According to the History Channel, “Halloween has its roots in age-old European traditions. It originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. Over time, Halloween evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating and carving jack-o-lanterns.”

When I was a kid we traveled around our neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley like a pack of scavengers looking for the perfect treat. That’s what the evening meant to us. We would compare notes from the previous year’s event to plot our strategy days in advance, but rarely did our complicated plans to achieve maximum sugar shock work.

A couple of years ago I took a ride through my old stomping grounds to see what happened in the 50-plus years since I left for an Air Force career. As with many old neighborhoods this one has changed dramatically from my childhood and I have no desire to ever return.

But, back to our little pack of scavengers. In the 1950s you weren’t worried about grotesque clowns who were out to attack you. No, Clarabelle, Emmet Kelly and others were laughable diversions from everyday life. Kids who dressed up in these creative costumes with their mom’s help were the hit of the night.

The candies were reasonable. I can still remember a couple of us boys sifting through our paper bags the day after our collections and trading ones we didn’t care for to others who did like them. After a couple of weeks everything was stale and finally some of it got tossed out.

There were no worries about razor blades, hidden pins to stick you or, worse, poisoned brownies. The worst thing I can remember was an old man who put dog biscuits in some kid’s bags. Maybe he recognized us.

Pumpkins made of tumble weeds and ghosts ruled the front porches. Some folks were very creative and added sound to the mix. I have seen some very creative decorations around Lompoc in the past couple of years and this year is no exception. I guess some things don’t change.

Back then parents turned their kids loose to find their way around the neighborhood. While they gave a “be careful” on their way out, that was the extent of parental supervision. The times were different and so were the attitudes of families. This was the era following the end of WWII and the Korean conflict, and we were expected to take care of ourselves.

Today it’s much different. There are a lot of sick and demented people roaming around prompted by horror films and the suggestions of cyberspace. Now parents must accompany their kids to make sure someone doesn’t harm them as they seek their treats.

And, the treats themselves can cause problems. Some seriously misguided people think it’s fun to plop cannabis-laced treats and other hazardous items in unsuspecting bags. It saddens me to see that hospitals feel a need to offer free X-rays of your child’s candy to detect harmful metallic items.

For goodness sakes, either hand out good stuff in its original wrappings or just don’t give anything. Little kids shouldn’t have to be exposed to rotten people out to hurt them.

For the older kids who think it’s hilarious to destroy someone’s challenging work by wrecking their displays, think twice. How would you like someone to rip down your hard-rock posters?

May your bags be full of treats — and parents, be sure to watch your little ones.

Ron Fink is a local activist and can be reached at: rfink@impulse.net.

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