Halloween Past & Present: From the 70’s to Today

Halloween Past & Present: From the 70’s to Today

Halloween Past & Present- by Carrie Bayer

It’s the time of year where the ghosts & goblins come out. Pumpkins, black cats, styrofoam tomb stones & cottony spider webs adorn the neighborhood in anticipation of trick-or-treating. I love this time of year!

When I was a kid, my dad would put our dog on a leash & take us kids around the neighborhood to get our fill of candy. There were tons of other families out & about- it was a great night for neighbors to admire the kids’ costumes, visit & get to know each other better. It was a great sense of community, though I was too young to know what that meant. I don’t really remember what I dressed up as when I was young but I’m sure I looked fantastic – as every kid should.

When Halloween fell on a Sunday, dad would drive us to our church members’ homes the night before so we could still trick-or-treat but not on the Sabbath. A few times, we knocked on the wrong door & the residents would tell us we were too early, come back tomorrow- we would walk away very embarrassed while dad just laughed to himself.

Then in the late ’70s, kids were getting hurt by biting into candy, popcorn balls & candied apples loaded with razor blades & needles– that changed Halloween traditions forever. Gone are the nights of carefree door knocking. Kids can no longer eat their loot before mom & dad inspect every piece. To me, innocence was lost. At the time, I was OK with it because I was getting too old to trick-or-treat. But I felt bad for my little sister & her friends because it just wasn’t as fun anymore.

During the ’80s, trick-or-treating in my neighborhood was guarded. Parents came to the door with the kids instead of watching from the sidewalk. They would look at the treats before allowing their kids to accept them. They would look you over, take note of your address & what you gave – they were going to come back with the cops if they suspected you of wrongdoing. But then things began to change in an amazing way.

Communities, schools & churches began hosting Trunk-Or-Treat events where families gathered in parking lots with the trunk of their car filed with goodies. The kids would go car-to-car under the watchful eye of community & church leaders. People felt safe & the sense of community was restored- how wonderful! Then malls started having similar events, stores giving away treats, an indoor pumpkin patch, even hayrides thru the corridors! It’s so funny to see a horse pulling a cart in front of Nordstrom …

In Huntington Beach, I live in a gated community & never have kids knock on my door. It made me sad at first so I would go out on the sidewalk with my bowl of candy, giving handfuls to the few kids who walked by. But where were the rest of the kids? Surely there’s got to be more than 10 kids in my neighborhood! Then I learned about the downtown festivities.

HB does an amazing job getting its residents together on Main Street, especially on Halloween. Imagine a Halloween themed carnival within walking distance from home. Bobbing for apples, pumpkin carving & costume contests, rides, games, music, food, petting zoos- everything you could ever want for your kids on the most fun night of the year. Many stores hand out candy but some give toys, school supplies, hair accessories for girls, mini footballs for boys.

Things sure have changed since I was a kid & I’m so glad they have! Once again, families can go out on Halloween night & feel safe. They can have tons of fun, see friends & neighbors while still getting their fill on treats. Things have come full circle & then some!

What are some of your favorite Halloween memories? What are your most enjoyable traditions? And what was your best costume ever? I can’t wait to hear from you!

Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Molly grew up in and around funeral homes her entire life. In 2009 she began working for O'Connor Mortuary and found a bridge between her passion for writing and her interest in grief and bereavement. In 2016 she earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. She is honored to be able to write about these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective.


  1. Anne Collins says:

    Reading your fun post brought back so many memories. Trick or treating in a very small town was very safe and so much fun. Even the pranks that some of the boys did were safer. They would soap windows. Since it was writing with the edge of a bar of soap on glass, it washed right off and there was no collateral damage to the recipient.

    Our house had rules about the candy. Also, since we were rather poor, it all made sense. I ate one piece of candy a day, at the most two. So my candy lasted until spring. I saved the hard kind until last. I remember laying in bed reading my favorite Bobbsey Twins book series, sucking on a candy in January, knowing I was the only one of my friends who still had any candy left.

    It was a deeper lesson in thrift and discipline, I suppose. Deny instant pleasure, in order to have extended pleasure. I don’t remember any of my costumes, but they were all creatively made at home with what we had. I always had fun and totally loved the night.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    • Carrie Bayer says:

      Anne, I love that you learned a valuable lesson about being thrifty from your Halloween fun- that is wonderful! Even the pranks sound like good, clean fun. The only pranks in our neighborhood were the smashed pumpkins in the street- I would always cry when my pumpkin met it’s demise. Thank you for sharing your story! XOXOX Carrie

  2. Lori says:

    We used to have so much fun at Halloween when I was a kid! My mom’s mom made us the best costumes and my mom hosted parties for us each year before we headed out to trick or treat. We would bob for apples and play fun party games before heading out for our pillowcases full of candy.
    Yes, innocence was lost when wrongdoers started sabotaging the candy. I love your point about how communities have come together to find away around the destruction.
    Great post!
    xoxox Lori

    • Carrie Bayer says:

      Lori- Wow, your mom is awesome! That is so cool that she would have a party for you before sending you out to score your loot. I can just picture little Lori Bristol in her adorable costumes! Thank you for sharing! XOXOX Carrie

  3. Hi Carrie –

    Halloween has been a great night for me as a kid. We had a group or gang of about 10-15 people we would trick or treat with. Mrs. Campell was amazing she would give out full size Hershey Candy Bars, we always tried to knock on her door twice, yet she would never go for it! As we got older we got a little rowdier, with shaving cream fights, and egg fights, we smashed a couple of pumpkins in our day too. Now I love seeing the little kids costumes and how they say “Trick of Treat”, how many kids really want a trick? Come on, it’s all about the sugar!

    • Carrie Bayer says:

      Neil, it sounds like you had a great time on Halloween as a kid- bless Mrs Campbell! I agree, seeing all the little kids in their costumes & hearing them say Trick or Treat is so awesome- I love it too! Thank you for sharing your Halloween memories! XOXOX Carrie

  4. Marianne Piotrowski says:

    I and my on friend from the neighborhood would go trick or treating all over our neighborhood. Back in those days we used the shopping bags from the local grocery store as our bads for putting our candy in. I remember one year when my bag filled up fast with great goodies. Back in my day the woman of the house used to make home made goodies, candied apples, caramel apples, popcorn balls, brownies and many other things. One year was so great that I went home 2 times to empty my bag and went out one last time. Three bags of goodies, omg, it lasted til almost Valentines day. People also gave money in those days, pennies, nickels, dimes, and the occasional quarters. I’m glad that kids at least have the safety of parties at school, or through their communities. It is a great way to socialize. Thanks for bringing back wonderful memories Carrie.

    • Carrie Bayer says:

      Mari, I am picturing you right now- running around your neighborhood with tons of loot in your bag, I love it! Thank you for sharing your great memories of Halloween, I bet you had some of the greatest costumes ever. Love, Carrie

  5. Molly says:

    I completely agree that Halloween is a great bringer-together of community, family & friends. We started a new tradition last year that was just awesome and involved us staying in our neighborhoods and meeting our neighbors in a much more interactive way (I’ll be sharing it on Wednesday so stay tuned!). I get so excited for this holiday every year and I love the joy & heart that you have poured into it in any way you could.
    Thanks for sharing these new traditions & resources with us & for sharing how much you love this time of year! It shows!

    • Carrie Bayer says:

      Molly, I’m so glad you enjoy this holiday as much as I do. I’m so looking forward to spending the evening with my friends & their kids. This year we will be handing out candy since the kids feel they have outgrown the trick-or-treating thing. We are going to watch scary movies, eat way too much candy & play Wii games, I’m so excited! I hope your holiday is the most enjoyable one yet! Carrie

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