Boomers Waited for the Holiday Season

In our current on-demand world, it appears the powers-that-be want to run events and holidays running into and overlapping one after the other, like sport team seasons converging in the inevitable playoffs. Take our current calendar season. As of this writing, the calendar says it is Halloween. Yet the store aisles are filled with Christmas decorations and holiday supplies, and TV is airing Christmas gifting ads … and they have been for weeks!

This isn’t entirely a recent phenomena. Boomers grew up knowing they weren’t going to be able to buy a swimsuit in August, or a winter coat in March — other than picked-over clearance merchandise. Yet things are different now. There is a dwindling recognition of season, and no sense of anticipation. You want breakfast at 3 pm, no problem! Need a term paper by tomorrow? It can be in your driveway tomorrow, without ever going to a dealership. In the boomer years, anticipation was part of what made holidays and events what they were. (See: Boomers Learned to Wait)

Halloween used to be a one-day event. Now it’s a month-long, $10.5 billion dollar industry, according to the National Retail Federation. Christmas season didn’t begin until Thanksgiving dinner was over. Black Friday was hardly the madhouse it became in post-boomer years; stores opened at their regular time. Now it’s all shopping, all the time …. online. Fortunately, some retailers have seen the error of their ways and will close their stores for Thanksgiving this year, claiming they value their employees and want them to spend holiday time with their families. Of course, the real reason they will close is they can make more money with less overhead by pushing online purchases.

If Mister B is sounding a little cynical and curmudgeonly, and you’re ready to tell him “OK, boomer,” well, that’s fine with him. Boomers have lived six to seven decades now, and have the advantage of seeing how different things were to what they have become. Mister B, for one, enjoyed holidays as they arrived in the little boxes of a calendar, anticipating each day by day, and enjoying them to their fullest when they arrived. Only then could he and other boomers think about what came next. As each calendar page turned, seasons changed, and holidays would appear on the horizon. Anticipation made it special. Living in the present made it the best. How will today’s kids remember the Halloween of 2022? Or the Thanksgiving? Or the Christmas? And will they have to refer to some online archive of snapshots and videos to tell them what actually happened?

How about you, boomers? Do you care if Christmas ads play constantly on your TV in October?

Boomers Shaped Decades of Halloween Candy Favorites

The idea of children trick or treating door to door, and given candy for Halloween, gained acceptance in the 1920s. Immediately, certain types of candy rose to the surface to become favorites — the first being Baby Ruth, which was introduced in 1920. The 1930s saw 3 Musketeers bars take the lead among the top-sellers. Other candy that became favorites for kids and adults alike include Hershey’s Chocolate bars, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Milk Duds (introduced in 1928) and Milky Way. Additional favorites of the era included Good & Plenty, Boston Baked Beans, Lifesavers, Smarties and Turkish Taffy. Almost all of these top sellers of the 1920s and 30s and the early days of Halloween trick or treating remain on the top-selling Halloween candy list to this day. Yet once the Boomer Generation appeared, tastes — and products — began to change. Here is a list of top-selling Halloween candy for the boomer decades of the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s, the years when boomer children roamed the streets yelling “trick or treat!”

The first boomer children appeared in 1946, so technically they would not be out and about under their own power until the early 50s. Mister Boomer is including the 40s here because it sheds some light on the favorites list during the boomer years. In 1941, M & Ms were introduced, and very quickly became a top-selling favorite with its candy-coated shell, burst of chocolate and “melts in your mouth, not in your hand” technology. Other favorites boomers would soon recognize include Bazooka Bubble Gum, Jolly Ranchers and Almond Joy. So it can be said the earliest boomers tasted the favorite Halloween candy that their parents grew up with.

The Boomer Generation was gaining steam, and so was the candy industry as it tried to influence the tastes of a new generation. In 1954, Atomic Fireballs were introduced. These spicy, cinnamon-infused jawbreaker candies held the favorite spot for a few years as boomer children helped expand the choices their parents had for Halloween treats. It was the Atomic Age, and now boomers had something they could call their own. Continuing the expansion beyond the perennial chocolate favorites were Necco Wafers — around for the previous 50 years; Satellite Wafers — new to the decade and black licorice — which made a bit of a comeback from turn of the century during the early boomer years.

Boomers saw Mike & Ike, Pixy Stix and Starburst candies rise among the top-selling Halloween candy in the 1960s. However, the number-one seller for the decade was a newcomer, SweeTarts, which were introduced in 1963.

The top-selling Halloween candy of the 1970s was Laffy Taffy. Also making the list were Pop Rocks and Blow Pops.

Mister Boomer remembers them all, up through the 1960s when his trick or treating days ended. His family all had their own favorites. For Brother Boomer, it was Chunky candy bars, Chuckles and Necco Wafers, most of which were decades old in terms of Halloween treats. He wanted to trade to get them, willingly giving up malted milk balls, Milk Duds or Smarties. When insufficient trading occurred among the siblings, he didn’t mind pilfering his favorites from Mister B’s or his sister’s bags. Mister Boomer quickly caught on and hid some from his brother, leaving a sacrificial piece to avoid suspicion. Mister B’s sister immediately fell head-over-heels for SweeTarts, but she also loved Milk Duds, Dots and Good & Plenty. His mother looked to raid her children’s collected candy booty for Milky Way bars, which she would pop into the freezer to eat frozen. His father’s hunger for Butterfingers could not be satiated.

As for Mister B, he was partial to a wide range of Halloween candies, but he especially liked chocolate. Snicker’s, Mounds, Almond Joy, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Rasinets and more were welcome in the pillow case holding tank. Still, Smarties, malted milk balls, Squirrels and peanut butter kisses were more than acceptable. What he did not like in his bag were homemade popcorn balls, apples (regular or candied), suckers or pennies. Some people would give one cent coins to each child. Mister B could count on getting five or so cents, which he saved to spend on penny candy once his Halloween cache had been consumed, but still, he did not like receiving coins in his bag.

How about you, boomers? Are your favorites on the top-selling list?