A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Beth Underwood: Fond memories of Halloweens long past include not-so-fond memories of sweet thievery


I remember the Halloweens of my childhood as one of the most anticipated holidays of the year, right up there with Christmas and Easter. We planned costumes for months in advance and mapped out trick-or-treat strategies like four-star generals before a major battle.

Mom served chili for the traditional pre-trick-or-treat supper. Dad queued up The Haunted Mansion record album to play for the 500 or so goblins who’d come in search of candy. I watched the clock and waited for the official treat-or-treat window opened. My friends and I milked the night for everything it was worth, coming in only after all the houses turned off their porch lights.

Halloween wasn’t officially over, though, until the candy had been inspected. My parents claimed it was a matter of safety — one never knew when a razor blade or stick pin would wind up in a Reese’s Cup or 3 Musketeers Bar. They were willing to sacrifice themselves. To run that risk for our own good.

Odd that they never worried about anyone tampering with the Starlight Mints or Circus Peanuts. But I digress.

Being several years older than my brothers, I escaped the candy inspection, I was old enough to check my own candy, not that I believed anyone in our small town was truly at risk.

I also escaped the overnight candy thief, otherwise known as Aunt Kathryn, who never missed the opportunity to eat sweets — especially if it was someone else’s. Why she and her husband always ended up at our house on Halloween was beyond me. But they did. And my poor brothers weren’t smart enough to hide their candy when they went to bed. Only God knows how late they stayed up, plucking their favorite pieces of candy from my brothers’ plastic pumpkins — or perhaps more important, why my parents never stopped them.

Those days are long gone, though. My brothers and I have our own kids, now. Colton quit trick-or-treating about seven years ago. And we haven’t had a trick-or-treater or a plastic pumpkin full of candy in as many years.

It occurs to me that I do have an unsuspecting nephew and niece, though. Maybe Colton and I can stop by on Halloween for a visit after they’ve gone to bed. I’m sure Aunt Kathryn would want it that way.

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Beth Underwood is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines. She shares stories of everyday life that entertain, inspire, and encourage others. Her books include Gravity, a narrative nonfiction account of a small group of Tennessee National Guardsmen, and Talk Bourbon to Me, a lighthearted look at Kentucky’s native spirit. Drop her a line at beth@bethwrightunderwood.com, or visit her website at bethwrightunderwood.com.


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One Comment

  1. Marsha Hunt says:

    Most memorial Halloween . There were four of us kids. We lived in a neighborhood where each house had anywhere from 1 to 5 kids. Big night for all us kids and a safe neighborhood. One year we didnt have plastic pumpkins and Mom handed us old pillowcases to use instead. Our youngest brother didn’t walk as fast as the rest of us and tended to drag his bag on the pavement. Needless to say ,when we got home his bag was empty because he had a big hole in his bag from dragging it instead of carrying it. Sad ending because Mom made us sit down in the middle of the living room and pour all our candy out. Then she divided it all up 4 ways. We didn’t like him very much for a few days . Lol sharing was hard!

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