The following Back in the Day column originally appeared in the Fairfield Daily Republic on July 7, 2013
By Tony Wade
Trick-or-treating was hard work when I was a kid. First, you had to plan your route carefully, so you could double back and hit some of the same houses and they wouldn’t remember you.
Toting pillowcases full of candy twice your body weight was no easy feat, either.
After our haul came the inventory. With four brothers as candy-crazed as me, it was important to have a precise count of my Tootsie Rolls, Pixy Stix, candy cigarettes and Abba-Zabas.
At Armijo High School in 1982 for Punk Rock/New Wave Day during the Spirit Week before Halloween, I donned an old hideous yellow jacket of my dad’s and added thin shades. The crowning touch was a toy guitar that I punked out by gluing an actual dead mouse to it before spray painting the whole thing silver.
Everyone kept touching the ornamental rodent to see if it was real and then recoiling in horror until Mr. Sullivan made me get rid of it.
Other locals shared their own memories. On costumes:
Trina Borja Harris: “Back in the day they came in a box with a cellophane window and only cost $3.99 and consisted of a plastic mask with two air holes that you constantly had to lift to breathe. The costume part was a backwards robe that was sure to rip by night’s end. Costumes now are much better, but cost an arm and a leg.”
Sharon Kastens Lopez: “My mother is so creative. One year she cut a newspaper into strips to make a hula skirt. I put on one of my bathing suit tops and a Kleenex lei and instant hula girl! Another year she made wigs for Raggedy Ann and Andy out of yarn. Those costumes were also used for PJs after Halloween.”
Stephania Cheng: “I hated the little plastic masks that came with store-bought costumes. Fortunately, my aunt and my mom sewed, so we had fantastic ones. I won the costume contests in first grade (Tinkerbell), second grade (Betsy Ross) and fifth and sixth grades (Wonder Woman) at Tolenas Elementary.”
Linda Ueki Absher: “In my senior year of high school, I dressed up as Bruce Springsteen ala his Oct. 27, 1975, cover photo of Time. I wore a newsboy cap, a hoop earring in one ear and overalls. No one got it.”
Patricia Mason-Wiley: “One year my brother Bill was The Wolf Man and we went to a house where a man answered the door and yelled ‘Bernice get the camera you gotta see this!’ He looked at my brother and said ‘You look just like my mother-in-law!’ He gave us each a dollar and we went back every year after that!”
Two weeks before Halloween in 1969, the Zodiac Killer, who murdered people in Solano and San Francisco counties, threatened to kill schoolchildren on school buses. While that fortunately didn’t happen, it affected Halloween locally. Kids trick-or-treated in daylight and law enforcement stepped up protection.
Wanda Yates: “Trick-or-treating in the daylight? We knew it was supposed to be dark, but it was that or nothing. Since we waited a whole year for the ultimate candy haul, we gave in and went right after school.”
Jo Ann Stowe Hirschenhofer: “My mom turned on the car radio just in time to hear that he threatened kids on Halloween. She turned the car off and told my brother and me to get back in the house. Total bummer. I was 5 and I will never forgive him!”
I lamented when I outgrew trick-or-treating. While there are varying opinions on the cut-off age, as a general rule, when puberty begins, free treats ends. Any teen who comes to my door on Halloween will receive a ladle-full of steamin’ hot cream corn in his bag.
Still, as an adult you can take your kids and reminisce. About five years ago I dressed as KISS’s Gene Simmons and my wife wore a Santa suit. Our daughter was Hermione Granger from “Harry Potter” and we freaked neighbors out at their doors by singing “I Saw Gene Simmons Kissing Santa Claus” and then doing it.