I grew up in the seaside town of Porthcawl, South Wales. I was lucky in that I had a wonderful childhood and have many happy memories of that time – tainted only ever so slightly by the not-so-happy memories of school, which I loathed..
My childhood memories are mainly made up of all the super nice things I got up to with my family and friends. Holidays, weekends and after school activities, big events in the calendar like my birthday party (or anybody else in my class’ birthday party, for that matter), Christmas. You know. Nice things. Halloween included.
I have always loved Halloween and it is still remains one of my all-time favourite annual festivities.
Like so many other things in life, Halloween was different when I was a child. Simpler if you like. For a start there were no pumpkins to be had. In fact I hadn’t even seen a real pumpkin until about 8 or 9 years ago when they first made an appearance on the shelves of supermarkets here in Iceland.
And there they stayed. Lots of them – for weeks. Because very few people in Iceland knew quite what to do with them back then, and so naturally supply outweighed demand.
But circumstances have since changed and your average Icelander today knows exactly what to do with a pumpkin. As does the rest of the world, it seems..
But no. There were no pumpkins in Wales back in the late 60s, early 70s into which to carve today’s intricate and innovative jack-o-lantern designs.
We used swedes. Which were absolute buggers to hollow out and carve anything into – let alone something that vaguely resembled a garish, toothy face. It really was bloody hard work! Having carved a few pumpkins since, I can tell you that there are absolutely NO similarities between these two activities. Pumpkin carving will not, if done correctly, leave you with open sores.
And of course there was the fun of ‘dressing-up’ – as we called it. Little witches and ghosts, black crepe paper and white bed sheets. Boo!
I suppose it all sounds a bit primitive and naff when compared to today’s outfits and offerings. But the excitement and fun we experienced at that time was brilliant and I loved it! (Still do).
The adrenalin would be pumping by lunchtime, and a mix of hysteria and dread would rise like a ghost from the dead, as afternoon gave way to evening. But no trick or treating. None of that going on. We saved our begging for penny-for-the-guy. And that would come soon enough.
When we were really little my mum would put on Halloween parties for us at home. We would dress up in our scary finery, have a bit of party food (which comprised of the usual early 70’s party fodder – crisps, twiglets, paste sandwiches, iced gems and a wagon wheel or two) and then play a few Halloween games of the time. Ducking apples in an old tin bath in the kitchen and bobbing apples tied on the clothes line. The apples coming from the apple trees we had in the garden.
(NB: I might add that as a family we didn’t actually bathe in the tin bath. We had a bathroom with a bath. The tin bath was used for the washing and soaking. Just wanted to clarify!)
That was about it really.. well at least at that time it was about it. It wasn’t until we got older and dared to venture further out into the big wide world that Halloween got scarier and began to morph into something quite different.
Pagan activities like apple bobbing and swede carving were pushed aside in favour of teen-styled scary visits to haunted houses, derelict buildings and graveyards.
The types of places that we really had no business being, but were drawn to like moths to flames.
Bottles of Corona pop and ready salted crisps were swapped out for flagons of Bulmer’s cider and packets of 10 Embassy Regal. Which, when I think about it, were staggeringly easy to come by at the time!
Halloween parties gave way to Halloween discos, the hemlines of our witches outfits got a little shorter, the waistlines nipped in a little tighter – the heels a LOT higher.
Michael Jackson’s Thriller was everywhere. It was 1982, I was 20 and life was fabulous. *sigh*
To be continued…
Image of the Ghost Train at Coney Beach Fun Fair, Porthcawl.
Thanks to Paul’s Coaster Page