Growing up in a small town in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, I enjoyed Halloween the way any kid did – picking out and wearing a costume, going trick ‘r treating and getting a variety of candy, having a change of pace at school with classroom decorations and home room Halloween parties during the last hour of the day with passed out treats from home placed gently on a paper towel on your desk, and the general feeling that Halloween was a season that was geared especially at kids. But beyond that, it didn’t have any more or less of a special place in my life or in my memory. It was a part of life to be taken totally for granted, and that’s exactly what I did.
This started to change when I became an adult – when I had my own home and was in charge of my own Halloween season and festivities, when I was the one who was passing out treats to a steady stream of costumed visitors from 5 to 8 pm on whatever night the local municipality designated as “Trick-or-Treat Night”. I started noticing how much had changed from what I remembered. A lot of the same candy was around – Pixie Stix and Ring Pops and Dum Dums – but some particularly memorable things weren’t, like Mr. Bones, the bone-shaped candies that came in a plastic coffin that you could assemble into something resembling a skeleton before you ate it. Why would something that wonderful pass out of circulation? What happened to Ben Cooper and Collegeville boxed costumes with plastic smocks and styrene masks with the string that went around the back of your head? What of Scar Stuff? Fake Vampire Blood? Wax lips and fangs? Plastic spider rings and vampire teeth? Haunted house records with the same sound effects on every release? Crepe paper pumpkins and big blow mold light-up figures for the front lawn? All these mainstays of my childhood Halloweens were missing when I started looking to put together Halloween the way I wanted.
That realization pretty well sparked a love for the Halloween season in me as an adult that I never felt as a child. I understood all these things I remembered with affection were fading into a fuzzily remembered past, and I determined that I was going to try to give myself a fun, colorful Halloween season every October, whether anybody else appreciated it or not. Jack-o-lanterns, ghosts, witches, black cats, hoot owls, and skeletons became the anchors of my style. I tracked down paper decorations that, while not vintage themselves, easily brought to mind a retro style that I was going for. I found a regional chain of department stores that still sold old fashioned blow mold outdoor decorations, and I bought one of everything they had before they went out of business for good a couple of years ago. I loaded up on vintage Halloween sounds and songs from the “Monster Mash” era of spooky novelty songs. And I allowed myself one indulgence of the “inflatable era” of modern decorations – Sam, the mischievous embodiment of the spirit of Trick ‘r Treat itself. All of this thrown together in a tacky, colorful display that makes me happy. Every year, there are fewer and fewer kids coming to my front porch with an enthusiastic “trick or treat” on their lips, but there’s always one who says “Wow” or “Now THIS is what Halloween is supposed to look like”, and I feel like I’ve done something right to perpetuate a little of the Halloweens I remember.