One of the exciting periods in my young life in Caledonia was Hallowe'en. It seemed to be one of those periods which built up to a climax and then was over, like Christmas.
Hallowe'en first started when the decorations in the stores changed from the school outfits to those black and orange displays of masks and witches costumes.
Hallowe'en candy kisses wrapped in orange and black papers, along with orange and black Jelly Beans (at 10 cents per pound) filled the candy counters. All-day suckers with witches and wizards as designs were on display. Later chocolate cookies with face designs were added. And apples, it was about that time when the Boy Scouts started their apple campaigns which helped to finance their yearly activities.
Jack-o-lanterns appeared in the stores. Some of them made out of fancy paper products with electric lights in them. The genuine ones were made from hallowed out pumpkins and real candles in them. We, children, were really busy preparing for the big day. We always kept one eye on the largest pumpkin in the garden for this occasion. We never argued if the second or third one went to the Church for the Harvest Home decorations.
The schools fostered the idea of Hallowe'en as it gave new impetus to the school year, just after the build up for the Caledonia Fair and its school display. Teachers welcomed students the idea of having the classrooms decorated by the students themselves and every art class featured something to do with Hallowe'en. It was a great time for self expression. Scissors and glue along with the silhouettes made colourful displays and I believe, each child was proud of his product. Usually the last afternoon ended with a party and quite often featured a Spelling Bee or a Geography Match.
The Churches too, co-operated and many of them had Hallowe'en parties at night, not only for the young people but for all ages. I can remember some of our oldest citizens dressing up and going to the Church parties. Some of these even went Trick or Treating afterwards and had more fun than the younger folk, as the host or hostess could never find out who they were under the costumes. Sometime shoe styles would give them away or some other characteristic foot problem, but otherwise they were never discovered. The next day they would be all grins over their escapades.
We, children, would start out early. For some reason or other we were never afraid of the dark, even though the village was dimly lit. We wandered all over the town. That is, perhaps how I got to know every house, not that I visited every one of them every year but over the years few were missed.
People were considerate and an apple here, a candy there, a stick of gum (never a whole package) somewhere else; popcorn balls and candy kisses were the general rule. The sadists of to-day were never heard of then and the children's candy was safe. Soaping of windows came in at a later date as well as wilful destruction. No one ever thought of arson, like when the Overhead Bridge was burnt. There were fun incidents like putting a fully loaded hay wagon on someone's barn and the occasional two-holer was tipped over, but this type of hilarity was the work of the older people.
There were two very special places that we made certain to visit. One was Mr. Von Gunten's Jewellery Store, right next to the Toll House. Mr Von, as we called him, although not rich, used to give out shiny new silver five-cent pieces. In our eyes, each was like doling out one-dollar bills. It was a wind-fall! I often wonder how much it used to cost him each Hallowe'en!
The second place was Dr. Dean's. The good Doctor would herd us all in. Often times he must have had half of the village there at once. He held us all there until we 'tricked' before he 'treated'. His special treat was homemade Peanut Brittle, which he made himself and which he made while we were there. We all had to wait until it was cooked and so a good portion of the evening was spent in his home. As we got older we got wiser and sent the little ones in where we knew they would be entertained while we covered more territory. When we thought that the candy was ready we would appear and be in and out quickly. No use wasting valuable time!
And so Hallowe'en was a happy time. Perhaps the adults did not like it too well, but they were pleasant and doled out what they had. The children were happy too!
To-day the adults generally dread Hallowe'en. The children have lost the art of making their own fun. It has to be destructive. Even the Churches close their doors because of the vandalism and the police are run-ragged. The little ones are accosted and their bags stolen. Maniacs poison their candies and felony replaces the sport of making fun. Times have changed!