Oh the tricks and treats in the town of Perth, in the 60s, and 70s!
Come along for a trip down memory lane, as we re-visit the spooky Hallowe’en nights – the candy, the costumes, the dances, and some naughty behavior thrown in for good measure!
You might be surprised to find out the kinds of treats we had in the 60s and 70s. One of the most popular treats – Apples! Apples were an economical treat, especially for people who grew them in their own back yards, and it was not uncommon to have seven or eight apples in our sacks by the time we returned home from our trick-or-treating.
“The Perth Courieer”, Oct. 25, 1962
Two of the most popular treats back in the 60s and 70s, were peanuts in the shell, and Hallowe’en ‘kisses’. Loose peanuts were an affordable treat to purchase, and often, the people who answered the door would grab a handful from a big bowl, and drop them into our sacks. Same with the Hallowe’en kisses. They were usually given out loose, by the bunch, and weren’t as expensive as some of the other treats available for sale at local stores.
In 1961 – Decorated sugar cookies, wrapped brownies, cupcakes – anything homemade, were considered crowd-pleasing treats!
You might see a plate of cookies like these, wrapped individually, in saran, at a neighbour’s home, ready for trick-or-treaters!
“The Perth Courier”, Oct. 26, 1961
These were very popular in the 1960s, and it was almost certain that you would get a couple of these candies during a night of Trick-or-Treating – everyone’s favourite – Bazooka Joe bubble gum, with the comic inside, or sour Rockets.
“The Perth Courier”, October 21, 1971
In the 60s and 70s, we had two main Hallowe’en decorations that you might see at someone’s house – the jack-o-lantern, and the outdoor light.
The Jack-o-lantern was usually carved the night of Hallowe’en, and consisted of three triangles – two for the eyes, one for the nose, and a mis-shapen mouth, that was usually a bit crooked. We didn’t have ‘pumpkin carving kits’, or ‘stencils’, or ‘patterns’. The example above, is likely what you might see on someone’s front step, or porch.
The second most common Hallowe’en ‘decoration’ of the ’60s and ’70s was the Outdoor Light. This was the single most important indicator of whether we would be trick or treating at a particular home, or not. If the light was out, that meant that the home-owners had either gone to bed, or had run out of candy, so that was our clue not to bother knocking. If, on the other hand, the outside light was on, then we made a bee-line straight for the house, knowing that someone was willing to drop a candy or two into our sacks.
Today, we see very elaborate decorations, strings of lights, fancy candles, strobe lights, spooky music, and more. Kids would be surprised that we did not have any of that.
It was very unusual to see anything other than a Jack-o-Lantern, on Hallowe’en. Many people even thought it was wasteful to buy a pumpkin, carve it up, and throw it out the next day. Not everyone was affluent enough to do this. It was more common to see the ‘Outdoor Light’, and be satisfied with that. How times have changed!
Hallowe’en Dances and Masquerade Balls
Many of the local halls and clubs held special Hallowe’en dances or masquerade parties. Some of the most popular venues of those times for dances, where people dressed in costumes were, the Maberly Agricultural Hall, the ABC Hall in Bolingbroke, the Legion, the Lions’ Hall, and the Ompah Community Hall.
You could strut your stuff at the Maberly Agricultural Hall…
“The Perth Courier”, Oct. 27, 1966
Or dance the night away in Bolingbroke, at the ABC Hall…
Even the local ladies’ church auxiliary of Calvin United Church, in Bathurst Township, got in on the Hallowe’en fun, deciding to have a Hallowe’en party for the children in the church…
“The Perth Courier”, Oct. 18, 1962
There was lots of local Hallowe’en fun in the neighbouring communities. Innisville School-teacher, Mrs. Mac McLellan knew how to throw a good party for the kids.
The costumes in the 1960s and 70s, at least in our small communities, tended to be the budget variety. Very few people at that time, in our area, thought that it made much sense to go out and spend a lot of money on a costume that would be worn one night only.
Whether the costumes were for kids, or whether they were for teenagers, or adults for a Hallowe’en dance, the end result usually relied much heavier on imagination than cold hard cash.
“The Perth Courier” Oct. 15, 1964
Remember collecting money for UNICEF?
I don’t remember what year it was, that there was suddenly a big ‘push’ for us to collect money (usually pennies) for UNICEF, in place of gathering candy. Being a kid at the time, it didn’t seem like much of a trade-off to come home with a handful of pennies rattling around in a UNICEF box, instead of putting as much candy as possible into the pillowcase I carried around, on Hallowe’en night. I don’t remember anyone explaining where the money was going, or who it was going to. That didn’t help matters.
Well, the kids in Prestonvale were quite the enthusiastic money-collectors, compared to the rest. Imagine in a very small community, where people usually gave a few pennies per UNICEF box, and these kids managed to collect over $11.00. That’s a lot of pennies! I don’t recall anyone ever dropping more than a penny or two, maybe three, into my UNICEF box, in the 60s.
The Hallowe’en mischief in Perth !!!
For a town located so close to farm communities, it’s hard to explain that each year at Hallowe’en there was a real fascination for throwing eggs. I don’t know whether the mischief-makers were buying these at Rubino’s, IGA, or maybe Boles’ or East-End Grocers, but I imagine that there were a lot of local businesses who profited from the sharp rise in egg sales every October 31st.
Run, everybody run!
….and this was the front of many local houses
…..and the local car-wash was busy the following day…
25 to 50 people raced through Perth, throwing stones, bottles, eggs, and garbage…
A real mess on Gore Street
….a free-for-all bottle-throwing contest going on from each side of the street
...the most expensive piece of vandalism was a late model car, set on fire on Leslie Street…
Things continued to escalate into the late 1960s….
…heaved a nice, juicy tomato
at the windshield of my car….
The egg-throwing in Perth became so rampant throughout the 1960s, that by 1968, companies like Andy’s Window Cleaning, were advertising to come and clean-up your windows, the day after Hallowe’en.
More Shenanigans in the 70s…..
Jim Ewart’s farm became the site for one of the best local Hallowe’en tricks in the 1970s. I don’t know which of our local lads pulled this one off, but they must have had one scary climb up the silo in the dark. Someone had a lot of imagination, but maybe too much time on their hands!
“The Perth Courier”, November 12, 1970
…and the Hallowe’en prank, that topped all Hallowe’en pranks…took place in 1975.
I recall at the time, this particular prank was the talk of the town. In those days, I spent a lot of time in that part of town, so there was much speculation as to which of the lads had pulled this one off. It wasn’t unusual for the boys to climb the water tower in those days, sometimes full of extra bravery, compliments of a night on the town; but it had to require a little extra skill (and maybe some help?) to hang the stuffed dummy so that it was dangling from the tower.
“The Perth Courier”, Nov. 6, 1975, p.6
Was Hallowe’en more fun in the 60s and 70s than it is today? Well, if you ask anyone, they will likely say that they enjoyed the Hallowe’en of their youth, no matter what decade it was.
We had a lot of imagination in those days, to make up for the lack of money for fancy costumes and decorations. We never knew what kind of pranks would take place, but we sure became good at dodging flying eggs, while walking down Gore Street.
What do I miss the most? The laughter, the high-spirits, running from house to house, and most of all, I miss the homemade treats!
Have a safe and happy Hallowe’en!