In honor of post-Halloween week, the only holiday with dual A.D.A. sponsorship (American Dental Association, American Diabetes Association), I share the following Trailer Park Tale.
Halloween. A simple costume, a large bag, a trip around the neighborhood in the dark with hordes of other kids, then back home with my sugary loot spread around me to be sorted into three piles: good stuff (Butterfingers), decent stuff (Necco Wafers), and “Anyone want this before I throw it away?” stuff (Black Licorice).
While adults labored long over fitting lesson plans and parent-teacher conferences into a school calendar, we kids focused on the holidays. After Columbus Day, the next important date on our childhood calendar was Halloween. School wasn’t closed for Halloween, but it was a big day. Everyone would be talking about their costumes and, more importantly, the expected candy haul. The ride to school the next morning was filled with buzzing chatter about the ghoulish night, in between bites of candy that we weren’t technically supposed to be eating on the bus.
Maybe there were commercially sold costumes 45-50 years ago. I just don’t remember seeing any. My own, self-assembled favorites: Pirate - which consisted of a black construction paper eye patch, a bandana tied over my head ‘pirate style’, and a cutlass cut out of the side of a cardboard box. Cowboy - hat, boots, cap gun; Soldier — helmet, ammo belt with canteen, and some kind of stick that served as my gun. That violent boy still lurks, well, somewhere.
|Simply the best candy bar ever.|
Then as now, some folks did not contribute to this annual sponging of candy off of your neighbors. They kept their lights out or just refused to answer the door. It was proper etiquette to let other ‘trick-or-treaters’ know about the good spots and the bad spots. As in, “Go to the trailer 3 spaces down — they give big handfuls.” Or, “skip the next trailer, nobody is home.”
One year, my siblings and I were near the end of our trek through the rows of aluminum homes. We decided to stop at a trailer everyone else was passing by. Just in case, you know, we might get lucky. The trailer was small. There was no jack-o-lantern to welcome wandering candy collectors. A dim light glowed through the front curtains. We could hear the faint noise of television dialogue. Our bags were well-stocked, so we had nothing to lose. One of my older sisters was bold enough to knock on the door. We waited. My brother and I were stationed in front since we were the smallest. Finally, the door squeezed open a bit. A lean, older man with a shock of wild white hair looked out at us through wire-rimmed glasses. We automatically burst out with ‘trick-or-treat!’. He seemed surprised. Peering at us closely in the dim light, he mumbled, “Oh, sorry, I didn’t plan for this.”
We looked at each other, then back at him, not quite sure what to say. As we turned to go, he said, “Hold on. Lemme see what I have around here.”
|Will do in a pinch. If there are no Butterfingers.|
He disappeared inside and for a few seconds we heard the banging of cupboard doors and drawers. Then he was back at the door with a package of Jiffy Pop popcorn, the kind in the ‘ready to pop’ disposable tin pan with the wire handle. Long before microwave ovens were invented, creative food marketers found ways to make fresh popcorn just a little more convenient. In its hey-day, Jiffy Pop was the quickest way to convert uncooked popcorn kernels into a mound of hot, salty crunchiness. No messy pan to clean up. You just pulled the package out of the cupboard, heated it up on the stove, then tossed the disposable pan in the trash afterwards. If you liked popcorn and didn’t like the mess, it was an undeniably great innovation.
We all said ‘Thanks’ to our benefactor, then scurried home. Rather than go through our candy inventory, the first thing we did was show Mom our Jiffy Pop. A rare treat. We popped it right then.
I acquired an astounding variety of candy most years, and that year was no exception. Neccos, Smarties, Big Hunk, Hershey’s Crunch, some hard candy, some Bazooka bubble gum. A heaping mound of sweets. I would be feasting for days. Mom didn’t even bother to give us guidelines for how much to eat. It was a once a year event. Yet, all the candy from that year and every other year never seemed as special as that pan of Jiffy Pop popcorn.
|Salty, buttery, crunchy, hot, fast.|