Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

November 1, 2012

GARY'S WORLD: Lessons learned on candy-free Halloween

By Gary Nelson
Senior staff writer

CROSSVILLE — I was talking with some friends of mine who have children and I started thinking about how different Halloween is now compared to years ago. When I was a child we lived in the suburbs of Chicago and it was easy to go trick or treating door to door and gather a ton of candy.

As I grew older and was able to go trick or treating by myself and with friends, I would take a pillow case and we would run the neighborhood gathering as much candy as we could in a three-hour period.

Over the years Halloween has changed so much in the sense that more churches have become involved and offer safe events on Halloween, such as festivals with candy and food. When my kids were little we would take them to a few homes, including their grandparents' and a couple houses in the neighborhood, and then go to a church in town.

It is a great thing what these churches do, offering these safe events.

Reminiscing of Halloween days gone by, I thought of my older sister, Debbie, and the pranks she used to pull on me when I was a youngster.

I remember one such year when I was about seven or eight and my Halloween costume was Secret Agent Man.

It was the vinyl type store-bought costume with the plastic mask. The mask would get hot on your face and the moisture would build up on the inside of the mask and the vinyl would get so cold that it would become stiff and it would be hard to walk.

My sister, who is nine years my senior, was faced with the unbearable task that year of taking me trick or treating because dad worked the night shift and mom was exhausted from dealing with kids all day long at school. She had to make dinner and wasn't up to the challenge of trick or treating.

In the suburbs of Chicago in the '70s, trick or treating was a big deal. Next to Christmas, it was the most highly anticipated holiday of the year for kids. Parties at school, free candy, dressing up and running around with friends — what's there not to like?

Being a teenager and being forced to take your little brother trick or treating and not being able to hang out with your friends — that's what. At least for my sister, anyway.

In an effort to have some fun in spite of her penalty, my sister came up with ways to entertain herself. As I would head to the door she would say to me, "Now when they answer the door, you say 'trick or treat, smell my feet.'"

I did it without question the first couple of times but then, after several of the neighbors became annoyed and started closing the door on me without giving me a treat, I refused.

"Don't worry about it, I will give you a whole bag of candy if you do it," she said.

Being the seven-year-old gullible child I was, I agreed and continued.

Her instructions and sayings gradually got worse and worse.

My sister laughed, thinking it was the funniest thing, her little brother making all the neighbors mad with his smart-aleck comments. She had me say other things, too, but I won't repeat them in this family newspaper.

At the end of our trick or treating run, I had about half of the amount of candy that I should have gotten and trick or treating hours were over and I was forced to go home.

When we got home I was relieved, though, because I figured I had a whole bag of candy coming to me. Deep down, though, I knew something was wrong because I had acted so badly.

As we walked up the driveway, I asked for the candy from my sister, she denied making the promise and laughed at me as I became more and more frustrated.

As we went inside the house, mom was hanging up our avocado green trimline telephone on the wall in the kitchen.

She gave me that, "I'm going to wring your neck" kind of look only moms and dads can give. One of the neighbors had called to tell mom about my awful behavior and what I had said on their doorstep.

"Why would you do that? Why would you say something like that to our neighbor?" she asked.

"'Cause Debbie told me I would get a bag of candy from her," I said.

"What?" mom hollered. "What?"

I was ordered to hand over what little candy I did have and go to my room.

Between my sobs of grief over losing my candy, I could hear mom hollering at my sister, but I never did quite hear what exactly she said.

I was given what seemed like a three-hour lecture from my dad the next day and my sister was grounded after I told him of the promise she made to give me candy for cussing at the neighbors.

I never did get any of my Halloween candy that year. Period.

It was a painful lesson at the time for me, but I learned to be skeptical of people and what they promise and to question someone when they try to get you to behave badly.

It also sparked a rivalry between my sister and I that continued for years of getting one and other in trouble.

It still makes me laugh to this day when I think of how ridiculous the situation was.

I texted my sister the other day on Halloween and I said, "trick or treat, smell my feet."

She laughed, "Lol'd," and said, "yeah I never had the nerve to say that when I was younger."

I asked her, "Don't you remember having me say that to the neighbors?"

She claims she doesn't remember any of it!

I guess as we get older, our memories from the past become selective. Apparently I'm going to have to refresh my sister's memory.

However, it was the candy-less Halloween chalked full of lessons I will never forget.

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Gary Nelson is a Crossville Chronicle staffwriter. His column is published each Friday. He may be reached at