October 30, 2020
Trick-or-Treat, Give Me Something
Good to Eat!
Children in Halloween costumes ready for trick-or-treating, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, c.1940–1946
Halloween! It is the holiday of wide eyed children, wonderful costumes, neighborhood visits, and delicious treats. While it is not clear what a COVID-19 Halloween will bring, this beloved holiday dates back over 2,000 years ago “to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain… the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed… the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred… the night of October 31… when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earthBy the 9th century, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands… In 1000 A.D., the church made November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead.”[1]
Depiction of the centuries old tradition of bobbing for apples, 1886
Police officer and city government administrator Maxie L. Patterson vividly recalled as a child in Detroit, Michigan: “Halloween… we used to go out trick or treating, and it was safe enough you could walk the streets and parents didn't have to go with you… we would have these big brown paper shopping bags, and people gave you so much that you could fill them up, bring them home, drop it off and get another bag, and go back out, but you had to be careful because they would give you fruit, and the… apples and oranges were big, and so they would weigh the bag down, and sometimes they would split out the bottom. But also, a lot of times, you would go to a house and they have a big tub of water… and apples would be floating in there, and you had to get on your hands and knees with no hands, and get the apple out with just your teeth.”[2] Former CEO of the YWCA and the Girls Scouts of Chicago Audrey Peeples added: “At Halloween time they'd have a huge Halloween parade… your mother would make your Halloween outfit and… we would make lanterns and put candles… in the lantern and… have a lantern parade around the neighborhood, and the merchants would give the playground donuts and cider and stuff like that and so when you did your trick-or-treating you didn't go to people's houses. All of the stuff was there in the playground and so you'd go down there in your Halloween outfit and drink your cider and eat your donuts and then you'd get all this trick-or-treat stuff. It was great.”[3]
Roasting marshmallows 
For historian Fannie Rushing, the fall leaves stood out most: “I loved Halloween; I loved getting dressed up in all those costumes. And… two houses down there was a big vacant lot. And so, Halloween, we'd all go out and we'd rake the vacant lot… my father [Albert Rushing] was responsible for taking me trick-or-treating. And when we came back from trick-or-treating, then my mother would light a bonfire… and we'd burn the leaves and roast hot dogs and marshmallows. And gradually the neighborhood children started to come to the after trick-or-treating bonfire that mother always had. So I can still remember the smell of the leaves burning in the autumn.”[4]
Children’s Halloween party, c.1940s
Reverend France A. Davis found the festivities frightening as a child: “There were three very special teachers that I still remember… one was named Mrs. Davis… she rescued me one night when they had a Halloween party. I showed up with my family for the Halloween party, saw all of the different costumes and was afraid. She, from inside of the school building, heard me crying and rushed out and rescued me as a result of that.[5] Educator Barbara Dodson Walker too spoke of being frightened by Halloween: “I never liked Halloween and I never liked the 4th of July. I don't like to be frightened so I never liked those two and if they never had Halloween and the 4th of July, it would be fine with me.”[6] The late psychiatrist Dr. Carl Bell (1947 - 2019), on the other hand, had a real reason to be frightened: “I went next door and they gave me a grapefruit in my trick or treating bag. And then I went next door and I got a nickel. And then before I get to the third door I got robbed (laughter), the West Side of Chicago. And I went home crying 'cause I was about five or so.”[7] Michael Scott, Sr. (1949 - 2009), former president of the Chicago Park District and the Chicago Board of Education, told of a similar experience: “I remember being out for Halloween one night. And I worked my can off… we had been to every house in the neighborhood. I had a bag this full with another good friend, Clyde Crenshaw, who became a policeman and musician, who lives on the South Side [of Chicago] as well… we had all this stuff, and… several guys… ran by, took our candy. And we just had to stand there and watch it (laughs).”[8]
Trick-or-treating, Chicago, Illinois, 1987
Unlike Bell and Scott, radio personality La Donna Tittle made it home with her candy: “Halloween was the best time. Because you had… sixteen apartments on one floor, and you have sixteen floors. So, multiply that with the candy you pick up for Halloween is tremendous. We would be sick as dogs, because we'd eat candy for two weeks.”[9] Publisher Rosalind Juanita Harris and her family were more frugal with their sweets: “[We] would come back with pillowcases full of candy… Then, my mom would take the candy… and it'd be distributed probably for the whole year.”[10] Public relations executive Barbara Heineback named other Halloween treats: “People would get fifty cents or a quarter… [a] couple of pennies or a nickel or candy. But we never wanted money, we want the candy. And there was one woman in the neighborhood who made… homemade jellied apples, a little German lady. Halloween was the best holiday of the year as far as I was concerned.”[11] Bank executive and urban planner Morris Robinson also received a wide array of things while trick-or-treating in his predominantly European neighborhood in Chicago: “We used to have… the greatest Halloweens over there because along Milwaukee Avenue there were nothing but storefront shops of all different kinds. And, and we'd go trick-or-treating, and when we got home, we'd find in our bags not just fruit and whatever, we'd find meat (laughter), we'd find bratwurst, we'd find cheeses, we'd find all that kind of stuff. And I think if you look at it from a practical sense, these were immigrants from Europe who had just gone through the war [World War II]… And then sometimes you'd find at the bottom of your bag pennies and what have you. Halloweens were a lot of fun.”[12]
Sears Roebuck & Co. Halloween costume catalog, 1956
Journalist Michele Norris remembered getting her costume from a catalog, but it doubled as pajamas:I do remember on Halloween, I remember this very clearly… Sears [Sears, Roebuck and Co.] catalog would come with all of the Halloween costumes, and I wanted something that had tiaras and wands and I wanted to be a fairy princess, because all the other little girls in the neighborhood, were going to be like fairy princesses, my father dressed me up as Tony Oliva [Minnesota Twins player], and it was this Sears costume… the baseball costume, that doubled as pajamas, so… I had to wear the Tony Oliva costume for months afterward.”[13] Program administrator and educator Loann Honesty King had other issues with her costume: “My mother [Elizabeth Chipchase Honesty] had bought me a Halloween outfit and it was supposed to be a shamrock… it had the little green oilcloth shamrock for a hat and a lovely little white dress, fluffy with little shamrocks on it. And I went to school and a [white] teacher… told me that I couldn't have that costume on… And I didn't understand why… and we used to do the dunk the apples at the lunchtime and I deliberately wet the costume up so I wouldn't have to wear it back to school that afternoon. So, she [her mother] was upset that I had messed up the costume, but… I went back as a gypsy… that was quite acceptable to the instructor… And I said, ‘Well you know the only reason I didn't wear it back was because I wet it up, not because you told me not to wear it back.’ I just did not want her to have the satisfaction of knowing… [and] I knew if I had gone home and said that to my mother there would be an issue and she'd be up to school and it was Halloween, we were having fun, and I didn't want to go through all that hassle.”[14][15] Unfortunately, these are not uncommon occurrences during the Halloween season. Former mayor of New Orleans, Louisiana, Marc H. Morial, recalled at the University of Pennsylvania, “students in a frat house wearing black face, holding a Confederate flag up on Halloween night.”[16] Journalist Hazel Trice Edney remembered while working as a reporter, “doing a story on Halloween where a man… had been hanging a black man in effigy… on Halloween… [which] was offending black people. I went to his house. He said, ‘I don't even call you black people. I call you niggers.’”[17] For historian and reference librarian Janet L. Sims-Wood in Avondale, North Carolina “during Halloween, we did not go out… it was still a segregated area. And that was the time during the '40s [1940s] and '50s [1950s]… we did not go out… and trick-or-treat.”[18]
Still, for many, as broadcast journalist Clarice Tinsley pointed out, Halloween—especially in childhood—is truly a magical night: “The smell of burning leaves… Trick-or-treating… on Halloween night… it [was] so vivid. I could literally look up in the sky and almost swear that I could see witches and goblins flying around.”[19] While the festivities will likely be unique this year, the magic might still remain through the fall leaves, sweet treats, fun costumes, and new traditions. 
[1] “Halloween 2020,” A&E Television Networks, last updated September 21, 2020, accessed September 28, 2020. https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween
[2] Maxie L. Patterson (The HistoryMakers A2007.060), interviewed by Denise Gines, February 9, 2007, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 12, Maxie L. Patterson describes his neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan.
[3] Audrey Peeples (The HistoryMakers A2003.203), interviewed by Larry Crowe, August 25, 2003, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 11, Audrey Peeples describes her childhood activities and interests.
[4] Fannie Rushing (The HistoryMakers A2003.288), interviewed by Larry Crowe, December 5, 2003, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 2, story 3, Fannie Rushing describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood in Hyde Park, Chicago, Illinois.
[5] Reverend France A. Davis (The HistoryMakers A2008.049), interviewed by Larry Crowe, March 13, 2008, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 2, story 4, Reverend France A. Davis recalls his favorite teachers at Gough Elementary School in Gough, Georgia.
[6] Barbara Dodson Walker (The HistoryMakers A2004.015), interviewed by Sandra Ford Johnson, March 4, 2004, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 2, story 9, Barbara Dodson Walker talks about growing up in Washington, D.C.
[7] Dr. Carl Bell (The HistoryMakers A2008.117), interviewed by Larry Crowe, November 3, 2008, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 2, story 8, Dr. Carl Bell describes his earliest childhood memories.
[8] Michael Scott, Sr. (The HistoryMakers A2004.021), interviewed by Julieanna L. Richardson, March 12, 2004, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 10, Michael Scott describes his personality as a young schoolboy.
[9] La Donna Tittle (The HistoryMakers A2003.041), interviewed by Larry Crowe, March 17, 2003, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 12, La Donna Tittle describes living in Robert Taylor Homes as a youth.
[10] Rosalind Juanita Harris (The HistoryMakers A2008.125), interviewed by Denise Gines, November 5, 2008, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 2, story 3, Rosalind Juanita Harris remembers the holidays.
[11] Barbara Heineback (The HistoryMakers A2005.181), interviewed by Jodi Merriday, August 2, 2005, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 2, story 7, Barbara Heineback remembers neighbors from her childhood in Port Washington, New York.
[12] Morris Robinson (The HistoryMakers A2003.197), interviewed by Larry Crowe, August 20, 2003, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 13, Morris Robinson describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 2.
[13] Michele Norris (The HistoryMakers A2008.078), interviewed by Larry Crowe, May 2, 2008, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 2, story 7, Michele Norris describes her earliest childhood memories.
[14] Loann Honesty King (The HistoryMakers A2008.014), interviewed by Julieanna L. Richardson, May 28, 2008, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 2, tape 9, story 1, Loann Honesty King remembers the support of her elementary school principal.
[15] Loann Honesty King (The HistoryMakers A2008.014), interviewed by Cheryl Butler, February 6, 2008, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 9, Loann Honesty King remembers her shamrock Halloween costume.
[16] The Honorable Marc H. Morial (The HistoryMakers A2006.045), interviewed by Shawn Wilson, April 4, 2006, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 2, tape 4, story 8, The Honorable Marc. H. Morial recalls his experience at the University of Pennsylvania.
[17] Hazel Trice Edney (The HistoryMakers A2013.339), interviewed by Larry Crowe, December 3, 2013, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 7, story 9, Hazel Trice Edney recalls her encounters with racial slurs throughout her life.
[18] Janet L. Sims-Wood (The HistoryMakers A2007.159), interviewed by Denise Gines, April 24, 2007, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 9, Janet L. Sims-Wood describes the community of Avondale, North Carolina.
[19] Clarice Tinsley (The HistoryMakers A2014.082), interviewed by Larry Crowe, March 6, 2014, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 2, story 5, Clarice Tinsley describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood.
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