Lately, I think of Halloween as “Holloween” because it’s not the event it used to be!

In North America, trick-or-treating has been a Halloween tradition since the late 1920s. But a just few years ago, it seems, parents began to accompany their youngsters from house to house or follow along in a car to make sure the kids remained safe. Treats have to be inspected for hidden, harmful objects or open wrappers. Neighborhoods are evaded by hordes of kids from throughout the city who literally sweep houses clean of candy and confections.

Now there’s something called “trunk-or-treating” from monitored vehicles in church and school parking lots again to keep a close eye on who the children come in contact with and what they are getting in their goodie bags.

Back in the 1940s and 50s, we went “trick-or-treating” in our own neighborhood and never more than three or four blocks away from home. When we knocked on a front door we didn’t just open our sack and receive a handout. Usually, we were invited into a home and asked to unmask so the residents could identify us.

Lots of questions followed: “Who are you?” “Where do you live?” “Who are your parents?” “Where do you go to school?” and “What grade are you in?”

Once I invited a friend from another neighborhood to join me on my Halloween rounds and having a “stranger in the midst” prompted all sorts of questions concerning who he was, where he was from and why he was trick-or-treating in this neighborhood instead of his own.

The treats we were given were so much better in quality than what kids receive today. We got popcorn balls, whole candy bars, fresh-baked cookies and brownies, apples and oranges, to name but a few. There was no concern that anyone would not give something that was wholesome and good to eat. When we got home and emptied our treat treasures we pretty much knew who gave us what.

And even in my day, the “trick” usually was an idle threat to perform mischief on the homeowners or their property if no treat was given. I do remember something that happened to my wife’s folks who lived outside the city limits in the 1970s and 80s. Since they had no sidewalks they almost never got any trick-or-treaters. But one Halloween two small brothers knocked on their door and my in-laws were so overjoyed to finally get youngsters visiting that they invited them in to meet and talk with them. When the boys asked if they could use their bathroom they bent over backwards to extend the courtesy.

The next morning, however, they realized the cute little boys evidently had stolen their hand soap because several windows on their cars and on the house were “soaped” despite their generous hospitality.

Vince LaBarbera
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Vince LaBarbera

Vince is a Fort Wayne native. He earned a master of science degree in journalism and advertising from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. LaBarbera is retired but continues to enjoy freelance writing and serving the Radio Reading Service of the Allen County Public Library. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer