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Halloween Night In The 80's

     October is here and Halloween is upon us once again. You know what that means, ghosts, goblins, and everything pumpkin spice flavored. It is time to choose what I will be this Halloween. As I wander through the Halloween stores looking for any idea of what to be, hoping to find something that 20 other people are not wearing at the Halloween party, I find myself ending up in the children's costumes. I never knew there could be 10 different versions of a ninja or that you are required to spend more money on the accessories that completes the costume. If I am gonna spend $40 dollars on a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costume, it should at least come with the weapons. Let's not even get started on the young girls costumes. I never knew a parent growing up that would have let their daughter go out in public wearing something so revealing.

     Then I got to thinking about what I used to wear on Halloween growing up. The year was 1985. This year stood out because it was the first year when I was allowed to pick out my own costume. No longer did I have to be a vampire. That 3 year streak was coming to an end today. My mom took me to Woolworths and as we headed down the Halloween aisle my mom made the biggest mistake, because after what I saw I knew we were not leaving for awhile. The greatest costumes, in my opinion, were before me. One name, Ben Cooper. There was everyone and everything you could think of, superheroes, cartoon characters, monsters, you name it. You could see the plastic masks staring at you through the window of these cardboard boxes. Now Ben Cooper was nothing new in the 80s, in fact I believe they date back to the 60s, maybe even earlier. Didn't matter, the only thing that was a problem was deciding on what to be.

 So I decided on Casper the Friendly Ghost. I don't know why. I could not wait to go home and try it on. That smell of vinyl, nothing like it. Mask, top, pants, boom done. 30 seconds to get dressed, that's it. No need for accessories either, unless of course you went as Darth Vader and wanted a light saber, or He-Man with his sword. Didn't matter in my case because in one hand I would be holding my free Woolworths treat bag, and in the other my Casper mask cause my big head snapped the rubber band off. Seemed to happen a lot to those masks. Still better than being a vampire again.
     So off to my family's Halloween party where I would meet up with my brothers and cousins. I don't remember too much Halloween music that wasn't just scary sounds. I just remember hearing The Monster Mash and Michael Jackson's Thriller on an endless loop. Tonight's festivities include bobbing for apples, pin the tail on the donkey, hitting the pinata, and watching my dad and uncles getting drunk in the corner while my mom and aunts took care of the kids.

     Now the thing with bobbing for apples is you do not want to be at the back of the line, which I was. One cousin was sick and refused to wipe his runny nose, another was a clown and felt the need to wear as much makeup as his face would hold, and yet another girl cousin of mine recently discovered glitter. So by the time it was my turn you could only imagine what was floating around in this bucket of bacteria. Gross. Didn't matter as there were only two apples left, one with a bite taken out of it and the other a fake one which someone thought was funny to prank a 6 year old with. Whatever. On to the pinata. I was just a little guy so I knew I was not going to even tickle this pinata that was shaped like a donkey. I think they were all donkeys back then. It's not like I had a fair chance as there are pictures of me just swinging at air.  My oldest cousin ended up busting it wide open. Talk about a free for all. Of course being one of the smallest I got the leftovers. I had my choice of Smarties, black licorice, and that taffy that comes in the black and orange wrapper. The trifecta of evil candy in my opinion. It was okay because now it was Trick or Treat time.
     Now in those days the parents only went along with the little little kids. By the time they got tired the bigger kids stayed out. Our ages ranged from 6 to 12, and parents were not worried at all. We occasionally had glow sticks but that was it. Now mind you it was past 8 PM and we were still out by ourselves. Nowadays kids are home before it even gets dark. Of course we would walk to the "rich" neighborhoods because we knew we could get full size candy bars and treat bags full of goodies. It seemed like more people were into the Halloween spirit in those days, or at least in the neighborhoods I lived in. I could remember going to every single house, which was decorated by the way, and they would hand out candy. Now you're lucky if it's every third house.There were many home haunts that dared you to go inside, and you never worried about people being dangerous. Maybe it was just our naivete. We knew if we could stay out 'til at least 11 PM, which we did, that many people would be going to sleep. Yet there were still kids out at that time. You know what that means when people go to sleep?

They leave their candy in a bowl with a sign that says "Please take one". Yeah, I know it's kind of rude to the other kids but it was already past 11 PM and this kid wasn't gonna eat root beer flavored hard candy all night. I needed a win after my day. That was the extent of our mischief though. We knew to go back home by midnight because that's when the real Halloween pranks start to happen.  Oh to wake the next day to find toilet paper in the trees flowing in the breeze, or that the pumpkin you spent hours on that had triangle eyes and three teeth, smashed on the ground. Time to go home and have mom and dad check the Pixie Stix and Smarties for any potential poison, or Snickers bars for razor blades. Never did find any of that, I wonder if it was all just an urban legend. The way I ate my Halloween candy is I would separate the good stuff (chocolate bars) from everything else. I would eat all the other stuff first so I could savor the good stuff last. Am I alone on that one? And if dad wanted a piece of candy? Here dad, have a Bit O Honey or Mary Jane cause you are not getting my M&Ms.
     So here I am and I think about my own nieces and nephews Trick or Treating. It starts at 5 PM. 5 PM!!! Not only that but they have to wear wristbands which determines which neighborhood you can go to to Trick or Treat. If you have a red wristband you cannot go to a neighborhood that requires you to have a purple wristband. So no going to the "rich" neighborhoods. No more costumes that come in a box with a window in which the plastic mask stares through into your soul. Guess I'll just be a vampire this year. Better yet maybe I'll turn off all the lights and just put some candy in a bowl and leave it in front of the door, pop in my DVD with It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown and Garfield's Halloween Adventure, and watch it until I fall asleep.

Did any of you have any of these costume? What do you think about costumes back then, doesn't have to be from the 80's, compared to costumes now?

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onipar Posted on Oct 08, 2015 at 02:21 PM

Ah man, those old Ben cooper and collegeville costumes! I remember them well. Even though I don't think I used them many times, they were everywhere come fall, and they are a huge part of my memory.

massreality Posted on Oct 05, 2015 at 05:27 PM

I had a Michelangelo and Batman costume like that. I agree with Vaporman, those masks were hot and very uncomfortable. I also remember how thin the vinyl was. I'm pretty sure I ripped one of my costumes before he end of the night.

Vaporman87 Posted on Oct 05, 2015 at 05:21 PM

Oh I wore my fair share of Ben Cooper costumes (and probably some Collegeville ones as well). I don't recall which unfortunately, but I do remember the feel and smell of those vinyl costumes and the uncomfortable feel of those plastic masks. Often my face would be pouring sweat, as those masks made it impossible to vent the condensation from your breathing. Then the rubber band would get caught in your hair and that would get really uncomfortable. I still love them though.

The bacteria cesspools that we used for bobbing for apples games was something I never thought about. As a kid, it never even crossed my mind that 50 people had put their faces in there before me. Now, of course, it makes me sick just thinking about it. LOL And yes, the time frames that we do trick or treating at now seem absurd. It is barely dark by the time my kids are done (about 7:00 PM) and that really detracts from the experience. I do make sure to tag alone with my kids these days, even though I was free to roam our neighborhood with no parental supervision in my youth. mainly because their is a major road cutting through the houses, and because it's just more dangerous for kids these days. But we do get in on the act by costuming ourselves.

Fun article slayer, thanks!

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