One of my all-time favorite musicals is Vincente Minnelli’s “Meet Me in St. Louis,” starring Judy Garland. I never viewed it as a child as it only came to my attention after moving to the St. Louis area 15 years ago. The part that caught my eye was not the beautiful music or the talented cast, but rather it was the historical treatment of Halloween that kept me mesmerized. It makes one wish to have been a child during the early 1900s.
Today parents do everything but bubble-wrap their children as they prepare to trick or treat. Costumes are usually purchased and Disney scores high on costume choices. The youngest girls are princesses like Snow White, Cinderella, or Rapunzel. Older girls don costumes from the Descendants movies or Star Wars. Action heroes are the number one choice for boys – Spiderman, Batman, Superman, or Ironman. Costumes of all kinds come equipped with matching goodie bag, reflective tape, and flashlight. No matter the costume choice, one can bet that the selection has been scrutinized to make sure no one can possibly be culturally and/or politically uncomfortable. The community participates often by handing out “wholesome” snacks like raisins or granola bars, but thankfully most still favor candy to drop by the handfuls into the child’s bag. Parents are with their children every step of the way – warding off any dangers that might present itself during the trick or treat neighborhood adventure. More and more families skip the neighborhood door-to-door venture and have adopted “trunk” or treat or some other form of mass distribution of Halloween goodies. Compare the scenario just described to the Halloweens you enjoyed as a child. The fun is being systematically sucked out of Halloween! Don’t believe me? Just watch “Meet Me in St. Louis.”
Apparently, parents in St. Louis in 1903 had their children dress as spirits/ghosts. Boys all seemed to dress as evil women, girls dressed as evil men. Parents gave their kids old broken bits of furniture to set a bon fire. The community joined in by leaving their odd wood pieces laid out for the kids to heap on the pile. The children did not go door-to-door seeking candy — these kids were seeking revenge. Parents made sure the children had sacks of flour with them to throw on any “evil-spirited” neighbors encountered as they crept up to the door. And where were the parents? At home. Not worried. Not spying. Just going about their day. Those kids had it made! Candy wasn’t even required because playing with fire and making mischief was fun enough.
It is safe to say those Halloween nights are far behind us. We will continue to check candy for razor blades and accompany children as they go door to door in their designer costumes with matching accessories. So, if you are in the mood for a spooky Halloween movie, try “Meet Me in St. Louis” instead of your typical slasher choice. It will frighten you to death see those little kids making such a big bon fire in costumes that were not fire-proof nor culturally acceptable by today’s standards. Warning: there is a scene where a child is spanked.
Happy Halloween from Pipkins. Stop by and meet us in St. Louis.