From my childhood through becoming an adult, Halloween on our Massapequa block was always swarming with kids trick-or-treating. We needed multiple bags of candy or other pre-packaged treats to satisfy the hoards of goblins, bums, superheroes, sports figures, cartoon characters and princesses.
Barring rainy weather, which for some reason doesn’t seem to happen too often on Halloween, our bell was ringing all day and night. During the day, kids adorned in their costumes happily yelled the required phrase “trick or treat,” holding open their bags or baskets to score some treats.
When we were kids, our parents let us go from door to door by ourselves until it got dark. We had a simple rule: be back before the streetlights came on. Of course, once the night took over, so did the not-so-young kids. Some were still into dressing up, but it was mostly a half-hearted attempt as something simple, like a pirate, zombie or football player.
Instead of declaring “trick-or-treat,” they just rang the bell and waited for you to drop something into their makeshift goody bag, usually an old pillowcase. A few didn’t even bother dressing up, while others were covered from head-to-toe with shaving cream. Either way, you always needed to have candy available for them or you might end up on the wrong side of a trick-or-treat.
Sometime in the early ’80s, paranoia began gripping the suburbs with reports of adults tampering with candy and putting razor blades in apples. That changed everything. My kids were always allowed to keep all their loot, but only after we inspected each and every piece. Part of our Halloween tradition was sitting at the dining room table and performing a full examination of everything in that bag. Anything not wrapped was automatically tossed while wrapped candy was checked to make sure the seal wasn’t broken in any way.
I think the art of neighborhood trick-or-treating is dying a slow death. In the last few years, we’ve had very few vampires or Pokémon ring our bell, even when Halloween fell on a Saturday. I’ve had to reluctantly eat my share of leftover Halloween candies and treats. Well, somebody’s got to take one for the team, right?
Some schools are now hosting Halloween walk-throughs, where the kids stroll the corridors, stopping at each classroom to get candy. Our local shopping area in Massapequa Park can be a gold mine for kids as they go from store to store accumulating loot. It’s a great haul for the kids, except when they stop by the local dental office. They usually end up with a toothbrush instead of candy.
But that type of trick-or-treating is so antiseptic. The kids are herded like cattle from store to store, robotically holding their bags open with no regard for what is being dropped into them. Kids needed to pay attention to their goodies in my day. Sometimes you ran into friends and the first thing you would ask is, “What are the Snyder’s giving out?” If you found a house paying off with cool candy, you tried to sneak back a second time. Setting up an assembly line, where kids just show up and get candy without working for it is undoubtedly safer but doesn’t sound like fun.
It’s sad to think what the kids of today are missing out on. They’ll never know the thrill of knocking on a stranger’s door and risking abduction for candy that your parents could have purchased for you. Meanwhile, even an eyewitness would have trouble identifying a kid being snatched. You know how many Batman’s there were out there?
I genuinely miss the old Halloween when kids worked the neighborhood dressed in costumes, ringing doorbells and daring you with a hearty “trick or treat.”
Then again, the fewer kids that show up at my house, the more loot for me.
Paul DiSclafani, a Massapequa resident, is a 2018 Press Club of Long Island award winning columnist and an Anton Media Group contributor since 2016.