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Trunk-or-treat beats wandering the neighborhood in a clown suit

Pedro and ND.jpg

Emma “Pedro” Lowe and Noel “Napoleon Dynamite” Rutledge.


By Mark Rutlede

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Another Halloween is behind us, and it is increasingly obvious that trick-or-treating has forever changed, mostly for the better. Better candy. Better costumes. But fewer trick-or-treaters at the front door.

It might be different today because of the memorable times we had during the heyday of Halloween trickery.

I was no older than 6 the first time I went trick-or-treating along Mill Street in Albemarle, N.C. without my parents. I was supposed to go down one side of our street and work the other side home.

Somewhere along the way I joined up with Vance, an older boy from our church. Vance was a good-enough guy, but he had fallen in with a group of teen hoodlums.

The memory is filmed in my mind through the eyeholes of a plastic clown mask. None of the older kids wore costumes, and they adopted me as their “little brother” so they could get some candy.

As we worked our way around the block and onto U.S. Highway 52, it was getting later and the hoodlums were getting louder. It was 1967. The Vietnam War was probably scarier to those guys than anything Halloween had.

According to the old woman awakened by their hoots and hollers, the hoodlums had no excuse.

“You boys get off of my porch!” she shouted from a window. “You’re bad boys, and I’ve called the law!”

I wanted to tell her that I was the preacher’s son and not actually a member of the motley crew. But when they ran, I ran. And when we were in the clear, one of the boys not so nicely encouraged me to go home, so I did.

Another memory was in Johnson City, Tenn. I was a preteen about to age out of trick-or-treating. A group of us rang the doorbell of a neighbor lady who was quite intoxicated and obviously unprepared for the festive evening.

With a long-ash cigarette dangling precariously from her lips, she laboriously plucked pennies from the lid of a shoebox and dropped them into our gaping pillowcases.

“Pennies?!” cried my friend Terry Miller. “You’re giving out pennies?”

“Well what’d ya’ expect,” she snarled, “a (insert the Lord’s name in vain here) two-cent piece of candy!”

Those wrinkled snapshots do not outweigh my positive Halloween experiences. But I do believe they help to explain the movement away from traditional trick-or-treating in favor of more controlled Halloween events for kids.

Trunk-or-treating — the practice of decorating vehicle trunks and hatchbacks in church or corporate parking lots — is a far superior method. It has become a competition among parents to see who create the coolest car. Candy handed out tends to be of high quality.

Perhaps the trunk-or-treat movement was conceived by parents with dark Halloween memories recorded through the eyeholes of plastic clown masks.

A great thing about the new trunk-or-treat tradition is that kids no longer age out. My teenage daughters are driving now, but they dressed up with their cousins and worked trunk-or-treats at three churches.

I awarded first prize for costumes to daughter Noel (“Napoleon Dynamite”) and her cousin Emma (“Pedro”). Noel shared a photograph, but no candy. She indicated that the picture was fine for her worldwide social media publications, but not for my newspaper column.

Wait. Neither treat nor trick? I’m sorry, but some Halloween traditions do not change.

Contact Mark Rutledge at mrutledge@reflector.com or like him on Facebook at Mark Rutledge Columns.