Halloween: Nazis, hobos and hos

When I was a kid, Halloween was a kids’ holiday. 

That was a long time ago, in a universe far away — called the South Bronx.

We celebrated Halloween on Oct. 31, always. Never on a more convenient weekend night. Always Halloween itself, like Henri David does with his annual party.

At Halloween, Jim Kenney before he lost his sense of humor, and Father Bykofsky

Those were the post-war (II) years. Money was tight. No one yet had monetized huge costume stores. No one could afford such silliness.

Today, Halloween is a $9 billion industry. To put that in perspective, the U.S. Department of Commerce budget is $13 billion.

Anyway, back then costumes were needed for trick-or-treating and the quality of the do-it-yourself costume was dependent on how creative your mother was. 

The most popular male costumes on my block were cowboys and hobos. You could throw a serape (usually a curtain) over your shoulders, find a sombrero and pretend to be Mexican without being accused of cultural appropriation and racism. 

Cowboy was blue jeans, a western style hat and a toy cap gun. Hobo required old clothes and makeup that gave the youngster a dirty face. (Hobo is not allowed today: demeaning to the homeless.)

For girls, it was a princess, which required a dressy dress and a tiara made of tinfoil, or ballerina — the base being a swim suit. It would not be called sexist.

Gender nonspecific costumes might be ghosts — an old sheet thrown over the kid, or a monster, which might be a face mask and Dad’s work clothes. A cardboard box and construction paper could produce a soup can to walk around in.

As adults began to infiltrate Halloween, some bad things happened to good people — the holiday was taken as an opportunity to exercise adventures in blackface. You probably know who I am talking about, so I need not dwell on that. 

We may need woke rules for Halloween. Some people — Prince Harry, was that you? — might wear a Nazi uniform to a party, separating the actual genocide from them having cool uniforms. I am less concerned about faux Nazis at parties than real ones marching in Charlottesville. But that uniform is a form of expression, and while repugnant, is protected by the First Amendment, which can be a bitch at times. 

To me, 12 is cutoff age for trick-or-treating. If you are older than that, begging for candy with the threat of a “trick” is extortion.

Costumes have became what you might call more “adult.” 

Princesses were replaced by sluts, porn stars and hos.

Cowboys were replaced by pimps, dungeon slaves and chain saw murderers.

How nice.

A “teacher” costume would be a zero, but put “sexy” in front of “teacher,” and you are off to the races. Just open the blouse to the navel, add a micro mini and hooker heels. 

Put “sexy” in front of “plumber” and you get more than a butt crack. If I describe more, you will want to put out your eyes. 

Not being especially handy and not having much free time, as an adult I settled for being a judge (with a black gown borrowed from a judge), a referee (in a striped shirt from Modell’s) and a priest (Roman collar shirt bought from a church supply shop). I used the priest costume for many years because it enabled me to hear confessions — and it was slimming.

One year I decided to wear something horrifying.

I showed up nude.

Stu Bykofsky nude (censored)

It wasn’t a hit, so it was back to the priest, and all was well in heaven. 

7 thoughts on “Halloween: Nazis, hobos and hos”

    father, here my confession, then we can go out and sin together .
    “Trick or Treat”. When we, in costume, walked into the corner “tappy” ( that’s tap room for the unknowing), we automatically said trick or treat. The bar owner would automatically say TRICK. That meant that you had to do something in order to earn a glass of birch beer- right from the tap. So, we would sign or dance for the delicious drink.
    I used to explain the trick or treat request to the little ones – and their parents. It was always well received.

  2. Hi Stu

    A great article!! Brought back fun memories just like you described esp. of cowboys and hobos and for me coming home, spreading out the Evening Bulletin, then dumping a very heavy bag of LARGE pieces of candy, apples, etc., and if lucky some loose

    Definitely cut off age around 12. I remember thinking how silly!

    Check with Archbishop Chaput, they’re in need of priests. I say that with a heavy heart.

  3. Keep an eye out for pets on Halloween. When I was a wee lad our neighbors had four children and a dog named Prunes. Yes, his name was Prunes, and he got caught up in the trick-or-treating revelry. Prunes got hit by a car. No more Prunes.

  4. Imagine going out as Eddie Cantor, in blackface, singing ‘Mammy.’
    And in another direction, was there ever a funnier ‘priest’ than ‘Father’ Guido Sarducci
    on Saturday Night Live?

  5. I almost spit out my adult beverage, as I walked the neighborhood “parenting” my trick or treating kids, after seeing that “Stu Bykofsky nude (censored)” photo of Father Bykofsky… too funny!

    But seriously, this article brought back memories of my “award winning” costume from Halloween 1981, when my mom hand crafted a fabulously detailed, black and white striped prison outfit, complete with ball and chain (aka plastic bowling ball and construction-paper chain), which I paraded around St. XXXXX Grammar School and later the neighborhood like a bad ass. I believe the prize was an apple and not having to clap the erasers in November. Don’t see either of those “prizes” anymore….

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