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Halloween in Tulsa, 1940

By Frank Morrow, via email 10/30/2003

The first time I went "trick or treating" that term was not in our lexicon. This was in 1940 in Tulsa before WWII, and I was in the second grade, going to Lanier Elementary. I had not even heard of the activity until my friend, Buddy Sutliffe, asked me to go with him on Halloween night to "ask for handouts." He told me that we'd just get a couple of gunny sacks, and we'd go around from house to house. It sounded like fun to me.

It was so exciting. We'd go to each house, knock or ring the bell, and when someone opened the door, we'd cry out, "Hand outs! Hand outs!" The people usually would either give us something right then, or they'd lean down, reach into a big sack, and dig something out for us.

The booty consisted greatly of things the people made such as popcorn balls, candy or cookies, although some "store-bought" sweets were also given. Fruit also was handed out.

Occasionally people would ask us in and have a nice, but short, conversation with us. One man, wearing a skeleton costume, opened the door and roared, scaring the heck out of us. All the porch lights were on, and the kids were running from house to house and block by block, occasionally stopping to compare loot. They also would pass on tips as to where the best stuff was.

Soon our gunny sacks were bulging and getting heavy. It took both our tiny arms to manage them. We zipped home, got replacement sacks, and headed out again. By the time another hour had passed, and it was beginning to get late, we had our second sacks about half full.

Finally, the porch lights gradually went off, and the evening was at an end. Well, not exactly, because now we had the task of eating all the stuff that we had collected. This would take days to accomplish.

The fun and innocence of that night still warm me. The generosity of the people providing the "hand outs" was amazing, something I realized only in retrospect. The American economy was still suffering from the Great Depression, and most people lived on meager incomes. The fact that they would share so much just to make an unforgettable night for the children was a true act of generosity and love.

The night also was unique in hindsight because there was no danger to the children, either from predators or from the food itself. There was no commercialization, and no adult supervision. It was just pure joy of two generations of people coming together for an unforgettable night of magic.

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