An ugly recession could have one upside. It could save Halloween for kids.
Maybe I better explain.
According to the National Confectioners Association, a new Halloween trend is catching on: “better-for-you” treats.
Such treats are portion-controlled, low-calorie, low-fat, sugar-free and packed with extra nutrients, vitamins and fiber.
And if our coddled kids need anything, it is more roughage.
Better yet, suggests the Toronto Star, why bother with treats? Why not hand out stickers or erasers instead?
When I was a kid in the ’70s, any adult dumb enough to do that would wake to find his windows soaped and streams of toilet paper dangling from his trees.
Let me remind adults how Halloween is supposed to be for kids:
Costumes aren’t important. Don’t dress your kid in expensive, store-bought junk. Forbid your daughter from dressing like a trollop (another unfortunate trend).
We made our own costumes: a mummy (toilet paper), a ghost (old sheet) or a Depression-era hobo (how everybody will dress once the notions of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi become law).
All kids care about on Halloween is the candy.
When I was 10, 11 and 12, my mission was to acquire as much of it as possible. Tommy Guillen and I raced through our neighborhood filling our pillowcases as quickly as possible.
Then we’d sprint through the older neighborhoods, where modest ranch homes lined the streets like dominoes. We hit a 150 or more homes within an hour.
Then we’d race down Horning Road, a main artery, to the newer neighborhoods on the other side of the railroad tracks. The houses were spread farther apart, but we pressed on.
By 9 p.m., our pillowcases were full. We’d begin our long journey back home, eager to sort out our booty.
I’d dump my pillowcase onto my bedroom floor — a glorious sight. Our parents never bought us candy — few families had extra dough for such things — and I was overcome by my good fortune.
There sat a potpourri of the finest name-brand candies in the history of kid-dom: Mallow Cup, Hershey’s Milk Chocolate, Nestle Crunch, Milk Duds, Good & Plenty, Almond Joy, $100,000 Bar, Milky Way and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup … .
Sure, there’d be some junk mixed in: a Peppermint Patty (grownup candy) or a couple of Necco Wafers. What a dumb crunchy treat that was. I saved mine and gave them to my sisters for Christmas.
But at least all our candy was full-size — none of this portion-controlled stuff. It was made of real sugar and fat, too. This is why we called them treats.
Unlike today, parents didn’t mess with our candy. They didn’t make us ration our take. They didn’t make us carry around bottled water to swish out our mouths for fear of tooth decay, as some experts advise (and I’m not making that up).
No, we’d worked hard to earn our stash. We were free to manage it as we pleased. I managed to eat the bulk of mine within a couple of weeks.
Though I burned off every calorie. For the next few months, I sprinted home from school every day (so I could find where my sisters hid their candy and eat that, too).
Of course, that was before adults fretted over every little thing — before parents meddled in every aspect of their kid’s existence.
Back then candy was OK in moderation. Halloween was only once a year, so what was the harm in a little overindulgence?
But in recent times, adults have had the means — an abundance of wealth and free time — to over-think and overreact about everything.
We’ve become experts on the caloric content of portion-controlled Halloween treats, but we don’t know the first thing about how wealth is created — or how wrong-headed ideas and politicians can destroy it.
Now that our markets have crashed and a major recession looms, there will hopefully be one silver lining: the crash will force common sense to return.
I fear it will take us a while to remember how wealth is created, though — I fear we’ll suffer plenty until we finally deploy the right ideas.
But, then again, as adults are consumed with real adult worries for once, kids will finally be free to enjoy Halloween.