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!
Preparations were made weeks in advance – deciding what we would wear. Any of you who are 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 recall a few Hallowe’en nights when there was snow on the ground, which meant clunking around in a big pair of boots all night.
Today’s kids would not have been impressed with our costumes. They were homemade, and usually consisted of a pair of old pants, an old shirt, maybe some tattered sheets. No one in those days bought a pre-made costume, so we had to be creative.
One year, 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!
Mother always helped us find a suitable sack for our candy, and we could usually choose between a number of her old pillowcases. It was always a good idea to bring at least two pillowcases – just in case it was a busy night.
After we had donned our costumes and had a couple of pillowcases in hand, we’d begin the trek up and down the Third Line. Some of the lanes were long. Very long. So we had to debate at the end of each lane with our friends, and decide whether it would be worth the walk.
Another thing that might surprise the kids today is 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 that did would usually have a single carved pumpkin 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.
We may have had less than 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
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 creamy and silky smooth. Sometimes Mrs. Korry would be cutting up her fudge into little squares when we arrived, and she’d place them in little bags for us.
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 always 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 the apples from our orchard.
One of our favourite treats on Hallowe’en were Mother’s caramel popcorn balls. She would make them, let them dry on a cookie sheet, and wrap them in plastic before handing them out at our front door.
Those were certainly nights to remember – the 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. The homemade treats fresh from our neighbour’s kitchens couldn’t be beat. We had a little song that we’d sing on Hallowe’en and perhaps it will bring back some memories of those happy Hallowe’ens of our youth:
The lamp is lit,
And ’round the fire
Is where we 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!
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,Webber.
For more memories of Hallowe’en in the 1960s and 1970s:
“Recipes & Recollections: Treats and Tales from Our Mother’s Kitchen”
Available at The Book Nook, The Bookworm and Blackwood Originals in Perth, Mill Street Books and Divine Consign in Almonte, Arlie’s Books in Smiths Falls, Perfect Books and Books on Beechwood in Ottawa, and on http://www.staffordwilson.com
(photo of Cavanagh’s store courtesy of JoAnne Cavanagh Butler)