Tale of a Halloween Scrooge

In honor of the season, here’s a Halloween memory . . .

I grew up in a primarily working-class neighborhood. We lived in a big city and our street was full of families with school-age children. There were a few “well-to-do” neighbors, but they were the exception rather than the rule. Most people anxiously awaited their next paycheck.

As a child, I was often told that poor people are the most generous. I’m not sure if that’s absolutely true, but I have witnessed many striking examples of generosity from people of little means, and equally striking examples of stinginess from people who could well afford to be altruistic.

To protect the guilty, I shall refer to a wealthy family in the old neighborhood as the “Smiths”, and to their son, as “Johnny”.

The scenario was the same every Halloween. When we rang the doorbell at the Smith home to trick or treat . . . Mrs. Smith would appear with a large bowl that was about half-full of candy corn.

She’d smile as if she were giving us gold coins, while she carefully dropped TWO pieces of candy corn into each child’s bag. Although we were pretty young, we found this astounding, for we knew that many of our less fortunate neighbors took great pleasure in offering us little bundles of beautifully wrapped treats, even though it must have been a sacrifice for them to do so. Years went by, and although we were always hopeful that Mrs. Smith might change her ways – she never did.

When Mrs. Smith’s son, Johnny, became too old to trick or treat, he took on the role of candy corn dispenser. However, Mrs. Smith was always at his elbow, dramatically urging: “Just two per child, Johnny!”

Johnny!!! Just two!!!”

It’s funny how that memory is so vivid after all these years. It shows how impressionable children can be. At a very early age, I learned that there are people with hearts of pure gold, and there are people who could have hearts of gold . . . but choose not to.




Tale of a Halloween Scrooge — 6 Comments

  1. What a lesson you learned. I too grew up in a working class neighborhood. But we were taught manners and we were taught to be kind. Those were more valuable than money. Maybe because we had lots of manners and lots of kindness!

  2. Funny. I don’t have any memory of anything like that. The only memory I have of Halloween when I was a kid was one year I remember being at the supper table. Whatever there was for supper that night, I didn’t want to eat it. My mother told me if I didn’t eat, I couldn’t go trick or treating. I don’t remember if I went or not.

    You are right about kids being impressionable. My experience was bad then, but it taught me a lot about what kind of parent I wanted to be. Its probably part of the reason that I go all out for the holidays too!!

    You all have a great Halloween and have FUN!!

  3. It’s not just you! Poor people–at least in America!– tend to be much more charitable. There have been a lot of studies on this! And lots of suggestions for why. But that’s heavy thinking, so I’ll settle for saying:

    TWO PIECES of loose candy corn? Eeeeew! That house was beggin’ for an eggin’!;P

  4. I don’t remember anyone like that in our neighborhood. I do remember that older lady named Pearl who lived up the street that always gave out home made goodies, and we ate them too. I even remember when we celebrated her 80th birthday. There were no adults there that day, just us neighborhood kids and her daughter. WoW, I have not thought of her in years, great memories. Thanks for reminding me just how special the people in our neighborhood were.

    Happy Halloween everyone, I will be dressing up as a ghoul for Zoology class on Friday, if we come in costume we get extra points. I figured, I could go as a ghoul with fake spiders, rats and bats on me and it would a great costume for this class.

  5. Two pieces of candy corn…good grief! Maybe that’s how Mrs. Smith got all her money, by saving the money she didn’t spend on Halloween candy! … and she was teaching poor Johnny to be as stingy as she was. Shame on her! I hope Johnny grew up to be different. Did he??? xoxo’s Paulette

  6. Wow…poor Johnny. I don’t have any memories of trick-or-treating because my parents were so very nervous about drugs and razor blades in the candy. I do have a hazy memory of a rainy Halloween and possibly ringing the doorbell of one of my Dad’s friend’s houses, but I never went with a group of kids or really had the trick-or-treat experience.

    Unfortunately, I’ve bumped into a few Mrs. Smith’s in the work world…I could spend days talking about that…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.