Chances are you’re opening up this article and saying, ” Yeah, yeah… nostalgia and shit, blah, blah, blah…” And while yes nostalgia does have some weight to this, I’m here to make my case as to why this is more than sweet, childhood memories. Halloween in the 80s’ were a magical time that doesn’t seem to hit home by today’s standards. The simplicity of it has been lost by flashy, cheap décor, over-the-top while underwhelming haunted houses, and what little treats given on Halloween night that are simply pathetic in comparison to yesteryear. Maybe it’s the town I live in that leaves me longing for Halloweens’ of the past, but I have an inkling I’m not alone on this sentiment.
Yep. That is indeed a six-year-old Patti Paultertgeist in a plastic Minnie Mouse costume that was all the rage in 1988. Going to our local Sav-On drugstore for the very latest, and greatest in noisy plastic wear was part of the Halloween tradition right along with grabbing a fun horror flick next door from Action Video, (my Mom and Pop rental store growing up). Of course the Ben Cooper costumes were the heavyweight when it came to Halloween; but even the knockoff brands were just as good- well, I mean if they held up until the end of the night, you were in good shape- and most of the time they did. However, while they may look ridiculous, they are FAR more menacing than any kiddie costume you’ll see at the big chain stores today during the October sales season. There is a reason why film and TV use vintage masks for scary-story telling, (look at Trick R Treat as a great example). Would you be more terrified of this Minnie Mouse mask coming at you in a dimly lit street, or something like this…
Sure, the quality is better. It most likely won’t rip by you merely looking at it. But what’s the fun in that!?
School Parties and Community Carnivals
Kids waited 364 days for their annual Halloween class party and parade and goddamn it was the coolest part of the year. The entire day was dedicated to educational in some form, Halloween activities with brief intermissions with a game of Heads-Up, Seven-Up. And let’s not forget that tiny sliver piece of cardboard tasting pizza that no matter how bad it was, tasted a lot better than a math quiz. Also, parents would chip in bake homemade treats for the party, giving the teacher a bit of a break in the finance department and we would be drowning in rice-crispy treats along with festively decorated sugar cookies until we would sugar crash an hour later. Now a days, kids are lucky to even get that tiny sliver of pizza, and home-baked goods? Forget about it. The schools have implemented such a strict diet code now that even bringing in Yoplait yogurt might be questionable.
On top of school parties, Community Halloween carnivals were THEE TITS growing up. They were usually held a few days prior to Halloween and were filled with cake-walks, bake-sales, tons of games with candy and pumpkin prizes, and of course, THE COMMUNITY HAUNTED HOUSE. The pic above of a cheesy-smiled me along with my younger ninja brother marked the occasion of us right before my little bro got scarred for life at one such carnival held at the Mirabelli Community Center.
I’m well aware Community “Fall Festivals” do exist, as this is what they’re normally referred to as now. But I can guarantee they didn’t have a haunted house that had a Mad Scientist tour guide walking you through it only to be murdered at the end of the house by Michael Myers jumping out behind a few boxes with a knife and pummeling him into the ground scaring the ever loving shit out of everyone inside. As we had to walk gently over the tour guide’s limp body now drenched in red corn syrup, my mother was holding my brother going out as he was absolutely terrified at what had occurred. Good ol’ Michael though; he made sure to go right up to my bro and give him a little tickle on the chin- sending my brother into a full-blown panic attack, traumatizing the kid for life. I sound like a dick, but eh, you had to be there to see how funny it all kind of was. Nowadays, if you can get a few hay stacks and throw them into a grassy field, that will suffice as a haunted maze for the kiddies. Less traumatizing? Yes, but way less fun.
The fact that today’s most popular Halloween decorations are throwbacks to vintage decor, says it all. My parents had a nice selection of paper cutouts that seemed to last for somehow a decade, along with blow-mold wall decor and figures. When they were brought in from the garage, the smell of stale garage dust with the colorful witch cut-outs got me high on life. Sure, DIY crafts are fun and making the most beautiful Pinterest worthy centerpiece of pinecones and leaves is nice and all; but sometimes a giant orange garbage bag full of leaves and a .99 cent jointed skeleton is all that’s needed to get the true feel of spooky season going.
The Great Trick Or Treating Olympic Candy Event
Alright, the night has finally arrived. We pulled on those noisy garbage bag costumes, grabbed our pillowcases and plastic Empire buckets and headed out for five straight hours of trick or treating. We left as soon as the first hint of orange hue hit the sky and didn’t come back until our bags and buckets were about to break. From festive candy like Mr. Bones and Wax Lips, to popcorn balls and homemade cookies, the great candy swap event with friends was the Olympic event of the year. Dumping our bags onto the selected friends’ living room floor sorting, and trying to trade those Bit ‘O’ Honeys’ for a mini Snickers was the Halloween was definitely the perfect end to a solid evening.
These days, you’re LUCKY to get half a buckets’ worth no matter how far you travel in the neighborhood. Halloween scrooges are abound more than ever, pissing on the holiday and unwilling to spare a Tootsie Pop to save their life. Not to mention the cheap buckets chain stores try to pawn off on the kids for candy hauls with such a flimsy handle, it’ll break at the mere glance of a full-size candy bar. Trick or Treating hours are usually over by at the very least, 8 PM with an occasional strangler bunch of teens that normally get the bulk of any of the ONE candy bag I buy for the occasion. Not sure what happened along the way that made this holiday less magical and with scarce participation, but it sure wasn’t what it used to be.
I’ve made my case. And I’m sticking by it. So I’ll just leave you with this photo of me sucking on a candy box in my sweet homemade witch costume from 1986.