O ne of my co-workers mentioned last Thursday, in response to the decision made by a half-dozen York-area municipalities to eliminate trick-or-treating this Halloween season, that she recalled being able to trick-or-treat in her hometown whenever she wanted on Halloween.
She's 25, so that was only a dozen or so years ago.
If it was 4 in the afternoon, it would have been fine to start knocking on doors, she said. Or 5 in the afternoon, or 6 in the evening would have been OK, too. Whenever she wanted to go trick-or-treating would have been just dandy.
So the notion of canceling trick-or-treating because of Hurricane Sandy seemed very foreign to her.
Actually, it's foreign to me, as well.
And I know I'm not the only one.
York City officials canceled trick-or-treating early last week, citing concerns about safety and the risk of lawsuits if someone got hurt.
That didn't stop a number of York City residents, however, because they were out trick-or-treating Wednesday night up and down East Philadelphia Street, kids all dressed up and parents tagging along. They were having their night of fun, safety and lawsuits be darned.
Out in West Manchester Township, where I happen to live and have lived for almost all of my life, trick-or-treating also was given the heave-ho this year for the same safety and lawsuits reasons.
I'm not saying that was a first, only that I don't recall it ever happening before.
Usually in West Manchester Township, officials are inclined to let people think for themselves on the small stuff. Not this year, apparently.
But some people living in West Manchester Township blew it off just like they did in York City. Phooey on the nanny state, I guess.
Call it the "Mom Revolt" in West Manchester Township. A couple of moms -- Chrissy Schultz Sparks and Tania Zech -- took it upon themselves to fight for their kids' desire to trick-or-treat this year in the neighborhood they live in.
When it came to Hurricane Sandy, they didn't figure the conditions were any worse this year than they are any year. They were willing to take their chances.
So they spread the word, hand-delivered fliers to friends and neighbors and counted on word of mouth to let everyone in on the worst-kept secret in York County -- there would be trick-or-treating in West Manchester Township whether township officials liked it or not.
Officials probably didn't like it, but they made no effort to stop it. The kids went trick-or-treating on Wednesday night. All was right in their world.
And I suspect some of the same might have occurred in every one of the six York County municipalities -- York City, West Manchester, Spring Garden and Dover townships and Dover and Jacobus boroughs -- that canceled trick-or-treating this year.
This is all very odd to me. It must have something to do with my age.
But it's what happens when governments take control of things they probably shouldn't get involved in. Because once they have control, they start setting the rules. They tell people on which nights they can trick-or-treat. They tell people what hours they can trick-or-treat on those nights. They tell people if they can trick-or-treat at all. They sometimes try to tell people the substitute for trick-or-treating is a community Halloween party at the fire hall -- if you want to do anything, you have to do that.
It was so much easier back in my day -- that would be in the early-1960s, when West Manchester Township officials could have cared less about Halloween or trick-or-treating. Yes, Halloween was a big deal for kids back in those days, and no one tried to attach a bunch of rules to it.
If Halloween fell on a Wednesday, for example, we started trick-or-treating on Monday night, anytime after dinner and before about 9 p.m. Then, again, on Tuesday night. And, of course, on Wednesday night, because that was Halloween. And if we felt like it, we might have gone on Thursday night, too, to pull in some leftover candy.
There were no rules -- sometimes we didn't even wear costumes in our quest to hit every house in town at least once. It was good enough to pull our coats over our heads and our hats down over our faces. If we looked stupid enough, that passed for Halloween.
As long as we were respectful and not cheating the little kids out of loot, we could trick-or-treat right up to the age of about 15, though I recall stopping around age 13, because I thought I was too old for such stuff.
And we never -- I mean NEVER -- would have been caught dead trick-or-treating with our mothers and fathers tagging along. It just would not have happened back in the day. The big kids in the neighborhood looked after the little kids, and off we went.
I know, times have changed.
Now we have to worry about safety and lawsuits.
It's a legitimate concern.
Back in my day, we never had to worry about razor blades hidden in apples, either. That phenomenon started sometime around the early- '70s, and trick-or-treating hasn't been the same since.
That's when municipalities started taking over Halloween.
That's when all the rules started.
Better or not ...
Safer or not ...
Whether we like it or not ...
It is the way things are today.
Little kids of today don't know this, of course, but Halloween was a lot more fun 50 years ago.
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.