In Colorado in the 1950s and 60s
In Alaska in the late 60s and 70s
Halloween was cold in Colorado just like it is in Alaska. But sometimes in Alaska it was bitter cold with no snow on the ground, wind blowing and dark-dark. So my kids never knew about dressing in Halloween costumes without putting on their heavy coats and “leggin’s” (snow pants), winter boots, gloves and a snug hat. Then we put the costumes on. Sometimes I just painted their faces and shoved them out the door into the car with a bunch of other little kids dressed in the same style.
In Colorado, the first place we always went was to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I would make a big deal of turning out the headlights, driving in the drive way, telling the kids to be real quiet and sneak up to the door. They waited for the littlest ones to get there, THEN rang the door bell. Poor kids! Grandpa was hidden just inside the door with his own scary looking face, teeth out and usually a mop over his head. He would open the door, crawl out on his hands and knees and make the worst in the world, horrible noise.
That sent kids flying in every direction, screaming and bumping into each other, the littlest ones crying and the biggest ones slapping at Grandpa and telling him “Grandpa You Scared ME!” The laughter afterwards will always and forever ring in my ears.
Grandma filled the bags with all kinds of homemade goodies, popcorn balls, Rice Krispy Treats (her own), cookies, candy and usually a quarter.
I looked forward to the trick-or-treaters at our house too. I always made popcorn balls with candy corn in them and the syrup, colored orange. I still do this, because Mom and Dad did the same thing. She made hers bigger and had the help of Dad, with his big hands, to form the balls. They always turned out huge!
The corn was provided by Dad from his corn fields. Shucked and cleaned by our own hands. Put in a gunny sack and parked by the back door, for neighbors to come and “buy” a coffee can full. Dad usually gave the corn away — but Mom charged a quarter!
The corn was popped on the stove in a cast iron skillet. Dumped in a big dish pan and more popped until the pan was full. Butter was melted in the same skillet — lots of it and it was “homemade” too, with our own hands, rolling it on the kitchen counter in a big gallon jar. The requirments for doing that chore was we got to drink the buttermilk that was formed in with the butter. Oh my! That was so good with bits of butter swimming around in it and a sprinkle of black pepper on top.
Mom made the “stick ’em” (Dads words) — the popcorn syrup — out of sugar, corn syrup, water and butter. Stirred and stirred until it was at the “cracking stage” when a spoonful was tested in a big cup of cold water. Mom would pour the hot syrup over the popped corn, while dad would stir with a wooden spoon, until all kernels were coated. Then he would dip his big hand in cold water, grab a bunch of hot coated popped corn and squeeze it into a ball. He would have them all done and ready for the next batch of popped corn that Mom was working on in the skillet. The whole thing was repeated over and over. We had to count them, when we got to 50 balls, they would stop. We had popcorn balls for a week and loved every one of them. So I try to keep up the tradition. (P.S. — At Christmastime Mom and Dad made green and red popcorn balls for Santa to give out at the little school house Christmas party. We had to count 100 of them!)
When my kids were little older in the late 60s in Alaska, we did not have costumes to rely on, so I either made them out of old clothes or just painted the faces and stuck them in their snow suits, jammed a hat on the head, pushed gloves on the hands, found paper sacks or pillow cases, (no plastic sacks) and piled them in the pickup.
(Usually we had six snow-suited trick-or-treaters, stuffed in the front seat, with me, the driver!) Off we went to the neighbors and then to the trailer court. Those poor trailer people sure were hit hard in those days. It was the only place with doors to knock on, in a row, and reap the goodies of Halloween.
We would go to the nearest homesteader-neighbor, fall out of the pickup, run, trip and spill, to get to the door first, for the Halloween treats. The neighbor treats were the very special. Homemade cookies, candies, oranges, apples and one time — a neighbor taken by surprise, put potatoes in the sack. Or our dear neighbors would dig in their pockets and put change and dollar bills in the sack.
At one time or other during the night, one of the little Halloweenies would trip and fall and spill the goodies on the hard frozen ground. It would get scooped up by older Halloweeners and off they would go to the next door.
But the best time of all was getting home, tired, and cold, taking off the snow suits, hats and gloves and pouring the sack of goodies on the floor, looking through all the wonderful surprises. The ones they did not like, were traded and once in a while Mom and Dad would beg for a nice looking morsel. If they were lucky they got what they wanted.