Bruce Marsh was a television announcer at CBC. He had a wonderfully rich and comforting voice. He did the voice-over commercial for Kraft Foods on the programs they sponsored. He was the staff announcer. Juliette on Saturday nights after hockey was one of those programs.
Why do I tell you this? Because Bruce Marsh, who came into our homes through the wonderful new media of television, was the first person I heard say the words “Trick or treat.” Those words hadn’t been part of the Newfoundland Halloween tradition in my childhood. It only started, like so many things, with television.
Bruce Marsh’s commercials were for Kraft products like individually wrapped Kraft caramels that became part of a Kraft recipe commercial delivered by Marsh for candied apples or caramels or marshmallows for when “those little trick or treaters come to your door.” Growing up in St. John’s the preferred request on Halloween in the early 1950s, was “Anything for the mummers?” Honest! Television changed so many things in Newfoundland.
We did go out at Halloween in very basic costumes. A mask from Jones’ Variety or a paper mache Batman outfit that ran dye when it rained was about it. Maybe you had a Lone Ranger mask or just a pillow case over your head with the eyes cut out. There wasn’t much on the go.
Another thing is we didn’t leave our west end neighbourhood. It was a triangle the sides of which were Pleasant Street, Patrick Street and the top of Power Street. We stayed on our own turf mostly and some of that was for fear of being robbed by older boys. Turf was part of life.
Our parents also checked apples for signs they had been tampered with. There were endless stories in the newspapers about razor blades or needles being put into apples although I never saw it. Who wants an apple on Halloween anyway? We didn’t have much at our house but we had apples.
I tell you something else interesting. The Christian Brothers who taught us downplayed the whole Halloween event anyway. They stressed the fact the next day was All Saints Day and that was a holy day of obligation. You had to go to Mass and Holy Communion. The point made by the Christian Brothers was that Halloween (All Hallows Eve) on the 31st of October and was a pagan festival.
By the time my sons were of the Halloween age everything had changed. They prepared for weeks and learned their own tricks of the trade. Don’t go into houses with long driveways…it takes too long. Also, make sure the neighbours know who you are. You don’t want to be going unidentified if they know your parents. It can hurt the yield.
My boys did well and had enough candies for months. One of them didn’t like chocolate all that much and sold his “loot” to his brothers. A young entrepreneur in the making.
There are still Kraft Caramels and Halloween goes on.