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Halloween and Entropy

So another Halloween is now history. It was an absolutely gorgeous Saturday in Colorado Springs, sunny and in the low 70s all afternoon and early evening. I kept a mental tally of how many groups of kids came to the door. Care to guess?


Ahh, well. Nothing new there. Like entropy, Halloween is not what it used to be, and knowing what we now know about sugar, that may be for the best.

You don’t buy nine candy bars at a time, so Carol and I ate far too much chocolate for dessert this evening–and not great chocolate either. It was the Great Big Bag of Mega-Mass-Produced Miniature Candy Bars ‘n Things. I picked the bag clean of Rolos and Nestle’s Crunch. Carol grabbed the Reese’s peanut butter cups. Tomorrow the rest of the bag goes to the big candy bowl over at Canine Solutions. Every year it’s more or less the same: I remember how much I like Rolos, I eat a few too many of them, and then I won’t have them again until next Halloween.

Man, that’s a familiar routine.

This year’s Halloween brought to mind one of my favorite years: 1964. I was 12. It was the last full year before puberty’s hormone storms began washing over my gunwales, though I could already hear its distant thunder. I had discovered electronics–and the Beatles. My father was healthy. We had a summer place, on a lake. Better still, Halloween was on a Saturday…and it was warm! I could run around as a Barbary pirate without three sweaters under my costume.

I got together with a couple of my friends and we ranged all over the neighborhood, going blocks and blocks afield, and I ended up with a pretty fat bag of sugar. Diversity was the order of the day. There were lots more species of candy in the Halloween ecosphere back in ’64. Most of it was good. Some items I liked more than others. A few I wouldn’t touch, like the almost inexplicable Chicken Bones. I would have traded them to my friends for Smarties (which, alas, now give me headaches) except that they didn’t want them either. Ditto Mary Janes–wouldn’t touch ’em, though I remember getting a Turkish Taffy from my friend Art as swap for a handful. Individually wrapped Charms were about, if not common, though more common than the peculiar but compelling Choward’s Violets. And Snaps! Loved those, more for the not-quite-spicy coating than for the underlying licorice. The small red Snaps boxes all had “2c” printed in very big letters. Small boxes of Atomic Fireballs and Good’n’Plenty could be had here and there. I remember one house handing out very stale conversation hearts, from the previous February or possibly earlier. There used to be individually wrapped Chuckles, which I haven’t seen in a lot of years, as well as short rolls of Necco Wafers. I broke a tooth on a Necco wafer when I was in high school, and haven’t done them much since.

Every so often somebody would be passing out pennies. Meh–I got whole dimes rescuing returnable soda bottles tossed into empty lots. There was a house down on Hortense that was giving out flyers about Lutheranism along with Tootsie Pops. The nuns at our school were very hard on Luther, who was painted as the chief Protestant supervillain, though he got off easy compared to Arius, who according to Catholic legend was eaten alive by worms. And hey, nobody hands out fliers about Arianism, with or without Tootsie Pops.

I think you get the idea. We didn’t throw rolls of toilet paper into trees or anything like that, because it was a bad use of our time. We were in it for the sugar, and we all knew that Halloween on a Saturday was something we would not see again for seven years, and with summery weather, well, in Chicago probably never.

My sugar buzz is now almost gone, and it’s pretty much time to go to bed. I don’t eat a lot of sugar, and you’ve all seen my rants about how sugar is making us all fat. It’s not me being inconsistent. It’s about the notion of celebration, and how if we celebrate something for too long, that which we celebrate becomes ordinary, and loses its magic. If I ate Rolos all the time I’d get tired of them, and fat to boot. So I eat them once a year. Halloween is as good a time as any, and allows me to remember the buzz of being not-quite-grown at a time when kids could tear around for an afternoon without adult supervision, and no one would freak out. Like warm Halloweens on Chicago Saturdays, such will not be seen again for a long time, if ever.


  1. Eric Brombaugh says:

    Our slogan is “Moderation in virtue as well as vice.”

    Sadly, the trick-or-treaters stopped coming through our neighborhood years ago so we no longer have any reason to buy the big bag o’ sugar. I still can’t resist the malted milk hard-shell eggs at Easter though.

  2. Tom Roderick says:

    I had only three groups and those were small. Maybe 25 or 30 kids total. At least none of the 17 going on 35 year olds as in some past years. (This year I wasn’t even sure that some of the parents were 17!)

    My mistake AGAIN this year was buying candy that I like and far too much of it. When I was working I would take it into work and fill candy dishes in every department and it was like being Santa Clause in early November. Now I take a couple of Snickers to the last big hamfest of the season to keep me going in the 4 acre bone yard.

    I liked your reflection on the notion of celebration and that when things are no longer rare or special once a year treats they loose a lot of the magic. I wish retailers would realize that about all holidays — ESPECIALLY Christmas.

    My Mother was a Halloween fanatic and one year even custom ordered boxes of candied apples to give out. Back in those days the treats didn’t have to be hermetically sealed and certified.

  3. RH in CT says:

    “…and we all knew that Halloween on a Saturday was something we would not see again for seven years…”

    But it came again in just six! 😎

    Sounds like you guys live in boring neighborhoods. My wife said to stock up for 75 kids because that’s what we always get. It isn’t, though it used to be, but I know better than to argue. The assortments* came in boxes of 30, so we had 90, minus what I stashed away, and what we ate before it started. We actually had about 60 kids show up, as usual. Leftovers went to our daughter’s house the next day when she was having company and was spread out among all the kids there.

    *(Pretty good stuff, mostly. Snickers, Hershey bars, Kit-Kats, Reese’s cups, and such, all normal size not micro.)

    1. Gakkh. Leap years. Didn’t think of that, but of course it’s true.

      Then again, even six years from 1964 would have been 1970, and that fall I was already in college and no longer doing the Halloween thing.

      1. RH in CT says:

        Of course it was irrelevant. Correcting an irrelevancy has a particular charm. 😎

    2. I forgot to mention: We live in a neighborhood populated largely by retired Army and AF brass, in which our $600K home is one of the cheapest. There aren’t a lot of young families anywhere nearby. When we moved here there were actually more kids within a block or so, but although the families are still there, the kids are now in college or married. I suppose these things go in waves, and we’re now in a trough.

  4. Lee Hart says:

    You guys must live in stingy neighborhoods. We had 60-70 kids this year, which is down a bit but still enough to go through 3 bags ‘o treats.

    I always have fun making my own decorations. This year, I had a remote-controlled crawling zombie, a “head of R&D” (thanks for the inspiration, Jeff!), and a bubblin’ cauldron with an animated grinning ghoul at the bottom. Plus an assortment of commercial tricks ‘n treats. I think I have as much fun as the kids. 🙂

  5. zeph says:

    Click. Click. Jeff. I have been hearing a bit from people who are involved in civic organizations that, on the whole, the organizations are starting to not function. They’re losing people. This is an issue. I believe you’re seeing this issue. Commentary?

    1. Many organizations are starting to malfunction, from Yale University all the way down to local social meetups. I’ve been watching this for some time, and see that most of it is due to tribalism. However, if you can provide more specific examples I’ll make a Contra entry out of it as soon as time allows. (I’m taking down shelves today, amidst clouds of dust. Cripes, we’ve only been in this house for eleven years!)

  6. Sam'l B says:

    “…nobody hands out fliers about Arianism…”

    Jehovah’s Witless do — and Mohammedans are Arians, too

    1. Ouch. Agreed. And no Tootsie Pops, either.

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