I always enjoyed watching It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown as a kid. I’m also glad that my two boys look forward to watching the same Charlie Brown specials each year as I did.
Their favorite part in the Halloween special seems to be the part where Charlie Brown gets a bag full of rocks during trick-or-treating. I had to explain to them that back when the tradition first started, it might have been possible to get a “trick” instead of a “treat.”
Charlie Brown’s “I got a rock” got me thinking though…I did get some “tricks” back when I was trick-or-treating in the mid 80s. They might have been intended to be treats, but some of the stuff I received was downright nasty.
I don’t necessarily blame the adults though, because there was a potential flaw in the system. If your parents or grandparents never asked you what you liked, how would they have any clue what kids liked? Some adults were more receptive to candy suggestions than others. The “trick” was knowing what houses had kids with influence, as they were much more likely to have good candy like Pop Rocks or Nerds.
On the other hand, I think we all had houses we avoided based on the previous year’s “treats,” and also had a few that were a crap shoot each time you rang the doorbell. So what were those treats that made us want to pull a Gallagher on our neighbor’s pumpkins? Here’s a list of the 7 worst treats I remember getting on Halloween night in the mid 80s:
I can probably attribute my dwindling consumption of peanut butter flavored candy to Chick-O-Stick. I think we all had the same reaction when we saw it in our Halloween bag for the first time…”what is this, chicken-flavored?” (It was actually named for its original chicken mascot.)
Once we figured out it wasn’t chicken flavored, we bit into it and found it had the texture of a dead tree branch. Take one bite and it would almost splinter. Plus, you couldn’t really chew it because it stuck so much to your teeth! Granted, the candy has a long history but whoever came up with a crystallized turd as a potential candy form needs another job.
This treat was probably the one that ruined trick-or-treat for me permanently. One of the final years I remember going house-to-house in search of candy, I had accumulated a pretty full bag. One of the last houses I hit at the end of block threw in a Little Hug. I actually liked them and my Gram’s fridge was usually fully stocked when I came for a visit.
Well, you can probably guess what happened…the foil lid split open on a lollipop stick and leaked all over my candy. Didn’t notice until a friend saw my bag dripping. I was able to salvage the candy that was sealed, but the loose wrapper candy and stuff in cardboard boxes didn’t fair too well. Good rule of thumb…NO LIQUIDS! (Except for maybe those wax bottles. I liked those for some reason.)
The WORST taffy ever created. What in the name of Willy Wonka was that flavor? It sure wasn’t peanut butter. I swear if they had done one of those old school Pepsi/Coke taste tests with a piece of this taffy and a piece of silly putty, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference…or might even choose the putty!
The crazy part is my dad loved them. When I got home and dumped out my bag to sort out the good from the bad, ALL of my black and orange taffy went straight to dad.
Yeah, I get it…we all did. Candy rots our teeth and the one day of the year that it was okay to carry around a sack full to munch on, some health nut had to make a point. Apples, oranges, raisin boxes…all fruit should’ve been taboo on All Hallows’ Eve. You just didn’t know if you were getting the leftovers from their bob-for-apples slobber fest.
Most people trick-or-treating in this era will remember the urban legend of some crazy person sticking razor blades in apples to trick kids. This had to have been made up by a smart kid in elementary school. Picture it. Group of kids are huddled around a lunchroom table the day after Halloween, debating how to keep fruit out of their trick-or-treat bags next year. One kid steps up and says “Hey why don’t we ask the dork sitting by himself at that other table.”
They ask the dork to come up with a plan in exchange for going easy on him for the rest of the semester. The dork tells them to call numerous TV stations and newspapers about finding razor blades in their apples. One kid says “Wait, that won’t work! Who’s gonna believe that 10 kids are eating apples on Halloween?” The dork comes back and says “It will work. Parents are too concerned over safety and naive enough to believe that someone is trying to cut out kid’s tongues.” The group agrees and the rest is history which, for awhile, helped cut back on our fruit consumption around Halloween.
Boston Baked Beans
Baked beans in a box…terrific idea. First fruit…now vegetables? Wait, what? They aren’t beans but peanuts? Well, why not just call them baked peanuts? Anyway, these were just weird and not worth the brain power to figure out what they were, let alone eat them.
If you were brave enough to open up a box, you know the candy aspect was lacking. A couple bites in and you were 1) wondering where they candy taste went and 2) wishing you had a 6 pack of Little Hugs to douse these shards of peanut in your throat. Probably would’ve been more popular had they called them Boston Protein Pills and just swallowed them with a glass of water.
…because there is nothing like trick-or-treating to make you want to go home and do homework. I remember getting pencils and erasers in my bag. Really? Guess these adults never realized that this was the time when Gummi everything was on the market. So when you opened up your bag and thought “Yum, a Gummi ghost!” and then got home and realized it was an eraser, it was a huge disappointment.
I always thought pencils, erasers, and even coins were like the homeowner did a face palm at the sound of the doorbell and just opened up the junk drawer to find something to pass out. “Hi kids! For you Timmy, I have a Bic lighter…always dependable! And for you Sally, here’s a sleeve of staples. Careful they are sharp. And for you Billy, thumbtacks in assorted colors! You kids, enjoy! See you next year!” Umm, thanks…now pardon me while I relieve myself on your cat.
So they were shaped like a peanut…that’s about all they had going for them in my book. You never knew if you were getting the “sitting in an old lady’s candy jar” kind that doubled as a door stop or if you were getting the “fresh Play-doh” kind. If you know their history- a guy actually chopped one up and put it in with his Cheerios, and that’s how we got Lucky Charms, ladies and gentlemen. (No joke.)
But they aren’t even marshmallows to me! They had that day-old McDonald’s french fries heated up in the microwave texture you had to gum for 2 minutes to eat. And I swear at one point, Nerf took over production of Circus Peanuts and I was using them in my dart gun. To steal a line from Jim Gaffigan, I’ve never ate a Circus Peanut and thought “Yeah, I’m glad I ate that.”
Jason Gross (@SockOfFleagulls) is the creator of Rediscover the 80s and loves to subject his two sons to cartoons, TV, movies, and music from the decade. Currently promoting a M.A.S.K. live-action movie script (co-writer), he enjoys freelance writing about 80s music & pop culture.