Halloween was a special time growing up, at least once my family moved to a trailer park. I was seven that year (I turned eight right after), and it was the closest we had ever been to living in the suburbs. Here we finally had actual streets to go down, and plenty of places to visit. I’d estimate we hit roughly 80 to 100 places in our quest for edible gold. But what really stands out for me is the after party: the sessions of trading, wheeling and dealing, and then the inevitable sampling and devouring.
Fun-sized chocolate bars were the pick of the litter, usually accounting for about 20% of the lot. These were the high-value trade goods. The top of the line were the holy trinity of Three Musketeers, Milky Way, and Snickers. As you know, these three are basically in a spectrum: nougat, nougat and caramel, or all of the above plus peanuts. Preferences at different ends of the spectrum meant these got traded for other members of the same family as well. (Reese’s peanut butter cups and York peppermint patties occupied similar positions in this pantheon, right at the top but not a very mostly-chocolate kind of experience. And then there were the others: Baby Ruth, Mounds, Almond Joy, straight Hershey bars, sometimes a very rare but wonderful Chunky bar.) Chocolate being considered high-value put me in a very fortunate position, because I can’t stand coconut or almonds, meaning I often had chocolate I was willing to part with in exchange for either a more preferable chocolate, or non-chocolate with the trade skewed in my favor.
Caramels and taffies were odd ducks, but they made a pretty strong statement too. They came in a lot of kinds, some nice and others less so. I never much cared for stuff like Mary Jane at all, but a simple caramel square or better yet the Brach’s filled caramels (especially the orange!) were lovely. Tootsie Rolls were always worth it, especially the big ones and the fruit-flavored ones. Sugar Babies and their worse-on-a-stick cousin the Sugar Daddy were nasty, not in flavor but because it was like biting into a brick and by the time your tooth made penetration, the candy was determined to take the tooth with it. (Thankfully you don’t see much of those anymore.)
The worst of the haul was always raisins. People who give out mini boxes of raisins on Halloween are bad people. You’re better off just leaving the light off. No, you don’t get to say you’re being conscientious about kids’ health or teeth; that isn’t what the holiday is about, and you’re just throwing a wet blanket on it. If you give out raisins on Halloween, you deserve to have your house TPed. Used-TPed.
But the rest was the really interesting part: a wild assortment, mostly fruit-flavored, from Dum Dums (lots of those) to jawbreakers to various Wonka goodies to Mike & Ikes, and all sorts of others. I discovered a lot of very interesting candies in this mix that I wouldn’t otherwise have very often, and some that were regarded as cheap and uninteresting actually turned out to be the most memorable. And because these were largely viewed as fungible slop, they were ripe for the taking by the handful in exchange for an Almond Joy.
I often wonder if these days kids are getting exposed to some of these delightful but cheap options as much as in the past. I mean yeah, at every door we hoped for a Three Musketeers bar, but the C-list candies were different from anything we had at any other time of the year. Some had very unique flavor profiles; like for instance one mini bag of SweeTart clones might have a take on cherry or grape that was nothing like other candies, but in a surprisingly good way.
Now you hardly see this kind of thing; the megapacks you can pick up at warehouse/club stores are typically A- or B-list candy. Maybe it helped that our neighborhood was a trailer park, because while it was the nicest park in that area by far, it was simply the kind of place you expected to get cheap candy. But cheap is not always bad; I found and enjoyed a lot of good stuff among the also-rans.
There’s a life lesson in that. And that lesson is: do what my sister and her friend did one year, which was get two costumes and make the rounds twice. Someone was giving out full-size Hershey bars that year too.