Guests at a Los Angeles Halloween party hosted by Alexis Powers in the 1970s.


The other day while buying dog food at Petco, what to my wondering eyes should appear but a plethora of Halloween costumes for dogs. Looking at the colorful array, I couldn't envision dressing Charlie or Toots in one of those adorable fashions to take them out to trick or treat.

It did bring to mind Halloweens past. Growing up on the lower east side of Manhattan, my brother and I got increasingly keyed up as time closed in on this excuse to dress up.

Store-bought costumes weren't yet the rage so we concocted our own getups. I usually dressed as a clown and my brother turned out as a bum. Mom applied lipstick to my cheeks, painted big red lips and made the tip of my nose bright red. I don't know how she managed this with my excitement level causing me to giggle hysterically throughout.

My brother's costume was less complicated. He wore my father's work shoes that were way too big on him. Dad's old felt fedora complemented his raggedy clothes. With Vaseline spread on his cheeks and chin, my mom applied coffee grounds to his young face so it looked as if he had a beard. Falling down laughing, we prepared for our big night out.

By Oct. 31 the weather was cool in New York so we'd wear a coat over our costumes or a sweater underneath. Either way, I remember the chill in the air and the feeling of warmth when we walked into an apartment building.

We never feared that anyone would hurt us as we went out unaccompanied. The most painful thing that happened was when someone slammed the door without giving us a treat.

We trotted from apartment to apartment hoping for a nickel or a dime. Once someone gave us each a quarter! Oh, my, you'd think we'd been given a million dollars. Mel and I jumped up and down with joy.

Often we were given apples. One time we received so many, we returned home, left the fruit on the kitchen table, then ventured out again.

Instead of a fancy bag, we used a paper sack. When we got home, we emptied our treasures on the kitchen table, keeping the "good stuff" and generously giving the remnants to my mom for any late trick-or-treaters.

Teasingly, my dad would come in and plead for some candy. My brother and I would let him choose one or two, hoping he didn't take the Baby Ruth, Chunky or Hershey's candy bar!

Sometimes we ate so much candy we were sick the next day. Each year my mom warned us to eat a little at a time but, hey, we were kids.

By the time my own daughters were old enough to celebrate Halloween, things had changed. Parents escorted their children and kept close to their neighborhood. One year I baked tray after tray of Halloween cookies. My husband and I decorated the house elaborately, setting up a system that emitted ghostly music as visitors approached.

When the girls were ready, I said to my husband, "Jack, you stay here and give out the cookies, and I'll take the girls around."

When I got home more than an hour later, poor Jack was standing at our front door, with several sad-faced children looking up at him. While I was gone he had taken a couple of steps onto the porch to give out some cookies. A gust of wind slammed the door shut. He was locked out, forced to make excuses to the youngsters that left our home empty-handed.

We laughed about that Halloween for a month of Sundays.

As years went by Halloween became celebrated by adults. Jack and I hosted an annual Halloween party, complete with a prize for best costume. Our party rang in the holiday season.

Thinking of past Halloween celebrations brought back wonderful memories, and I wished for those long-ago days. Maybe I'll go back to the store, buy Charlie and Toots outfits and join the children in my neighborhood at trick or treating! I wonder if anyone will give me a quarter.

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