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
Hello! I'm Molly and I run & manage the Blog here at O'Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who's deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try. Work at O'Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective. I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.


  1. amy says:


    Times sure do change. It’s amazing to be a part of things as they change and change for the good. I enjoyed getting my girls all dolled up in their favorite costume of the year and taking them to church to the harvest festival. We were safe and had a great time. Now that they are older they still dress up but they volunteer at the church and help the younger kids. It is a great thing to set traditions for my girls and hope that they will continue.


  2. Patricia Kolstad says:

    Carrie . . you sure know how to take us back!

    I loved watching my kids create costumes, and sometimes I got to help them. It was always so much fun for me. I remember that I never had a store bought costume. It was always and old sheet, two cut out holes to see and my dad’s tie around my next so the whole sheet thing wouldn’t fall off. I think I was a ghost my whole life until I got older and could by my own. Then I purchased a terrible looking old hag of a witch full head mask. It was hotter than anything, and sticky inside from sweat and drool. Yuk! Let’s not go there . .

    Now I watch my grandkids and it’s so much fun. You were right, things are so different now. We left at dark and didn’t come home until our sacks (paper bags from the market) were full.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane . . this was great!



  3. Fitz says:

    Hi Carrie,

    Your blog brings back so many fond memories of past Halloween days. Growing up in a small town in the midwest, it was one of those events each year that would remind us all that winter was right around the corner. The weather was always a little cooler so the costumes had to be a little heavier to bring warmth….funny, though, I remember always being sweaty regardless of the temp from running door to door on the candy grab.

    Great Stuff. Thanks,

    • Carrie Bayer says:

      Fitz, I’m sure you didn’t mind getting all sweaty while collecting your loot! Sometimes I wish I had grown up in a small town where you could go out & feel safe on Halloween, it sounds like a great experience for those who were there. Thank you for sharing! XOXXO Carrie

  4. Tom says:

    Thank you for bringing to my senses the warmth of this time of year with thoughts of Halloween.

  5. Jeff says:

    Carrie or Careless as I like to call you,

    My earliest memories involve the smell of a polystyrene “Casper” mask at the age of 3 or 4. The volume of candy was amazing at that age. It seemed to last for months. The excitement of being out at night and all the energy in the neighborhood was so exciting.

    It was also one of my first experiences with injustice. My sister, who is four years older that I, had her entire bag of candy stolen by some kid in a costume. I was incredulous! I wanted JUSTICE! Where were the police? I wanted to hurt this person; physically. I might have voted for the death penalty in this case.

    Because of my monk like ways I have avoided Halloween altogether at times. Turning off lights and hiding in the house not answering the door. Last year my family decided to move out front with a fire-pit, candy and Starbucks travelers for the adults. This has turned onto the kind of event where we actually meet our neighbors. The hot coffee is a welcomed “treat” for the parents.

    So Halloween has new meaning and fun as we get to enjoy our friends and neighbors avoiding hiding of all things.

    I love you Careless! Thanks for bringing back these memories for me.


    • Carrie Bayer says:

      Jeff, I would have felt the same way if my sister’s bag of candy was stolen- how mean of that kid! I’m glad to hear that you are coming out of your Halloween shell & getting to know your neighbors. It’s fun to participate in the festivities. I have a feeling you will be known as the cool neighbor now that you are treating the parents to Starbucks! Thank you for sharing! XOXOX Carrie

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