Thursday, October 20, 2011

Childhood: Proceed with Caution

There are a lot of people from my generation who look upon the cautious era that we live in today and wonder how we even survived childhood.

Why, remember how we'd go on family trips in the back of our parents' carpeted, customized vans or in the way-back of station wagons and not wear seat belts? Just bouncing around in the back like crash test dummies while our parents drowned out our shrieks of joy with ELO in the tape deck? And how most of our toys were either choke hazards, painted with lead paint or edged in sharp metal? Bike helmets were for sissies and of course Silly Putty was supposed to go inside of your ears. And you couldn't even consider yourself a real girl unless you'd burned off the top layer of your knuckle skin on an Easy Bake oven. Or a real sister unless you'd been shot in the head with a BB gun. If you never stretched your Stretch Armstrong to the breaking point and got yourself slung into a wall, you were only a shell of a child.

Yes, I guess it really is a wonder that we're not all dead.

My friends and family always joke when Halloween comes around because we feel nostalgic for the plastic masks and costumes. Yes, the same masks that sliced our tongues as we fought valiantly for air. And those costumes that were bound to rip if you moved too far, too fast.

Me and my brother, 1977

Besides the big rumor that people were putting razor blades in apples, I never considered it as a time when any of us were worried about pitfalls and prat falls. That is until I found this little film from the same year, 1977.

Did you see how many times that kid fell down? What the heck was wrong with her? She would have been weeded out fast in the brutal Lord of the Flies atmosphere of my old neighborhood. And my lord, did you see how they took her from an amazing witch to a white robed, reflection taped butt of jokes?

And how many of you shuddered when the girl put sticky tape all over that amazing vintage Halloween sack? My lord. I do admit that I admired the macabre planning ahead aspect of writing one's name and address on your treat bag in case of accident. Because we all know that no kid worth their salt was ever goin' down if not clutching their treat bag in their cold, dead hands.

How about how the mother slaved away to try and make the costume safer only to trash the poor kid's witch mask?? I guarantee you somewhere, that kid had a pair of roller skates without wheels.

Curious about the second part of the film? Will the little girl even be allowed to leave the house? Let's see:

Did you notice that in the party scene, the food bowls were completely empty? That little shindig must have been thrown at the house of the "eat before you go trick-or-treating" family. Would a little Chex Mix have killed them?

And I don't know which was sadder - that kid having to throw out half of her treats when she got home OR the stand-up routines that the children had to perform just to get candy. Did any of you ever have to do that? Is this just a New Jersey thing? I remember my brother and I shrieking, "Trick or treat! Smell my feet! Give me something good to eat!" and that was it. We were out for cheap thrills - not to entertain the senior set.

And we sure as heck weren't going to wear our Mom's rouge or food coloring when we could be falling off of curbs in plastic masks and putting our lives at risk with impalement by non-sawed-off broomsticks. We'd sooner have our Big Wheels thrown into a fire pit than to wear a dirty old mop head as a wig.

I'll leave you with this clip from one of my favorite shows ever. The Bionic Woman bit gets me every time.

Tell me about your childhood Halloweens, buckaroos! Were your parents the cautious types? Did you run through the night like wild goblins and ghouls until all of the porch lights went out?

Until next time (remember butterscotch and circus peanuts are not considered "treats"),
x's and o's,


Barbara said...

My mother could care less about Halloween, hence, I was a hobo every year.

We stayed out late, roamed many streets with our friends and no one gave a damn about us.

I miss those days!

Eartha Kitsch said...

I know, right? Those were the days! Hobos and gypsies were definitely the go-to costumes of our era.

DearHelenHartman said...

Yep my brother was always a hobo. I had it better, Mom made my costume and she was an amazing seamstress - so of course I longed for those cheap plastic mask and chinzy shiny fabric ones from TG&Y. No adult when with us. We rarely even carried flashlights. By all rights, we should be dead.

Sara In AZ said...

Besides Mad Men, Freaks and Geeks was the MOST perfectly awesome show EVER!!! I was devastated when they canceled it. :( LOVE that show!!!

That poor little girl. Her new white costume seems like a mix between the Flying Nun and a crossing guard!

And please tell us that you didn't fall once when you went out in your witch mask! :D

Betty2Tone said...

Trick-or-Treating was always pretty low key. Our parents did take us out, but they weren't too cautious about things. There was one Halloween where my Mom cut her hand carving pumpkins, and she told a bunch of people at a party she, "cut it while putting razors in those damn apples" and everyone kind of went silent even though she was obviously joking. And you are so wrong about butterscotch, I'll gladly take any you get this year ;)

Unknown said...

We always ate before going trick-or-treating. Not so we wouldn't eat candy, but because it was supper time! Tradition was that we had tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches on Halloween.

My older sister had "the sugar" so we always got all of her candy.

Nobody ever gave out fruit except for those little boxes of raisins - which we gave to my older sister.

My best costume was when I went dressed as a woman, but broke a friend's wrist when I hit him with my pocketbook while I was mimicking Ruth Buzzi.

We knew which houses to avoid. Since I sold "the Grit" I knew the good places along my route.

Unknown said...

That film was the beginning of the end. It's not often you can point to one thing and say, that's the moment when American childhood died. The best thing about Halloween was the toxic fumes from the masks, the fact that if you stood too close to a pumpkin candle you could burst into an inferno of flaming melting acetate, and the genuine visceral terror of cutting your gums on a razor blade. These things weren't as terrifying as actual 70's culture, because coulottes and layered looks were everywhere - you never met any kid anywhere who actually found a blade in an apple. And why? Because who was going to eat an apple on Halloween? I was there for the candy cigarettes, for corn's sake.

little rosy runabout said...

That film was disturbing to me. First of all, what in the world was that little girl doing so long at the first house at the beginning of the movie? She could have been Barbara Walters interviewing the homeowner about what kind of tree she wanted to be, she was there so long!
What was up with all of those peanuts that spilled out of the bag when she fell down? Peanuts? PEANUTS?! I trick-or-treated back in the day when people gave out raisins, apples, and pamphlets about Halloween being for Satanists, but I never got a handful of loose peanuts, for heaven's sakes. It looks like she went trick-or-treating at Five Guys. And her costume after the "makeover"? I'm sorry, but I found it a lot more alarming when it was white than when it was black. Am I the only one who thought they turned that little girl into a member of the KKK? And who in their right minds would use an old mop for a wig? That's just... really gross. If the police ever tried to set the times for trick-or-treating in my town we would have beaten them down with Mary Janes and Bit O' Honeys and never looked back.
I do have to admire the little girl's thoroughness in putting her address on the bag, though. She put the city AND the state! You never know when you'll find yourself suddenly trick-or-treating across the country!
But what do I know? I love both butterscotch AND circus peanuts.

Rae - Say It Aint So said...

i went trick or treating in the late 80's and we lived out in the country so my mom drove us from house to house. none were close enough for us to walk to. i remember a lady giving us dimes on the cutest little paper cut outs. i always had a home made costume. usually i made it, and it was terrible. haha. my greatest triumph was probably a box of puppies, where i was dressed as a puppy, and had a box on suspenders around my waist with lots of stuffed dogs in it. genius.

Lynn said...

We used to go trick or treating after dark! Those were the days. Where I live now they have trick or treating hours! Actual specific hours from four to six. They set off the tornado siren at six o'clock so that you know it is time to stop. It isn't even a hint of dark by then. All the fun has been sucked out of Halloween!!! It's crazy, I tell you, just crazy.

SUZY8-TRACK said...

Halloween has certainly changed since I was a kid. We always had homemade costumes. The Hobo and Gypsy costumes were popular in my house, as well as me borrowing my dad's softball uniform and going out as a ballplayer. One year I was a vampire, and my mom painted my face with white shoe polish! Not sure if that was safe, but I turned out OK.

cheshirecat666 said...

Oh damn,her Mom turned her from a witch into a Junior Miss KKK girl! Rosy is right!

I know,the tape on the bag...NO!!