Whatever happened to the Halloween I once knew?

Amish country fall by Bruce Stambaugh
By Bruce Stambaugh

Halloween didn’t use to have such a bad reputation.

When I was growing up, us post-World War II youngsters looked forward to this benign, unofficial holiday. We just had fun.

Sure. There were mischief-makers, roughnecked teens that crossed the line. But they fortunately were in the minority. They certainly didn’t exhibit the violence and gore that we too often see associated with Halloween today.
Jack 'O Lantern by Bruce Stambaugh
I remember some bully stealing our carefully carved jack-o’-lantern off our front porch. When I spotted the costumed thief running away with our pumpkin, I yelled at him. The much bigger boy responded posthaste by threatening me. Fearful, I said nothing more. I didn’t want to lose my bulging bag of candy that I had so carefully gleaned from our burgeoning neighborhood.

Other Halloween hooligans would soap windows. The really nasty ones would use paraffin, which was much harder to get off the glass. A silly prank was to throw a handful of shelled corn against someone’s windowpane. That trick was used if you got no treat at the front door, which seldom happened.

Of course there were the unfounded scares of razor blades in apples and tampered with candy. We just took precautions and had a good time.

At school, Halloween parties were held in each classroom. All the kids would dress up, many in mundane outfits like cowboys, ghosts, witches, pirates, and princesses. Homeroom mothers would prepare snacks that usually included punch and homemade cookies.

Even our parents got caught up in the fun. I distinctly remember Mom and Dad going to a Halloween party dressed as outhouses, hers and his of course. They won a prize, which I think was a bag of corncobs.
Trick or Treat by Bruce Stambaugh
My wife and I wanted those same experiences for our own children as they grew up. However, living in the country is much different than living in a suburb. There was and continues to be no Trick or Treat night in our sparsely populated neighborhood.

Local towns held Trick or Treat night, but we never felt comfortable having our children beg for candy at homes where they were not known. Fortunately, local civic groups, including the volunteer fire department, hosted a Halloween parade and a party with judging, games and treats for all area children at the elementary school.
Betsy Ross by Bruce Stambaugh
Our son and daughter went one year dressed as a tube of toothpaste and a toothbrush. Maybe they thought that would counter the cavities they would develop devouring all of that sugary candy.

To be sure, there were and still are other downsides to Halloween in rural America, including Amish Country. Pranks include corn shocks burned or moved into the roadway, and extensive toilet papering. Dozens of rolls of toilet paper are unfurled on trees, utility lines, in yards and on town squares, creating a TP style blizzard.
Cornshalks by Bruce Stambaugh
In our hectic world, with an unlimited stream of electronic information vying for our attention 24/7, my nostalgic description of Halloween seems pretty blasé. People today seem to have the desire to be scared out of their wits and often pay good money for the privilege.

In this age of skepticism and trepidation, some see Halloween as a demonic plague on society. They claim there is just too much evil and violence connected with the frightful celebration.

Since I tend to avoid malevolence, I’ll not quibble with that assessment. I do wonder, however, whatever happened to the Halloween that once focused on fun instead of fear.
Fog and trees by Bruce Stambaugh

Leave a comment

Filed under Amish, column, holidays, photography

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s