By Joey Kennedy
I was a ghost. I may have been 10 or 11 years old. I was young, just a kid. And my mother, not wanting to spend too much time getting me ready for Halloween, threw an old white sheet over my head, cut out a couple of holes for my eyes and, voila, I was a ghost.
I didn’t care much about costumes at Halloween. I would have dressed as Richard Nixon in drag if it got me candy. Thankfully, I never had to. Trick or treat meant one thing to me: treat. I just wanted the candy. My ghost outfit was quick and easy, sure, but the eye holes didn’t quite align with my eyes or give me the sight line I needed. So when I got out of range of my mother, I balled up the sheet and simply went door-to-door as an un-ghostly, ordinary kid. I still got candy. And candy was the ultimate goal, though I came back home as a fairly wrinkled ghost.
Halloween has changed. Today, parents comb through their kids’ treats to make sure there aren’t embedded razor blades from an evil person who wants to harm kids. Today, there are places right here in Birmingham where kids won’t (can’t) go door-to-door on Halloween because they don’t believe it’s safe. Halloween is supposed to be scary, but scary in a fun sense. Today, in some places, Halloween is scary in a scary sense.
For me, little more than a mischievous tyke back then, Halloween rivaled Christmas as a day of joy for the year. Yeah, sometimes somebody would give us an apple or a box of raisins. We’d dump that crap. We wanted Sweet Tarts or Reese’s or Rolo or Nestle Crunch.
One Halloween, I went out as Will Robinson from the Lost in Space television show. I liked that costume, because it consisted only of black pants and a T-shirt. I had to tell candy-givers I was Will Robinson because it looked like I was just a kid in black pants and a T-shirt. I always got plenty of candy.
But in those days while I was out, going from house to house in our neighborhood, I never felt I needed to heed the Robot’s warning: “Danger, Will Robinson!” All was good. Most folks were nice. They were generous with the candy. Yes, it’s all about the candy. Save those toothbrushes and floss packets. Don’t pass out tofu peanut butter cookies or pencils. Kids don’t want them.
My wife and I live on Birmingham’s Southside. Some years, we get a dozen or so trick-or-treaters. Some years, we get none. One Halloween we had to be somewhere, so we left a bowl full of candy on the porch, with a hand-written sign that pleaded: “Just take one or two, please.” We got home, and the candy was gone. So was the bowl. Our hand-written sign was still there.
Trick or treat.
These days, churches get into the act. At one point, fundamentalist churches disavowed Halloween. It was Satan’s day, I guess. Witches and ghosts and vampires, no matter how fake, have no place in their God’s kingdom. Now, a popular church event is “Trunk or Treat.” Many churches put on these “fall festivals” on or around Halloween to keep kids close by and nearer my God to thee. It’s a safe place for kids to have fun on Halloween, and that’s all good.
In recent years, my wife and I have attended adult Halloween parties. I’m still not much for costumes. I go as a bald fat guy, and my wife as the bald fat guy’s wife. But others love costumes. One year, a couple came as an electrical pair—he, a plug; she, the socket. You get it. At those parties, my goal wasn’t candy as much as it was beer. Times change.
And how they change. I’ve been told that today, groups often bus or carpool kids from their own neighborhoods to others that are better known as good targets for trick-or-treaters. The buses park on the side of a street in these neighborhoods and unleash the kids to swarm through: little witches and Kim Kardashians and Wonder Womans and Supermans and P. Diddys and Spidermans and Katy Perrys and Barack Obamas.
I asked readers to tell me where the best trick-or-treating spots are in the Birmingham area. Here are some suggestions:
• Dexter Avenue in Mountain Brook’s Crestline Village. “It’s one big party. People go all out decorating, the streets are virtually closed, and you can sit outside after and watch the people go by while munching the best cheese sticks anywhere. You have to get there before dark.”
• “Edgewood always has the best trick-or-treating on West Glenwood Avenue. An annual thing and it’s pretty phenomenal.”
• Russet Woods in Hoover. “Our first year here, we bought three giant bags of candy from Costco. We were out by 8:30. They bus kids in because it’s miles and miles of wall-to-wall houses. All families, most with kids.”
• Braelinn Village subdivision in Helena. “The kids meet at the mailbox and then parade through the neighborhood before trick-or-treating. It’s a neighborhood full of kids, and most of the houses and yards are decorated. They have a decorating contest, and some folks really go all out. So much fun!”
• “My neighborhood of Eagle Point (southern Shelby County) is a good one. I usually have 300-plus trick-or-treaters. Folks come from all over!”
• “Gardendale First Baptist has a carnival every Halloween. Rides, food, games, etc.”
• Crestwood North. “Lots of kids flock to my neighborhood for Halloween. Very few kids live there, though.”
• Crossgate in Vestavia Hills. “The folks are generous with the candy, the decorations are great, and there is no through traffic, which makes it fairly safe.”
• Forest Park. “Trick-or-treating was awesome. So many houses decorated over the top and it was a very friendly and active neighborhood that evening. I also had Boris, my French Bulldog, with me. He was dressed as a banana. A couple of houses actually gave out homemade dog treats to him. It was very fun and memorable.”