This blog covers everything except sports and gardening, unless we find a really good link about using dead professional bowlers for mulch. The author is a StarTribune columnist, has been passing off fiction and hyperbole as insight since 1997, has run his own website since the Jurassic era of AOL, and was online when today’s college sophomores were a year away from being born. So get off his lawn.

The Secret History of Halloween

Posted by: James Lileks under Architecture, Photos, Praise Updated: October 31, 2013 - 12:36 PM

Not secret at all, but that’s how you write headlines these days.

How modern Halloween began, according to Fast Company:

Every Halloween, millions of surrogate zombies, vampires, and goblins take to the streets, looking to fill the fluorescent orange brainpans of their plastic pumpkins with individually wrapped, fun-sized candies. It seems like a custom immemorial, but trick-or-treating wasn't always an inseparable part of Halloween: in fact, little more than 60 years ago, many Americans had never even seen a trick-or-treater.

Indeed. Look at the old ads, and you won’t see Trick-or-Treaters rise until the 50s, but they’re not getting Halloween-specific candy. Cracker Jack in ordinary boxes. I don’t know how they coped.

While going door-to-door for candy may be a relatively new phenomenon, Halloween has always been about the things trick-or-treating represent: sugar and fear.

In the ritual of trick-or-treating itself, though, U.S. candy makers have discovered countless ways to make money marketing both sweets and terror, to the tune of over $2.3 billion a year in 2011 alone.

Whether you're a kid who loves monsters and gore, or a parent terrified of being egged for running out of caramels (or worse, seeing your child poisoned), U.S. candy makers have always been quick to respond with a candy that is custom-tailored to both your cravings and your anxieties.

Meh. “Fear” and “anxiety” seem a bit overstated. But the article notes that “Brachs, for example, was advertising seasonal Halloween candy with jack o'lanterns and trick-or-treaters on the boxes as early as 1962,” and that’s about right. I found an example in Life:

Here’s what gave away before, in the 50s: CEREAL.

CHICAWGO Popped in at Pleasant Family Shopping, a site devoted to old grocery stores, and watched a rather discursive commercial from the 70s. It’s notable now because no one seems to have regional accents in commercials very much anymore:

The post went on to note that the chain is being phased our by its parent company. YouTube comment: “Mom & Pop stores are a thing of the past. All we have left are the big box stores. I wonder what went wrong ? Bad capitalism?” Well, we have lower prices, better quality, and wider selection, so there’s that. Never underestimate the power of grocery store nostalgia, though; if you tagged along with mom to a particular store when you were a kid, the brands have a powerful pull. The account of Dominick’s is here, with some fantastic pictures of old stores. Even the grainy video grabs bring back the 70s in a flash:

Smoked-glass red gourd-globes. Ah yes. By which I mean no, thanks, if anyone’s planning on bringing that 70s aesthetic back, but it’s nice to be reminded.

NOW THIS IS SCARY  England had some wind this week. A landing at the Birmingham airport:

This is why you’d best not look out the window during a windy landing. The runway will line up eventually, but when you’re coming down and you see the runway pointing at 2 o’clock, you fear you’ll be in the terminal quicker than expected.

FORGOTTEN NO MORE Another favorite blog: “Daily Inspiration,” which looks at all the great illustrators of the 20th century. The latest entry concerns Ben Denison. There were so many of these artists, and it’s a shame they’re constantly eclipsed by modern painters whose fashionable abstraction is far less engaging. For some, anyway.

Have a fun and non-anxious Halloween.


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