“Trickertreat” by
(89 Stories)

Prompted By Trick or Treat?

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Trick or treat was for kids, and very big in 1950’s East Lansing, Michigan.  It was one of the three major secular holidays of the year:  Halloween (witches, ghosts and pumpkins), Christmas (Santa Claus, trees and reindeer), and Easter (the bunny with chocolate eggs).   If there was a religious component, it was surely pagan. All involved candy, but Halloween was the queen.

Once it got dark, the kids would hit the residential streets in roving bands gone wild, armed with big bags, running to each porchlight to cry, “Trickertreat!" at the door.

On October 31, once it got dark, the kids would hit the residential streets in roving bands gone wild, armed with big bags, running to each porchlight to cry, “Trickertreat!” at the door.  Sometimes we had little Unicef cartons to collect spare change for the children of the world who maybe didn’t have a candy bonanza. The little pirates and fairies and ghosts and witches, as they passed each other in dark excitement, would spread the word about which houses gave out which goodies,  Little candy bars—the best!  Slim Jims—the worst.  But all were accepted into the stash.  I don’t recall ever going to a house that didn’t give us something.

Afterwards, my sisters and I would empty the candy loot onto the floor, separated by type, and trade back and forth for our favorites.

Were there watchful parents shadowing our trail?  Not that I recall.  We wore masks that obscured our faces, limited our vision, and the costumes were likely not very safe.  Most all were homemade.   Houses might have carved pumpkins, but not spider webs, ghosts hanging from trees, plastic blow-up creatures, battery-operated motion-detector evil laughter machines, or lawns crowded with decorations.  It wasn’t an industry yet.

In the past few years, there have been very few trickertreaters at my house—the street is a bit out of the way, and the kids seem to hit certain other neighborhoods strategically. But I carve a pumpkin and dutifully buy a stash of candy, just in case, and of course only the kind we like the best.


Profile photo of Khati Hendry Khati Hendry

Characterizations: been there, funny, moving, right on!, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Your Halloween sounds much like mine in Detroit – running from house to house with much excitement. Houses did not have elaborate decorations, just a carved pumpkin out front. I think we always had UNICEF boxes that we brought to school the next day. My brother is five years older, so didn’t want his little sister tagging along. I’d go out with other girls in the neighborhood.

    I hoarded my candy, eating little of it. But months later when I’d want some, I’d find it too hard and stale to bite into! Ha! That taught me something.

  2. John Shutkin says:

    Thank you, Khati, Your memories are much like those of other Retro writers — lovely and wistful.

  3. Thanx Khati for another of your lovely, well-crafted , and always a bit poignant, stories.

    I too finally learned to buy only the candy we like!

  4. Dave Ventre says:

    Some of the costumes were potential disasters. In high school, a fellow student dressed as a “ball of lint” by wearing a leotard with cotton balls glued all over it. At a party that night she brushed against a candle. She spent weeks in a burn unit.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      That sounds like a terrible costume disaster! Yikes! That is serious! I once saw a little kid dressed as a “ball of twine” with string wrapped all around his middle and maybe between his legs. I hope not–a bathroom disaster for sure.

  5. Suzy says:

    Great story, Khati! I’m sure my childhood Halloweens were just as you described, but I can’t seem to find the memories. Possibly they have been crowded out of my brain by the vivid memories of my children’s Halloweens.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      Since I never had my own kids to drown out the old memories, the only ones I have are from when we went around in grade school. And when kids came to our door later. Now of course the stores are overflowing with merchandise, there are Halloween parties for those not comfortable going door-to-door, parents hover, adults get dressed up, workplaces are decked out, and the zombie-costume-blood-and-gore cultural elements have transformed the day/eve. Reading “The Golden Bough” has some really interesting descriptions of old European pagan rituals and bonfires that show how celebrations have morphed over time.

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    What a perfect description of Halloween of old. I remember those UNICEF boxes, a great excuse for older kids to come to my door. Of course, I also gave them candy. Wish it hadn’t turned into such a commercialized deal.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      I wonder what happened to the Unicef tradition–seems like it didn’t last too long. It was kind of a nice component. The older kids always wanted to go, and had to find some costume-not-costume and not be little kids, but still get the candy….

  7. Marian says:

    Very similar to my memories, Khati, and I guess we all long for those days when Halloween had simpler joys.

  8. Risa Nye says:

    Khati, even though we get only a handful of kids (most with deep voices!), my husband still gets and carves a pumpkin and buys bags (too many) of candy. Your memories are a lot like mine. There was one man up the block who made kids tell him a joke or a riddle before he would hand out any candy.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      I did carve a pumpkin again this year, at the last minute. Alas, no one came to help us eat our candy. But people did set off fireworks nearby—seems like a way to celebrate whatever up here, and we are near a beach with a fire pit. Northern fire festivals live.

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