Hallowe’en in Perth – 1960s and 1970s

Jack o lantern 1960s


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!

The Treats

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.


Rubinos apples

“The Perth Courieer”, Oct. 25, 1962


apples bowl

apples for Hallowe'en



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.

peanuts in the shell halloween kisses

candy halloween


In 1961 – Decorated sugar cookies, wrapped brownies, cupcakes – anything homemade, were considered crowd-pleasing treats!

cookies wrapped

You might see a plate of cookies like these, wrapped individually, in saran, at a neighbour’s home, ready for trick-or-treaters!

Treats 1961

“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.

Bazooka joe  rockets

candy halloween 1971

“The Perth Courier”, October 21, 1971


Hallowe’en Decorations

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.

jack o lantern plain lit

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.

outdoor light

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.

Hallowe'en dance costumes

You could strut your stuff at the Maberly Agricultural Hall…

Dance Maberley


legion dance

“The Perth Courier”, Oct. 27, 1966

Halloween dance

Or dance the night away in Bolingbroke, at the ABC Hall…

Dance Bolingbroke

halloween dance party


dance ompah

halloween dance 2

Lion's dance



dance halloween

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…

Calvinettes Hallowe'en

“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.

Innisville Hallowe'en


The Costumes

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.


1960s costumes

costume ad

“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.

Prestonvale unicef

unicef box



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.

guy throwing egg.png

Run, everybody run!

eggs thrown at house

….and this was the front of many local houses

eggs thrown at cars

…..and the local car-wash was busy the following day…

Halloween mischief # 1

25 to 50 people raced through Perth, throwing stones, bottles, eggs, and garbage…

Halloween mischief # 2

broken bottles

A real mess on Gore Street

….a free-for-all bottle-throwing contest going on from each side of the street

Halloween mischief # 3


...the most expensive piece of vandalism was a late model car, set on fire on Leslie Street…

car on fire


Things continued to escalate into the late 1960s….


tomato windshield

…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.

window cleaning


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.

water 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!

halloween kids


Have a safe and happy Hallowe’en!

spooky house.png





Happy New Year! A Genealogist’s Wish List for 2018

2017-2018 image

It’s the New Year and that means time for reflecting on the past and also time for setting our family history goals for the year ahead. The world seems to spin by faster each season, and while this may be frustrating at times, each year also brings some new and positive changes for genealogists.

It didn’t seem all that long ago that my own genealogy involved a great deal of letter writing in order to make connections with long lost cousins and fellow researchers. Weeks would pass by as we exchanged photos and family histories by snail-mail. It definitely wasn’t a very speedy process, but in many instances, it was all we had.

Long days were spent at libraries and archives, hunched over dusty old documents and sitting in dimly lit rooms, scanning reel after reel of sometimes out-of-focus microfilms, only to find after a day’s work that nothing pertained to our family research.

Fast-forward a couple of decades and now we have access to the World Wide Web and countless genealogical resources at our fingertips; including connecting with our fellow researchers at a distance through Facebook and email. What once took weeks, even months of letter writing, is now reduced to a few quick strokes on a keyboard. The next generation may look back on our era and the incredible advancements in our ability to communicate, and say that in the late 1990s we entered the ‘space age’ of genealogical research.

While online family history databases like http://www.ancestry.ca and familysearch.org are by no means perfect, they do offer us access to a tremendous number of records from all over the world. They provide us with the ability not only to view digitized images of documents like original census records, but to print them as well, or save them for future use.

Now, instead of sitting for hours documenting our research in pencil as we did in the past, we can use a mobile scanner app on our smart phones to instantly capture and store images from archives, libraries and field trips to cemeteries.  Push a button to scan in seconds and produce high resolution images in full colour or black and white. Simple to use, and perfect for those trips to Archives Lanark!


Another research technique that has evolved is the essential task of preserving family stories. Interviewing older relatives used to be a bit awkward and involved either hastily scribbling notes or using a bulky cassette recorder. A new device like the Echo Smart Pen not only records our conversations but can provide instant playback and storage of up to 200 hours of audio. This is ideal for recording family stories or memories from people who may have been put off by the presence of a tape recorder. A mobile phone or tablet is also ideal for recording family stories.


Lugging around heavy notebooks and stacks of binders has also become a thing of the past. Tech companies have made data storage light and easy with tools like the Apple iPad, a perfect companion at the Archives, Libraries, or on field trips and conferences. These portable computers are lighter than a laptop and have increasingly large storage capacities, perfect for replacing all of those bulky binders.

Perhaps one of the most exciting new enhancements to genealogical research is the way science can now compare our DNA to thousands of other samples in the database to determine kinship. The Wall Street Journal says “DNA Testing, the hottest tool in genealogy, is helping more people open doors to their past.” DNA Test Kits may be obtained from Family Tree DNA or any of the many other DNA Testing companies which provide this service. Some will do a break-down so that you can actually find out the percentages of ethnicity that you have from each country.  Others will even match you from a database and connect you with cousins around the world.  Perhaps you’ll trace your roots back to an interesting historical figure, a Hollywood star, or even British royalty!



Yet another way that people are able to share their knowledge and experience with millions are through sites on the internet like http://www.youtube.com. While the younger folks tend to use this site to listen to the music of their favourite bands, genealogists can use the site to educate themselves and enhance their research skills. For example, as genealogists we often inherit the old family photos, but have no idea where they were taken or from which period in history they originate. There are some fantastic instructional videos available such as this one that walks us through some particulars on old photographs. “5 Types of Early 19th Century Photographs” – a YouTube Video http://www.olivetreegenealogy.blogspot.com/2011/11/5-types-of-early-19th-century.html

As time goes by, more and more genealogical roadblocks have been removed and some types of research that once seemed almost impossible are now within our grasp. For those of us who remember Alex Haley’s book ‘Roots’ which documented the search for Haley’s African ancestors, we learned that many records were either destroyed or non-existent. The Mormon Church has released a database of 72,000 bank accounts opened by former slaves, after the Civil War, and these records could potentially help millions of their descendants trace their families back to Africa. These particular sets of bank records are significant not just because they date back to 1865, but because of the scarcity of detailed records of black families that are available from that era. To begin your search of these records: http://www.familysearch.org or call the church at 1-800- 537-5971.

Alex Haley Roots.jpg

Of all the new research tools available to genealogists, I must admit that the one that I find the most exciting is a project called Ireland Reaching Out. It was founded in south-east Galway by tech entrepreneur Mike Feerick. The idea is that instead of waiting for people to trace their roots back to Ireland, local communities, largely through volunteer efforts, are trying to find descendants of those who emigrated. Ireland Reaching Out, also called Ireland XO has promised to help with genealogical research at no cost. Volunteer community teams, who are trained in local genealogy, are also prepared to meet with you and guide returning migrants to places of genealogical interest specific to their family. To contact Ireland Reaching Out with your queries: http://www.irelandxo.com


So, now that the New Year is upon us, perhaps we can kick our research up a notch and take it to the next level with some of the cutting edge tools available today. With all of the technology on hand, surely we can streamline some of our old fact-finding techniques and expedite our research a bit.

As for myself, I may not have tried all of the new gadgets yet, but I’d sure like to see if the Ireland XO project can help me with my research. I’ve been trying to locate my ancestor Tobias Stafford’s family in County Wexford for longer than I’d care to admit. Tobias travelled to Canada in 1816 and settled in Lanark County; but who did he leave behind in the old country?

Who knows, with the help of Ireland Reaching Out, and a few new high tech toys – maybe THIS will be the year that I make that connection!


To help with researching your Lanark County roots – contact Lanark County Genealogical Society  or  Archives Lanark and they can help point you in the right direction.

Good luck with your family history research in 2018!