Halloween night holds special memories for Baby Boomers
Local News | Published on November 2, 2022 at 5:03pm CDT | Author: Kim Pederson0
Three Stooges movies at Pelican auditorium; loads of candy; and coins for UNICEF
By Kim Pederson
Baby Boom Columnist
Trick-or-Treating in the ‘60s was nothing like today. Maybe some kids had parental supervision, but I recall that the streets of Pelican Rapids were ruled by plastic-masked, homemade-costume-wearing, paper bag-carrying kids from 5 to 15 years old roaming the town from about 4:30 until the last porch light was shut off.
“My parents generally had more than 100 kids come trick-or-treating each year,” remembers Gail Nelson of Pelican Rapids. “By the end of the night, Mom was handing out sticks of gum before turning off the light for the night.”
Parents never worried about razor blades in the candy or creepy people at the door, and homemade goodies were common.
“My mom did popcorn balls,” says Gail. “Except for that one year we even gave out a few kittens. The looks on people’s faces were hilarious. The doorbell would ring, and the kittens would run in every direction.”
Gail acknowledges today that it probably wasn’t their best idea.
All kitten’ aside, people who welcomed trick-or-treaters would turn on their porch lights. The town was lit up like a fireball. The goal of every kid was to treat at every single house with light. And no matter how tired, the Lodins’ home was a must. As the owners of Ben Franklin’s Five and Dime, the stop scored the motherlode of candy.
The more feral kids kept to the streets until the last light dimmed. But the Jaycees offered a healthier choice.
“We would trick-or-treat first and then go to the Fine Arts Auditorium at the high school for a costume contest,” recalls Terry Glaesman of Pelican Rapids. “One year I won first place for being an Indian,” cringes Terry with a nod toward the lack of cultural sensitivity. “There were cartoons and always a movie,” reminisce Gail and Terry. “The Three Stooges were a favorite,” adds Gail.
Princess, Superman, Batman, and Catgirl costumes were popular store-bought costumes, but a twin bed sheet with two holes for eyes was a reliable backup. It seemed that it was always frigid on Halloween back then, necessitating the full winter coat, which pretty much masked whatever ensemble lay beneath. And for goblin’s sake, what was up with those plastic masks with eye slits and rubber band backs? Each costume should have come with an attorney to manage the lawsuit resulting from a mask turned sideways and not a lick of reflective tape or material to be found.
A lot of good happened too.
In 1950 Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF was born. The movement collected change to help children left vulnerable by World War II and became a collaboration with UNICEF. It was a time when a dime was all UNICEF needed to buy fifty glasses of nutritious milk for hungry children. In the ‘60s and maybe even before, Pelican Rapids students in grades 4, 5, and 6 carried boxes for UNICEF. The funds they collected went to the United Nations Children’s Fund, which participated with developing countries to improve services for children and youth in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. Sometimes the night coincided with Halloween, and other times it would be earlier.
The Women’s Civic Club of Pelican Rapids sponsored the project.
“People would give pennies,” says Terry. “But it all added up and taught us a great lesson.”
Today parents go with their kids and only visit the homes of people they know well, or they go to malls or parking lots as part of Trunk-or-Treat. And to the delight of dentists everywhere, parents watch their children’s sugar intake.
Baby boomer stories of Halloweens long ago may differ slightly, but in small towns, they carry some common themes. You can trust your neighbors. Try not to take yourself too seriously. You’re never too old to watch cartoons. There’s no such thing as too much sugar. And good things can happen after dark.
Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF collected coins for kids of the world, dating to 1951
Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF is a fund-raising program for children sponsored by the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.
Started on Halloween 1950 as a local event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, the program historically involves the distribution of small orange boxes by schools to trick-or-treaters, in which they can solicit small change donations from the houses they visit.