Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Candies and other deadly Halloween ordinances

I could have used firecrackers wearing my carrot suit

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There's still time for you to help me raise some cash for the Winnipeg Humane Society by voting for the wiener dog jack-o'-lantern I whipped up in Kildonan Place Shopping Centre's annual Carving for a Cause contest. The pumpkin that gets the most 'likes' on the mall's Facebook page (www.facebook.com/kildonanplace) by 10 p.m. on Halloween will win $500 for its charity.

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There's still time for you to help me raise some cash for the Winnipeg Humane Society by voting for the wiener dog jack-o'-lantern I whipped up in Kildonan Place Shopping Centre's annual Carving for a Cause contest. The pumpkin that gets the most 'likes' on the mall's Facebook page (www.facebook.com/kildonanplace) by 10 p.m. on Halloween will win $500 for its charity.

I became gravely concerned Tuesday morning after reading an alarming news report about a group of Ottawa moms who -- prepare to be outraged -- are trying to make Halloween healthier for kids.

Instead of handing out delicious miniature chocolate bars -- which most of us will agree are the go-to Halloween snack -- these moms are urging Canadians to offer trick-or-treaters healthier alternatives, such as low-sugar candy, cheese strings, fruit cups and things that are not cloaked in a layer of chocolate-y goodness.

"It's very important that they eat nutritional foods and Oh Henry! isn't part of that equation," organizer Maggie Cordina is quoted as saying.

An Ottawa nutritionist has even jumped on the anti-candy bandwagon, noting: "They (trick-or-treaters) could be putting on a pound of weight Halloween week just with all the sugar that they're consuming."

This is not the first time I have come across misguided citizens who feel Halloween is the right time to launch a campaign against tooth decay.

I will never forget one of the Halloweens of my boyhood when a neighbour -- this neighbour happened to be a dentist -- decided instead of candy, he would hand out toothbrushes and dental floss to the innocent, law-abiding ghouls and goblins who came to his door.

I'm not saying this neighbour faced serious reprisals as a result of this reckless decision, but on the morning after Halloween it was impossible for him to physically leave his house due to the fact it was tightly wrapped in an impenetrable layer of two-ply toilet paper.

The thing is, back when I was trick-or-treating, we faced health threats far more alarming than sugar, by which I mean young kids in Halloween costumes armed with high explosives.

You modern young people probably think Uncle Doug is joking about this, but that is only because you spend all your time watching cat videos on the Internet, where it is highly unlikely anyone will attempt to blow you up.

What you need to know is, unlike today when it is illegal for young people to leave their homes unless they are covered from head to foot in protective bubble wrap, it used to be perfectly acceptable for kids with brains the size of cashews to walk into their local corner store and buy firecrackers the same size -- and with the same destructive capacity -- as hand grenades.

In the days leading up to Halloween, armed with enough firecrackers to destroy the toilets in every school within an 80-kilometre radius, young persons like me would blow up the model airplanes we had spent hours gluing together and subject legions of tiny plastic army men to military-level explosions in our backyards.

The worst thing, however, was "the bad kids" -- I am going to guess you have probably heard of these kids, many of whom went on to become Canadian senators -- would wander around Halloween night and drop lit firecrackers into the pillowcases that safety-minded kids like me used to collect hundreds of kilograms of sugar-intensive candy.

Worst of all, I made an inviting target because my mother insisted on dressing her children in the extremely dorky costumes she was compelled to make when we took figure-skating lessons and had to appear in our community club's annual ice show.

For reasons I will never understand, these ice shows always had an agricultural theme, the result being, over the years my mother sent me out onto the mean streets dressed as a carrot, a potato and assorted root vegetables.

So on Halloween night, there I was, a mutant kid-sized candy-toting vegetable, wandering around in the dark amid an army of vampires, werewolves and creepy clowns, pretty much all of whom were armed with enough potentially lethal explosives to overthrow a developing nation.

It was the same story with my older brother, although he got to dress up as a farmer, so at least he had a hoe or a rake to defend himself, not that I am bitter about this.

The miracle is, while my candy often had scorch marks, I personally managed to survive those unsafe Halloweens with all of my boyish limbs intact.

Dressed as a non-menacing carrot, the only way I was able to escape the firecracker-flinging older kids was by staging surprise counter-attacks wherein I would reach into my pillowcase, grab some of the hardest Halloween candies and fling them at the faces of my attackers.

Because, even back then, I knew too much sugar can be deadly.

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 30, 2013 A2

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