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12:15 AM Thu, Jan. 17th

Local Columns: Oct. 31, 1969: Best Halloween ever

I can still smell the wine that soaked into the cork my father burned with his Zippo lighter. He smudged the char on my face to provide that unshaven grubby hobo look I was going for.

I put on my favorite play clothes - my holeyest jeans, my T-shirt with the worst stains and one of my older brother's plaid flannel shirts.

My mother tied a red bandana to her yardstick that I carried over my shoulder. My father handed me the now-burnt cork, which served double duty as a hobo's stubby cigar.

It was Halloween 1969, and I was about to go on my first solo trick or treat adventure.

What made this particular Halloween so spectacular is that my parents considered me old enough to trick or treat with my friends without adult supervision, but they wisely knew I was not old enough to trick or treat with my friends and keep an eye on my little brother and sister at the same time.

I was 9 years old and for the first time in my life I had total, complete, absolute freedom.

The feeling was intoxicating, but Mom did her best to sober me up. The warnings of Halloween evildoing tumbled out of her mouth in an avalanche of disjointed words that just about made me stay home. Under the covers. Forever.

She alerted me to the possibility of razor blades in apples, candy cigarettes laced with LSD, rat poison in my Jujubes. A hundred tiny needles could be hidden in my $100,000 Bar.

I never found any razor blades in apples. If anyone laced my candy cigarettes with LSD, I never noticed. And I smelled every single piece of candy to detect rat poison before I popped one piece after another into my mouth.

I got sick, but that was due to gluttony and not the result of falling victim to some twisted candy-tampering Satanist in the neighborhood.

With this memory in mind, I lament the loss of Halloween. Slow to catch on, my wife and I buy candy to hand out on Halloween night every year, despite the fact we average about a dozen knocks on the door, if we're lucky. Things changed about 20 years ago. In the early years of married life, my wife and I handed out candy to a nonstop parade of costumed kids who came to our door.

Nowadays, all the costumed kids have traded trick or treating to trunk or treat, away from homes where the bogeyman lives.

Presumably, they are safer at these events and it's hard to argue with the logic. While I was never poisoned on Halloween night, older kids did steal my bag of candy one year. I vowed to never again wear a plastic mask like I did in 1967, even if it was Captain James T. Kirk of the starship USS Enterprise and I looked awesome. I never saw them coming - and my poor mom had to witness the entire ordeal, helpless to come to my aid because my baby sister was in her arms.

Another year a kid I never knew was struck by a drunk driver and spent a few weeks in the hospital. This is another memory that stands out. So yes, Halloween can be dangerous and it's probably a good thing the way the holiday is celebrated has changed.

Still, there was something magical about going door to door on Oct. 31, 1969, with no adult supervision. It was dark outside, for crying out loud.

Sure, today's children can get the loot at a trunk or treat event, but it just isn't the same.

I earned my candy that Halloween 45 years ago and I earned the stomachache that kept me up well into the night.

For some reason, I couldn't convince my mother that my repeated regurgitations were the result of rat poison in my Jujubes and not because I pigged out like a kid in a candy store.

Happy Halloween, Kingman.