Sunday, October 17, 2010

Trick or Treat, Smelly Feet...

When I was a little boy growing up in Burnaby in the 60s, I was almost never allowed out after dark. There were a few exceptions. In the winter when it got dark after 5, I recall being allowed out to go to Cubs and Scouts, and I was always allowed to walk my dog, Prince. But on the whole, I was only allowed out in controlled situations.

So every halloween it was a treat when I was actually allowed to go out trick-or-treating with my friends. I can't recall when I first started being allowed to do this, but I suspect I was about 9 or 10. We'd put our costumes on, and go around the neighborhood, knocking on doors.

There were two things that we commonly said when the door was opened. Or at least there were two that we were "supposed" to say. We were supposed to say "Trick or Treat" or "Halloween Handouts". I'm not sure where that last one came from but I remember us shouting it. Being boys, we got a bit carried away with this, and somewhere we had a version of "trick or treat" that was a full blown rhyme. It went like this:

"Trick or Treat,
Smelly Feet,
Give us something good to eat!"

It had a melody, too, a common one we used for a lot of rhymes, but I don't know its name.

And "Halloween handouts" became "Halloweenian handouts".

These modified versions I seem to recall we saved for houses where we knew who it was, or sang it giggling and laughing as we walked down the street to the next house.

I do recall one house where an older man insisted that we give him a trick or a riddle before he'd give us a treat, and I vaguely recall giving him a knock-knock joke.

The other thing I recall was fireworks. We never had money for fireworks, but I usually had friends who did. I recall one Halloween, when I was 11, we had someone's jack-o-lantern, and we decided to see if filling it full of firecrackers and setting them off would explode the pumpkin.

Well, myth-busted! I was dissappointed in the lack of explosion, but there were very small bits of pumpkin flying everywhere, and a pretty strong burnt pumpkin smell in the air, and it made a lot of noise as it went off, but no explosion.

I'm sure some of the bigger fireworks would have done the trick, but being 11, we weren't allowed access to these without our parents around.

The candy we got was great. There were no mini candy bars like today. Lots of little candies, but when you got a chocolate bar, it was full sized. One of my favourite candies was the ones called rockets (they were called smarties in the US.) I still like them, because they have a strong tangy flavour.

My parents always went through my bag to make sure that everything was in order and looked OK. I don't know how real it was, but there were always stories of apples with razors in them, and other nasty surprises.

We never had a lot of money for costumes, but we always took the time to put something together that would clearly demonstrate that we had some imagination and put some effort into it.

Then, when that one special night was over, it was back to early bed times, and no roaming at night.


  1. What sort of costume did you wear? Did you wear masks? What did you collect your candy in; was it a pillow case or a plastic pumpkin? I'd love to see the answers written in your post.

  2. We didn't spend a lot of money on costumes, since there were 6 of us, but we always had access to old clothes and material, because my Mother sewed, so we'd get creative with what we had. I think we had a simple paper bag for our candies.