Last week, in a Facebook discussion with friends, I found out that Daylight Savings Time was moved to later in the year mainly to accommodate Halloween so kids would not have to trick-or-treat in the dark.
My, how Halloween has changed.
As a youngster, I remember how the longest day of the year was Halloween, (followed by the day before the last day of school but that is another posting). It wasn’t until dark that we were allowed to go out and trick-or-treat.
We went in little hordes, accompanied by someone’s an older brother or sister, who was inevitably “On Restriction” and so had drawn the scary short straw. “On Restriction” was the misdemeanor designation for the parental crime rap sheet, with “Grounded” being the felonious version. We carried little plastic pumpkin candy holders or larger bags provided by the local bank…black cats with “Union Federal” festooned in spooky 20 point font. As if saving money was the scariest thing in the world. No one, ever, ever carried pillowcases—ever! Never would have even been considered to bring items from the JC Penney’s White Sale on the candy caravan. Ever.
Our parents did not accompany us because they were at home greeted the waves of children. Each house had its own theme. At my house, my dad dressed up in his referee uniform (he refereed ball games on the weekends for extra money). He added a ghoulish rubber hand with ugly moles, sprouting an icky long, black hair. He punctuated his speech with puns and elongated pronunciation, “Give me a ‘hand’ with that ‘handsome’ stranger!” “How ‘handy’ you are with the goblin!” “Go wash your ‘hands’ before dinner!”
The visual and auditory memory causes me to shudder even today.
My mother’s costume was verbal only. She dressed in the same clothes and pearls as usual, but adopted a different accent and a smattering of foreign dialect. So, for many years, she would tell us to “Watch the clock; you’ll be going out ‘Pronto!’” or “Our Hamburger Helper is muy caliente!” Charo would be thrilled.
Each house had a theme. Most were traditional Halloween with decorations and candy purchased from the Sav-on located on Vermont Avenue, (when we lived in Inglewood) or the Pic-N-Save (when we lived in Huntington Beach). Some houses reflected their unique personalities: the geriatric house where the older couple gave out divinity which was considered a candy for grown-ups. The older couple would always ask us, “Now, who would you be?”
I usually was dressed in whatever hand-me-down costume my sister had discarded from previous Halloweens or school plays. Sometimes my grandmother dressed me so my costume reflected the fringed shawls of her university days at Berkeley.
My brother once dressed like Paul LeMat in American Graffiti , sans cigarette. These were the days before American Graffiti so it was more of a West Side Story thing I think in retrospect.
There was the house with the hippies and the brownies that looked so good but which Miss Peggy always purloined to the garbage when the plastic pumpkin candy holders were inspected back at home. There was the house of the two older spinster sisters who gave us either peppermints from Woolworths or fruit. Either option went straight to my grandmother upon return.
There was the house of the crazy vegetarian artist who always painted our faces and gave us carrot cookies made with carob chips. These unfamiliar morsels went straight to the dog or were ripped to chunks and thrown at other rival hordes as we progressed from house-to-house.
There was the older World War II vet’s house. He always gave us the free lollipops from the same Union Federal bank where our candy collection bags were distributed. We kids viewed these lollipops as a rip-off, but, because he had served our country, our respect was expected in return for them. But at least he went through the candy motions.
Gabby Diaz’ house, featured her dad was a high school math teacher. He always gave a “Trick” when given the choice of “Trick or Treat.” He gave us math problems, which, if correctly solved, yielded salt water taffy from the bait shop down by the pier, hardly an incentive. This was where the older brothers and sisters who chaperoned us finally had a bit of humble pie to eat as we watch them squirm in various states of math-ignorant discomfort trying to answer his “trick.”
Our favorite house was a little bit off the beaten cul-de-sac. It was the house of the Revak’s. We LOVED the Revak house. Both of the parents at the Revak house worked and so they had more money than all the rest of us. Their daughter Cindy had THE PRETTIEST clothes and a store-bought costume that literally (at least in my memory mind) glittered as she walked. The Revak household had Hershey’s candy and Snickers bars and the Hope Diamond of all Halloween treats: the Mars bar! And the dad at the Revak household, who worked at McDonald Douglas, gave huge fistfuls of candy, not just the miserly single of the Puritanical houses where we resided. The Revak dad did not wear a fake hand and dispense candy with a ghoulish, scream of a laugh like my dad. As an engineer, he was all pencil protectors and skinny black tie.
The return walk back from the Revak house was suspense-filled as we guarded those full plastic pumpkins with the due diligence of junior CIA field operatives. Other groups were lying in wait outside the yopon bushes of the Revak house, since the best candy inventory left from that driveway. Night was fully realized, our chaperones having grown impatient and slightly miffed after the math debacle of the Diaz house. Making it home and splintering off each to our houses was an act of cunning, craftiness, and survival, aided by a few furtive fistfuls of Revak candy.
As I got closer to my house I could hear the familiar voice of a referee in full recitation of “The Raven” complete with accompanying flashlight under his chin. And always in the dead of post-Daylight Savings time darkness.
Happy Halloween in the post-daylight savings time of safety.