Looking Back

Halloweens from yesteryear

With Halloween right around the corner it’s fun to think about what that holiday was like back in the 50s and 60s–the time of my youth.

“Back in the day” it was very unusual to see kids trick-or-treating any place but in their own neighborhood. It was a rare sight if a carload of kids from an unknown place piled out of a car in front of your house. In this day and age there are always several of them.

Parents had little to be concerned about when a group of 9- or 10-year-olds headed out with an empty pillowcase to ring doorbells on nearby streets. This was probably because back then everyone seemed to know their neighbors. We were instructed to not ring a doorbell if an outside light was not on. But I really don’t remember that ever being the case.

We quickly learned what houses to avoid because some people seemed to think that apples were an appropriate “treat.” That logic didn’t work when all you cared about was a candy bar!

There was one exception that displaced candy bars as the top treat. That was homemade popcorn balls! The people who gave us those lived on my street. They didn’t have any children so you would expect that this holiday would not mean much to them. But they went out of their way to make Halloween special for us kids. Maybe it made them feel like kids at heart. They always asked about our costumes and then sent us on our way, telling us to have fun.

Some people who gave out candy to the young children tossed an apple into the bag of someone they considered too old to show up at their door. It was a sign of their displeasure. A single piece of gum was also used for that purpose.

The exception to staying in our own neighborhood came when I was in the sixth grade. By then we knew we were getting too old to trick-or-treat but how could we pass up an invitation from our teacher to visit her house? She probably thought that she would not see any of us. But three of us walked about a mile to pay her a visit. I recall it was worth the trip, as she gave out really great candy bars!

One Halloween my father decided to ring the doorbell of our neighbor, Trudy. He dressed up in my mother’s winter coat, wore the mask from my costume and carried a paper bag which was totally empty. Trudy said, “Don’t I know you?” He shook his head and muttered, “No.” I was hiding around the corner of the house watching and listening as the scene played out. Trudy threw an apple in the bag and looked very disgusted with the 5’10” “trick-or-treater”. My father couldn’t resist. He took off the mask and she started laughing at his creativity and her gullibility. She tossed a candy bar into his bag to reward him for putting one over on her!

Rutland had its first Halloween parade in 1959. It was sponsored by the City of Rutland Recreation Department. To this day it has the distinction of being the oldest Halloween parade in the U.S. The fact that it can still be enjoyed annually is a testament to the hard work of the department and the creativity of the participants.

In the beginning stages of the parade, Tom Fagan from Rutland is credited with working closely with Superintendent of Recreation and Parks John Cioffredi on the parade’s development. Fagan, a comic book fan, favored a super-hero theme in the parade’s early years. Fagan persuaded some comic book writers and artists to take part in the parade wearing comic book costumes. He had friends in that line of work and most of them were from New York City.

Area schools had a competition going among them for a rotating trophy that was awarded to the school with the highest number of children participating in the parade.

The 1964 the City of Rutland report states that 1,000 people participated in the parade. By 1970 there were 5,000 lining the streets to watch. With so many participants and viewers that didn’t leave many people home to hand out candy. It was a hit for sure!

Maybe you and I are too old to trick-ortreat but we are never too old to enjoy the candy bars that are left at the end of the night. Be sure to buy the kind you like. For me it’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. YUM!

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