Trick or treat? Military mom sees aging candy gatherers

| October 28, 2016 | 1 Comment

The Meat and Potatoes of Life



Lisa Smith Molinari
Contributing Writer
A few Halloweens ago, I was sitting on the porch of my privatized housing at Naval Station Mayport, giving candy to trick-or-treaters on our street.
My husband went door to door with our kids, while I stayed home and tried to not gorge myself on Heath bars.

For the most part, the ghouls, goblins and princesses were what you’d expect on Halloween night: ages 4 to 14 wearing tennis shoes under their costume and taking three candies when they were supposed to take only two.
How old?
However, there were some unconventional trick-or-treaters, too: post-pubescent teens who were taller than me and shaved regularly, and first-time parents pushing infants dressed as pea pods and pirates in strollers, who took candy despite the obvious fact that their babies had no teeth.

I couldn’t help but wonder, “Has Halloween become a sugar-coated free-for-all? And if it has, does anyone really care?”

Apparently, some do.

Anyone care?
Several cities in Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi, Virginia and South Carolina have felt strongly enough to enact laws limiting the age one can trick-or-treat on Halloween night.

And a survey conducted last year by the American Association of Retired Persons, or AARP, found that age 12 was the median response for 80 percent of those polled.

In a poll, 57 percent believed that kids should stop trick-or-treating between 12 and 15. And, in a poll, 62 percent thought there should be an age limit, with 13 being the most common answer.

Mark Eckert, the mayor of one of the towns that restricts trick-or-treating after age 12, recalled, “When I was a kid, my father said to me, ‘You’re too damn big to be going trick-or-treating. You’re done.’”

That was the mentality during my childhood, too. In the 70s, trick-or-treaters were elementary schoolers. Period. It was an unwritten rule followed without analysis or exception.

What to wear?
We trick-or-treated chaperoned on Halloween night wearing homemade get-ups like Charlie Brown’s bed sheets or boxed costumes that consisted of a cheap mask and a 100 percent polyester sheath printed to resemble Bugs Bunny, Sleeping Beauty or Fred Flintstone. Not only did the poor children wearing these costumes look nothing like the characters they longed to portray, they also had to steer clear of open fires to avoid bursting into flames!

The masks, well, they had two round holes to see through, and a tiny slit at the mouth that was not big enough to allow breath to escape, making it a steamy, uncomfortable affair. Made of eggshell-thin plastic and held on by flimsy elastic bands, the masks had a working life of about an hour and a half.

But low-quality costumes were not the only harsh realities of Halloween in the 1970s. While the elementary kids were scampering door to door, the rest of the teenage population were in the streets, too, toilet-papering, egging, powder bombing, window soaping, pumpkin smashing and ding-dong-ditching the night away.

Summing up
Which is why, a significant number of people today, 39 percent, according to the poll, say that trick-or-treating should be encouraged at any age.

Hans Broedel, a University of North Dakota professor who has studied the history of Halloween customs, said, “Trick-or-treating, in a large part, is embraced in this country because it serves to cut down on teenage vandalism.”

Indiana University School of Public Health professor Johnathan Beckmeyer said that older teens might trick-or-treat for the free candy, or it could be that they enjoy experimenting with new identities.

tickortreatflashlights-halloween“Halloween is the ultimate role play day,” said Golden Gate University professor, Dr. Kit Yarrow, who opined that millennials simply like to express themselves in public ways.

On that Halloween night in Mayport, something else happened that helped me to put things in perspective.

The street was buzzing with trick-or-treaters, when suddenly, the base loudspeaker crackled with the nightly broadcast of “Colors.” Every parent, pea pod, pirate, princess, goblin, ghoul and gangly teenager stopped to face the flag.

For a moment, we all recognized that, at any age, the sweetest treat we have is being American.
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