Don Your Way column: Why Halloween didn’t exist in Doncaster in the 80s

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If you’ve got little ones, you are probably watching them eagerly count down to October 31.

For Halloween will soon be upon his once again when children all over town pull on their best fancy dress costumes, hit the streets and come back laden down with sackfuls of sweets and goodies from a successful trick or treating expedition.

Darren Burke says Halloween barely registered in Doncaster during the 80s.

Darren Burke says Halloween barely registered in Doncaster during the 80s.

The adults will no doubt be getting in on the act too, carving pumpkins and pulling on their ghoulish outfits for a night of frightful fun.

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Halloween is now one of the most eagerly anticipated dates on the calendar, edging ahead of Easter in the popularity and spending stakes and giving Christmas a run for its money in how big an earner its become for the stores and supermarkets.

 ’Twas not always the case however.

If you’re of a certain age (ie, a child of the 80s), you’ll know that back then, Halloween barely registered.

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Pumpkins? Well, you didn’t see those in suburban Doncaster in the early 80s. The best you could hope was for a scooped out turnip with a candle stuck in it.

And costumes? The true magic and witchcraft was your mum being able to fix up some sort of witch/wizard outfit from a few bin bags and a few sheets of black paper.

When I was growing up, Halloween genuinely didn’t feature for either me or my mates.

Instead, after summer, the focus was all about Bonfire Night.

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In the weeks leading up to November 5, we’d scour the streets for fallen tree branches and bits of scrap wood, taking them home to our parents to burn on their own individual bonfires.

Organised displays back then did exist – but by and large, come the morning of November 6, the air would be thick with grey smoke and the streets scattered with spent rockets from a Standard box of fireworks – traffic lights, snowstorms and catherine wheels anyone?

Of course, another tradition that’s gone by the wayside is the old penny for the guy routine. 

In the weeks leading up to Guy Fawkes’ Night (as it still tended to be called back then) you’d go round the house, find a pair of old jeans and a t-shirt, stuff them with scrunched up newspaper and top off your creation with a balloon for a head.

Then you’d head to your nearest shop, sit outside like some poor unfortunate, scruffy urchin and wail ‘penny for the guy.’ If you were lucky, by the end of the day sitting in the chill November winds with your pile of ragged clothes filled with archive copies of the Daily Mirror, you’d have enough to buy a few penny chews.

Halloween is very much a new thing – and it’s all still a bit alien from days gone by!