Taking back Halloween – 1980

I love Halloween, which is odd considering I wasn’t really brought up with Halloween. Born and raised in Canada, you would think that the ritual of knocking on neighbour’s doors and asking for a “Trick or Treat” would’ve been engrained in my soul, but no. I am the child of Portuguese immigrants who had grown up poor in rural Portugal during the dictatorship of Salazar. No money but they had pride, and knocking on doors begging for candy was a stupid concept. If they could afford to buy candy, why ask a stranger?

My first Trick or Treat experience came in 1971 when I was two. I’m told that I spent the night hiding under the kitchen table screaming “pacacos” (my Portuguese word for monsters) as an endless stream of children knocked at my door and filled their bags….not a great beginning.

When I was six, my father passed away which forced my mother, to find work. She had the good fortune of being hired by Chrysler in Ajax and spent the next 30 years working shift work in the factory (thank you mom). Unfortunately this meant that for half the year my sister and I didn’t have a parent at home in the evenings. Mom relied heavily on our extended family to help raise her two kids (thanks to all of you) and decided to split up the work load. After school I would stay with my uncle Armindo and aunt Arminda while my sister went to stay with my uncle Joe and aunt Margaret.

When it came to Halloween things worked out well for everyone except me. For mom, working night shift every year on Halloween meant she didn’t have to give out candy to the neighbourhood kids; my sister got to pick a costume from my aunt’s collection and join our cousins Janette, Nancy and Debbie for a night of door knocking and candy hoarding; and I got to sit around watching the Leafs play with my older cousins Tony and Avelino – not a bad evening, but not as great as dressing up to con adults out of their treats.

I’m not complaining….I was included in some Halloween fun – I have a faint memory which involves me in a one piece, mustard coloured cat outfit listening to story time at the Oshawa Public Library…but I think I’m trying to suppress that memory….hopefully there aren’t any photos.

Fast forward to 1980 and my plan to take back Halloween and the candy I was owed.

After my day at Holy Cross Catholic School I would walk home, have dinner and walk to Ritson Road Public School where I attended Portuguese classes in the evenings. Many of Oshawa’s Luso-Canadian kids were forced to take these daily classes, including my friend Tony. When Portuguese school ended on October 31, 1980  I put my plan into action. Tony and I emptied our plastic grocery bags, which we used to carry our books (no fancy knapsacks for these kids), hid everything under a bush, pulled the hoods of our parkas over our heads and started knocking on doors. We were greeted by puzzled faces. “What are you two supposed to be?”

“Eskimos” I answered confidently.

Much like Charlie Brown, we ended up with two bags full of crappy, hard, brown candy wrapped in orange paper…not exactly the score I was hoping for, but we had fun.

Sorry Tony and your welcome.