It doesn’t seem that long ago……….back in the 1960s and 1970s, when we couldn’t wait for that magical night in October – Hallowe’en!
The days grew shorter, crisp air blew in from the north, and an eerie silence hung over our yard, as the last few geese left for the season. Darkness crept up our lane-way each evening, shortly after the school bus dropped us off, and bare branches cast long shadows across the Third Line.
In the days leading up to the big event, we watched ‘The Great Pumpkin’, and if we felt brave enough, maybe a horror movie or two, just to put us in the spirit.
Who could forget Janet Leigh’s blood-curdling scream in the movie ‘Psycho’, or Jessica Tandy running for her life, in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie ‘The Birds’ ?
The living room always fell silent at our house, during Ichabod Crane’s encounter with the Headless Horseman, in ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’…..
We often listened to some music, to put us in the Hallowe’en mood!
We’d read a few ghost stories, or play a scary board game, although our Mother wouldn’t allow us to bring a Ouija board into the house!
One year, Mary-Jane, a friend who lived in Perth, invited some of the members of our 4H Club to visit her, and try out the Ouija board in her rec room.
I recall some of us almost jumped out of our skin that same night, when a candle flickered in the middle of our ‘session’!
Some of our favourite t.v. shows had Hallowe’en ‘specials’:
Preparations were made weeks in advance – deciding what we would wear for Hallowe’en. Anyone familiar with the late fall weather in Lanark County, knows that our costumes would need to be loose enough to fit over our fall jackets. I remember a few Hallowe’en nights when there was snow on the ground, which meant clunking around in a big pair of boots all night.
It was time to head to the attic, and find some discarded clothes!
Kids today, would not have been impressed with our costumes. They were homemade, and usually consisted of an old pair of pants, an old shirt, maybe some tattered sheets. No one in those days bought a pre-made costume, so we had to be creative.
Over the years, Kellogg’s advertised free Hallowe’en masks on the back of their cereal boxes. All you had to do was cut out the mask, punch two holes in it, and add a rubber band or a string. These were all the rage! Especially the Tony the Tiger mask!
Sometimes, there were Hallowe’en parties at Glen Tay School, and we wore our costumes, and bobbed for apples.
Mother always helped us find a suitable sack for our candy, and we could choose between an assortment of her old pillowcases. It was always a good idea to bring at least two pillowcases – just in case it was a busy night!
The weeks passed by, and October 31st finally arrived!
After school, we ate supper quickly, and could barely contain our excitement!
Next, we watched out the window………………………………….and waited for dusk!
We donned our costumes, grabbed our pillowcases, and began the trek up and down the Third Line.
Some of the lanes were long. Very long. So, we often had a debate at the end of each lane, with our friends, and decided whether it would be worth the walk.
Up and down the Third Line we scampered, running up the long lane-ways, and along the dark country side roads.
Kids today, might be surprised to learn that people didn’t decorate their homes, nor did they have elaborate displays on their front steps, or in their yards.
Most people didn’t have any decorations at all, and the ones who did, usually had a single, jack-o-lantern, on their front porch.
In small, rural communities like ours, it wasn’t unusual to be invited inside, and whoever answered the door would try to guess who we were!
We’d stay inside for a few minutes, and might be asked how our parents were doing, or how things were going at school. Some people would even ask us to sing a song, or tell a joke, to earn our candy. It was all good-natured fun. Often, the person who answered the door would remind us to be careful crossing the roads, or ask us to say hello to Mother and Dad for them.
It’s true, we may not have had glamorous costumes, and the decorations were a little bit sparse in those days, but the homemade treats and goodies made up for that.
It was not uncommon to receive farm fresh apples, loose peanuts, homemade fudge, and Hallowe’en Kisses. There was no need to check the treats before eating them. We knew everyone, and they knew us. They were our neighbours, our classmates, our friends.
So which house on our route the tastiest treats?
By far, hands-down, the best fudge on the Third Line was at Radford’s and Korry’s. Mrs. Radford’s fudge was legendary in the area, and Ethel Korry’s fudge was so creamy, and silky smooth! Sometimes Mrs. Korry and her daughter-in-law Merle, were still busy cutting the fudge into little squares when we arrived, and they’d wrap them, and place them in little bags for us.
(see Mrs. Radford’s fudge recipe at the end of the story!!!)
One of the best stops for trick-or-treating on the Third Line was the popular general store – Cavanagh’s – owned by Jim and Helen.
The Cavanagh’s were generous with their candy, and some of our favourite treats were the Pixie Stix, the Thrills, and the Gold Rush gum.
Kraft Caramels were a popular treat, and many of the neighbours would throw a handful into our pillowcases, along with some pumpkin teeth candies.
Our Mother often made caramel apples, with fresh apples from our orchard.
One of our favourite treats on Hallowe’en were Mother’s homemade caramel popcorn balls. She mixed freshly-popped popcorn, with the melted caramels, in a big metal pot, on top of the old stove. She shaped them into a ball, let them dry on a cookie sheet, and wrapped them in plastic, before handing them out at our front door.
Those were certainly nights to remember! – Long, dark, lanes in the country, our costumes made from discarded clothes, and our pillowcase sacks!
The cool fall air, and the tall, bare, maple trees that lined the dark roads, leading up to the farmhouses, all added an air of suspense, as we ran from house to house.
Homemade treats, fresh from our neighbour’s kitchens, couldn’t be beat.
We even had a little song that sang on Hallowe’en, and perhaps it will bring back some memories of those happy Hallowe’en nights, of our youth:
The lamp is lit,
And ’round the fire
The children sit,
A-telling ghost tales
Bit by bit,
‘Til sister Jane says “Hush!”
What’s that a-peeping
‘Round the kitchen door?
What’s that a-creeping
‘Cross the bedroom floor?
What’s that a-sweeping
Down the corridor?
Oooooh! It’s a goblin!
Hope you enjoyed our trip back in time, to those magical Hallowe’en nights, along the Third Line!
As promised, a recipe for the best fudge on the Third Line.
Oh the Radford family’s lane was soooooo long! I have to admit that it wouldn’t have mattered to us kids if their lane was ten times as long, we would have gladly made the trek for a few precious pieces of Mrs. Radford’s homemade fudge!
Mrs. Radford’s Fudge:
(kindly shared with us – from Nancy (Radford) Tarle)
Mom’s Cream Candy
2 c brown sugar
½ c milk (any kind including Carnation)
¼ c butter
1 tsp vanilla
Boil the first two ingredients, stirring constantly on lowest heat required, to maintain low boil, until soft ball stage in cold water. Add butter and vanilla, (and nuts if desired). Beat until thick, with electric mixer, then finish beating by hand until no longer shiny, and begins to harden around sides of pot. Pour into pan.
The families who lived along our ‘Hallowe’en route’:
Blair, Brady, Bowes, Cavanagh, Chabot, Closs, Doyle, Heney, Johnston, Jordan,Kerr, Korry, Kyle, Leonard, Majaury, Mitchell, Morrow, Munro, Murphy, Myers, Paul, Perkins, Pettigrew, Popplewell, Radford, Scott, Siebel, Somerville, Stafford, Stiller, Truelove, Turnbull, Tysick, and Webber
For more memories of Hallowe’en in the 1960s and 1970s:
“Recipes & Recollections: Treats and Tales from Our Mother’s Kitchen”
available in local stores, and online