When Halloween wasn’t scary at all

In today’s paper, you will find Halloween safety warnings as well as news of community efforts to provide “secure” trick-or-treat environments for the little ones.
While I understand the modern-day concerns, oh how my heart aches for what used to be.
Somewhere (I tried to find it to illustrate this column but couldn’t, so you’re in luck) is a photo of me in what was my all-time favorite Halloween costume. I was a leopard, with full spotted suit with long tail, hood with ears and a full face mask, the kind you are now warned not to put on your kiddies because it limits their vision.
I wore the outfit when I was 6. Which was the first year I went trick-or-treating. And it was without adult supervision.
Does this shock you? Back in the day, it was normal.
I guess there was safety in numbers, with mobs of kids roaming around our apartment complex on their own.
The Pru as it was known (it was owned by the Prudential Insurance Co.) covered an entire Newark block and was divided into five courtyards, each with multiple hallway entrances. The buildings were all six-story walkups, two apartments per floor. I don’t know the exact count, but there had to be hundreds.
And that’s where we’d be all night, climbing stairs and knocking on strangers’ doors. Most of the time, we’d be in little groups, but I recall more than one Halloween when my friends had all gotten tired and headed home, and I continued, at least for a little while, all by myself. Knocking on strangers’ doors.
The thought of danger never occurred to us. The idea of razor blades in apples was unheard of. Neither did all the treats have to be in their original wrappers. In fact, the most prized ones were those that the giver had handcrafted themselves, napkins tied with bows and filled with loose candy. Horrors!
As I said, this started at age 6. And all the way to 8th grade (which is when I decided I was too old to trick/treat anymore), we kids were out on our own.
As far as I recall, nothing untoward ever happened to anyone. (I know that some of my readers are also former denizens of Down Neck, so if I’m wrong, and something awful did occur, please let me know.)
Until I hear of anything, I will continue with nothing but the happiest memories of Halloween, a night when the only thing that scared us was another kid jumping out of a doorway and shouting, “BOO!”
— Karen Zautyk

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