Everyone loves Halloween and trick or treating, if only for the scads of free candy we get. It's a sugar buzz that has to last until the Easter bunny arrives.
But, invariably, the chocolate haul was marred by some old, greening pennies, boxes of stale raisins or, heaven forbid, the dreaded apple or other unwrapped fruit.
Like you, OnMilwaukee.com staffers grew up donning costumes and demanding treats from their neighbors. And here are the "treats" that they deemed unworthy of the distinction...
Molly Snyder Edler
Baggies filled with popcorn
For me, the worst Halloween handout is popcorn-filled baggies, and not because of the treat itself, but due to a childhood experience. When I was about 4 years old, my family lived above a hair salon on the East Side because my parents were college students and the rent was cheap. For our first Halloween in the new place, my mom and I popped about 50 bags of popcorn and put a stick of sugarless gum in the bottom of each bag. The plan was for me to wear my Minnie Mouse costume, hand out the goods and then go trick-or-treating for a little while at the end of the evening. (This was when Milwaukee's trick-or-treating was still at night, and when you could still get away with handing out treats that weren't pre-packaged.) However, more than halfway through the trick-or-treating time and not a single chime of the doorbell, I started to whine about our lack of costumed visitors. More time passed and I started to full-on cry. In the end, not a single trick-or-treater came to our door because it was overshadowed by the flashy salon sign. I remember my dad sadly shaking his head, feeling unavoidable parental guilt because lack of finances had affected my Halloween experience. Today, I feel badly when I think about the mini bags of popcorn, not because I didn't get to hand out treats, but because my good parents had to feel like they screwed up.
Lame candy and fruit
As a kid, we’d warn our fellow candy-grabbers on the sidewalks about which houses gave out the sucky treats: dot candy (the kind stuck to that white paper), Dum-Dums suckers (one crunch and they’re gone), those orange and black wrapped pieces of unidentified peanut buttery taffy (always stale), and Pixy Stix (a gross waste of my time). Then, of course, there were those truly cruel houses that committed even more heinous crimes that giving out bad candy: they gave our fruit, or nickels, or even … fruit. The horror!
When I look back at the candy orgy that was Halloween, I gleefully remember Snickers, Three Musketeers, Krackel and all the other bite-size goodies that gave me a stomachache and kept my sugar fix flowing until Thanksgiving.
The candy bars were always a home run. The stale popcorn balls? A pop-up to the catcher. A couple of pennies (had to be the orthodontist's house) represented a strikeout.
My absolute least favorite treat, though, was the Bit-o-Honey. It's billed as a small, individually wrapped candy with an almond-nutty flavor and a hint of honey. To me, it was a rock-hard, stale piece of flavorless junk that always stuck to the wrapper when you tried to eat it.
Growing up, my house was the house on the block that replaced soda with Sunny D and sugar cereal with flax seed bran. My mom snuck tofu into every meal and even put lettuce on my peanut butter sandwiches. Thus it was no surprise when my mom started passing out raisins in lieu of candy each and every Halloween. I repeatedly told her kids just tossed the raisins away but she insisted handing them out with the hope kids would magically pass over a Kit Kat and go for dried fruit.
The pinnacle came when it was time for the all out candy trade with your trick or treat cohorts; I couldn't trade 10 mini boxes of raisins for Smarties or Tootsie Rolls; they were literally worthless. Because raisins had zero appeal, they were always the last thing to be touched. The small boxes sat at the bottom of my Halloween candy pumpkin until every other thing was eaten; conclusively hard and vilely inedible.
I brush twice a day and see my dentist for a cleaning and check up twice a year. I'm trying to impart the same dental heath care to my son, too, but I still hope he doesn't get any toothbrushes in his Halloween stash. I know the toothbrush fairies mean well and are trying to send a valuable message, but I bet the message is lost on every child at Halloween. Parents are the ones who need to create good dental hygiene habits -- and control their kids' candy intake -- all year long. To the kids, those who are asked "trick or treat" really ought to just hand over the candy with a smile, like we all do. That's the spirit of trick or treat and Halloween ... or at least that's what Halloween has become: a candy fest.
Bit-O-Honey and generic candy
There are too many obvious choices for worst trick-or-treat booty. Of course, everyone hated the pennies or the toothbrushes. But there were two candies that I wouldn't eat under any circumstances: Bit-O'-Honeys, to me, tasted so gross, I thought I was allergic to them as a kid. Even worse were those crappy, generic candies that came wrapped only in plain orange and black wax paper. I don't know what these were called, but they tasted stale and chalky and totally artificial. Not that I would've had a chance to eat them, anyway. After the tampered candy scares of the '80s, my mom pretty much threw out any piece of candy that wasn't hermetically sealed. Which, sadly, meant almost everything.