Bartering over my Halloween candy stash

Pat Van Dyke Columnist, The Friday Flyer

Pat Van Dyke
Columnist, The Friday Flyer

I know that as one gets older, time goes faster. I’ve had it explained that due to the fact that I now have more years under my belt, each year is a shorter amount of time over the span of my life. That’s all OK, but I have solid evidence that someone is messing with my sense of timing. All the important calendar days are mushing into one long event.

I always knew that in the fall, first came “trick-or-treat,” followed by Thanksgiving, followed by Christmas, followed by New Year’s Day. It was four distinctly different events each with their own decorations and treats. But when it came to treats, “trick-or-treat” was number one.

My family never referred to October 31 as Halloween because it was never about ghosts and goblins.  It was all about candy!  On October 30, we would remind my mother that it was “trick-or-treat” the next day and we needed a costume. She always provided us with costumes in the same theme. We would grab an old shirt of Dad’s, put on our barn boots, and a grain buyer’s hat. Mom would then strap a milking stool around our waist, put a milk bucket in our hand and send us on our way into the “Promised Land.”

The “Promised Land” consisted of the hundreds of homes that were being built during the mid to late 50s in Orange County. The land on which orange groves, chicken ranches and dairies once abounded were being snapped up by investors and divided into housing subdivisions.

For my father, this meant daily confrontations with our “new neighbors” about flies, mosquitoes and the “dairy smell,” but for us kids it meant a gold mine of candy every October 31.

Our parents didn’t walk with us slowly down the street as parent do today. They just dressed us up and sent us on our way. As my brother and I ran down the street with our milking stools bouncing behind us, we must have been a sad but effective sight because we seemed to get an extra handful of candy at every house. Personally, I felt that it was “Green Acres in Reverse: Oliver Douglas Returns to New York.”

Sometimes, we would take Larry, our next door neighbor kid with us. His father owned a chicken ranch and just the smell of his boots guaranteed us at least a couple of full-sized candy bars!

One year, there was a home that Larry and John insisted that I go to the door alone. I should have known “something was up.” The door was answered by a woman dressed in black with long fingernails and a strange voice. At all the other doors, I was greeted by June Cleaver or the mother in Lassie. Here, I was greeted by a witch.

She offered me a bowl of what I thought was candy, but held it high so that I could barely reach it. As I reached in, I felt slimly round balls which she told me were witches’ eyes. That was followed by bowls filled with witches’ hearts and intestines. I ran from the door and tripped over John and Larry as they were bent over in laughter. I quickly retrieved my milk pail that was filled with candy, put my milking stool over my head and ran down the street. They tried to explain to me that it was peeled grapes, raw meat and noodles but I really didn’t care what it was. I wasn’t going back, even for a full-sized Abba Zaba bar.

We loved the homes with the bowl of candy on a chair and a note that read, “We’re not home. Please take one.”  We knew that meant one of everything that we liked and we usually liked it all. We played “One-for-You and One-for-Me” over and over again until all that was left were the Payday bars!

There was the one year that Mom decided to splurge and purchase me a “princess mask” and my brother a “cowboy mask” for our yearly candy raid on the homes “across the street.” She even made me a crown and bought my brother a cowboy hat. I put on an old dress of Mom’s and John, once again, put on Dad’s old plaid work shirt. But before she shoved us out to attack the entire neighborhood, she decided that the “eye holes” weren’t big enough. By the time she finished her “mask alterations,” I was a princess with saucer sized eyes and my brother looked as if he had one large eye in the middle of his head.  But we could see! Too bad she didn’t consider our ability to breathe as we spent the rest of the night suffering from oxygen deprivation. The next year found us again with milking stools tied around our waists.

We never quite knew what was in our “candy stash” until we arrived home and dumped it all out on the living room floor. We would line up the goodies and the bartering would begin.

More deals were made on that night than are made in one year on Wall Street. Each type of candy had its own value according to size and flavor. We hated the pennies and apples, but loved the popcorn balls and I usually would agree to wash and dry the dishes for a month for an even trade of popcorn balls. A decision I would soon regret when my popcorn balls would strangely disappear. My brother would explain that there was a fluctuation in the stock market and inflation had hit him hard.

My brother hated coconut and I loved it so Mounds bars were an easy deal but when it came to the Milky Way bars, it was a bitter fight to the end with him usually coming out the victor. The pinnacle of our exchange arrived when we put our Three Musketeers bars on the bidding floor. After a long argument, my mother would explain that the Three Musketeers were actually three friends and that we should share the bars with one more person. After we were convinced of the program, she would take the candy to divide evenly – her being the third musketeer.

By the end of the evening, there would be two children, rolling on the floor trying to guard their “stash” while keeping an eye out for any wandering candy. It was at this time that our “super hero” (Dad) would swoop down and grab all of the black licorice.

Yesterday, I decided it was time to buy my supply of Halloween candy. Now that I no longer have anyone in my home that I send out “trick-or-treating” from which to “borrow” my favorite candy, I have to buy extra in case I run out. Strangely, my “extra” is always chocolate.

But stranger still is that I found the Halloween candy next to the Thanksgiving decorations, which overlapped into the Christmas ornaments, which included a New Year’s Eve section. All of the holidays were wrapped into one! I know that in my life, time is rushing on, but why are the retailers rushing the seasons? I would love to have them appear just one at a time.

It really confuses me when I go shopping. I end up buying my Thanksgiving turkey before Halloween and using Christmas candy in my Easter baskets. I burn pumpkin scented candles when Pastor Pete and I have our romantic Valentine’s dinner which usually happens about the Fourth of July.