Trick or treating has definately changed since the days I cruised around several neighborhoods in my homemade ghost costume. (Yeah, Charlie Brown- I'm looking at you!) Back then, you didn't really buy a trick or treat bag- it was either a paper bag, a pillowcase, or some other plastic bag that you could find. In fact, if you were a professional, you had two bags- one stayed in your mom's car or at a secure location, that served as a deposit area. You didn't want your bag to look too full. Then the people hold back on the goods. Costumes were also integral to a successful operation. If it looked very expensive (like rental store expensive) you could forget a candy score. People go in for the homemade, "Aww, isn't that cute" quotient. Sure, you could buy a Scooby Doo plastic mask and plastic full body suit, or any infinante variety of cheap characters. Those worked too. But the homemade costumes brought in the Halloween bling. Besides, the elastic string on your mask popped as soon as you brought it home from the drug store anyway. You had to staple that sucker back on yourself. And the plastic tethers on the back of the costume weren't so sturdy either. When you tried to untie them, one inevitably tore off and you had to kind tape it or make a new one. By the time Halloween rolled around you may have looked like Spiderman, but only if Spiderman had a wad of staples coming out of his left ear, duct tape and string on the back of his neck, and sneakers where his "Spidey" boots should be. But you didn't care- you were Spiderman for that one night. Heck, I knew kids whose costumes had torn or were lost, and mom and dad said "Too bad!" One kid ended up wearing his Hulk mask, a pair of jeans, and his Hulk underoos shirt. He was cold, but he was a fierce kid warrior out on the front lines waging the candy war. And he made it back with the goodness. Oh, yes- he was a victor.
You see, even kids know there is a method to the madness. They know what the good stuff is. They know which houses have the good stuff. However, I fear that those days are mostly gone. Back then, you hit neighborhood after neighborhood, like waves of 4 foot tall goblins, ghosts, and witches descending upon the masses of quiet homes. One parent went with the crew, like a hobgoblin commander- watching children go from house to house from the confines of the vehicle. Parents could drive or watch, but never come to the door. Kids knew if that happen the chances that conversations and chit-chat that would slow you down increased exponentially with every house. Of course the other parent held down the fort at home, passing out candy to the trick or treaters. You hoped beyond hope that somehow those Snickers you saw in the bowl would survive the onslaught and you could return home and claim it as a victory prize, held aloft in your hands like a golden trophy. But alas, it never survived- most likely pillaged by the parent themselves.
Halloween was all about the kids- and fun in being a kid. Sadly, things are different. A lot of kids don't do the door to door thing anymore. Its just not safe anymore, and sometimes people don't even buy candy anyway. Trick or Treating now takes place in a mall or shopping center, a church or neighborhood block party. These "safe" alternatives have created a haven for families to feel safe and to celebrate- but the results aren't the same to those of us who remember. We look at our own kids in the costumes we bought at the department store or Wal-mart with all the accessories and shake our heads. Sure, they look cute and they are having fun, you think to yourself, but you remember a different time. You remember going out with your buddies like an assult team demanding sugary treats, and then commiserating on what you got from house to house. You had fun spending time making a costume, and although mom may have seemed a little exasperated at having to sew this or fix that, you suspect she had fun too. You remember the trades; comparing your mound of candy with that of your friends or siblings and attempting to outswindle the other of that prized full size candy bar. While you are remembering all that, do yourself a favor: while your kid is sifting through all the fun-size this (rip off), goopy gummi that, and the occasional gift certificate or pencil- sneak a big ol' candy bar in their bag. Then sit down with them at home, go through their bag with them, and watch their eyes light up. That's what it's all about. Let them have a little fun.
Today, in honor of brave Trick or Treaters, past and present, we present the "score". This was the candy that made all the hard work pay off. This was the stuff, that if it wasn't in your bag, it wasn't Halloween. Most of it is still around- but some of it is in different forms. We present, in no particular order, the Top Shelf Halloween Trick or Treat Picks!
Candy Corn/Melocreme Pumpkins
Orange Kit Kat
Full Size Candy Bar
Candy Corn/Melocreme Pumpkins
Man, this was the "stuff." In fact, you knew Halloween was close at hand when the Candy Corn started popping up in the drug stores. Candy Corn is probably the most universal Halloween candy there is- you can find it in little bowls on office desks, at the doctors office, and even on your teacher's desk. It was kind like, "Well, Johnny you made a D- on the spelling test, but here have some candy corn!" Or "Mrs. Smith -your tests came back, and it does appear that it is definately not a rash, but something worse. But here, have some candy corn." It's everywhere! The pumpkins were the best of the batch. You know you used to pick them out first and leave the corn for the rest of the suckers! Brachs makes the best around, and now the pumpkins come in their own bag. The Autumn Mix, with the different shapes is still around as well.
It was many years after I stopped trick or treating that I discovered that Smarties came in different varieties - like the giant Smarties. I felt a little robbed- but oh, well. Smarties were great in that you probably got a big handful of them every year. Nobody gave just one. And if you were an OCD kid like myself you probably unrolled all of them, grouped them according to color, and then ate them. On second thought, I'd rather not get into that.
They now come in fun size packs, which is misleading because I think a kid has more fun with a full size pack of candy. They should really be called "cheap skimpy portions size", but I digress. Bottle Caps came with several "soda-like" flavors- root beer being a personal favorite. And Bottle Caps are just one of many Willie Wonka candys that are welcome in any trick or treater's bag- so consider this a catch-all shout out to Wonka (not you, Johnny Depp- just sit down) with the Nerds, Gobstoppers, Tart n'Tinys, and more. Good times... good times.
These weren't really around when I was a kid- so they became an adult delight for me. Kind of a special Halloween treat for dear ol' Dad! I know the kids love to find these in their bags. I also know they wonder what happened to them, after they have gone to look out the window and see what the ghost that Dad saw. I know its criminal, but I can't help it.
Orange Kit Kats
Kit Kats were a great score any Halloween. Not to long ago they came out with the Orange variety. Some swear there is a different taste- but I don't think there is much of one. Just kit katy goodness.
Check out the Peeps website if you don't know what all the fuss is about. These didn't really come in a small trick or treat pack until later - so sometimes you got a big pack (if it was the end of the Trick or Treat run) or a couple in a ziplock bag. Of course, mom and dad swiped the ziplock bag- something about "safety."
Probably one the coolest candies you could get was Brach's Dem Bones. They were a hard powder candy (kind of like Sweetarts) shaped like bones. They came in a small plastic coffin. They are somewhat difficult to find now, although when you do find them they are in a small indivdual plastic bag. The coffin is history. Perhaps a victim of political correctness or cheap cost-cutting. Or both. Either way, nothing beats the plastic coffin classic.
I love sweetarts. Always have, always will. Don't eat much in the way of candy these days, but I've eaten enough of these, that residual traces probably still show up in blood tests. If you were lucky you got anything from the small 3 count packs to the giant sweetarts to the chewables. Today, they come in even more varieties like the bubblegum and sour versions. The scientists were right, the future would bring wonderful things. Now if they could just get to work on that flying car.
Full Size Candy Bar
Before the marketing jerk who came up with the fun size concept, every Halloween someone hit the motherlode and got a candy bar. And you knew it was full size- because there just wasn't another option. And if you got it, boy you kept that secret from the rest of your crew - at least until you saw what they got in their stash. And if you didn't like that particular bar- it was your ace in the hole when it came trading time. You strolled into trading like Donald Trump with a new 'do. You had the power. And if you didn't trade (my favorite was 3 Musketeers) it was satisfaction in and of itself to eat it while others offered 10, nay 20 pieces of candy just to have it. One year, a kid in my elementary school named Danny, claimed to have received 3 snickers in one Halloween night. He was a legend until his big sister revealed that he had bought them himself with his allowence. Danny hung his head in shame, never to revel in Halloween triumphs on the school yard ever again. In fact, he's probably a janitor at some other school somewhere, secretly plotting his revenge on all kids. His victims are found with horribly contorted faces; their mouths stuff with full size Snickers bars. Wait... that sounds familiar. Nevermind.
Well Shelfers, that's it. Enjoy your Trick or Treating. If we missed your Halloween favorite - post it in the comments section. Until then, make a kid happy, toss in a full size candy bar.
Happy Halloween from everyone at The Shelf.
Halloween is my kind of holiday. It's not like those other stupid holidays. I don't get pine needles in my paws. There's no dumb bunny, no fireworks, no relatives. Just candy. Boom. You go out and you get candy. It's as simple as that..