Hershey kisses from our local supermarket. We also bought extra baggies. Sitting on our couch on our city’s Trick or Treat day, we worked as a team and I filled baggies with several candy bars and Hershey kisses. Marshall put the closed bags in one plastic shopping bag. Since we often started running out of chocolate candy, we would fill variety bags with fireballs, hard candy and a few pennies. We hung the bags on our decorative wooden front door.

At 5:45 on trick or treat night our porch and hall lights went on until eight P.M. When the doorbell rang, I frantically ran to open the door and ask how many kids there were. As I handed the kids bags of candy I inquired how they were dressed. There was often an adult with the kids and they politely answered my questions. They briefly told us what costumes they were wearing. Some were vampires, tramps or witches. A few had traditional costumes like ghosts or goblins. They happily thanked us and put the candy into their bags.

My stepchildren, Pam and Andrea, and their grandkids arrived last. We always served them sweet cider and delicious homemade cookies. The year I remember best was 1996. Pam related to us how their accommodating neighbors were also serving her family cider and cookies. These neighbors were wonderful.

Throughout the nine years we opened our home on this evening, our home’s popularity steadily rose. Kids knew us as the house where you received good candy with a smile. Our tradition gave us chances to observe how the celebration of Halloween was changing. Kids now arrived in groups with adults often in cars. We seldom saw children walking towards our house on our quiet street. I never encountered rudeness or impoliteness from anyone. Perhaps our home with the Halloween wreath and our friendliness made everyone feel at ease.

Halloween, like other holidays, has its way of setting aside reality for kids and adults. It gives kids a chance to dress up in scary costumes and receive candy from adults. For adults it is a time to enjoy candy and watch programs or movies about the paranormal or make believe.

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