Commentary: Keep Halloween safe

By David W. Kuhns Sr.October 24, 2008

FORT LEWIS, Wash. - "Trick or treat."

That's one of the favorite phrases in American English - right up there with "Merry Christmas" and "Play ball."

The sound of a child calling out the traditional request for candy brings back pleasant memories for all of us.

I remember one of my first Halloweens. I went out as a robot. I wore silver-painted milk cartons on my arms and legs, and a painted box on my body. My parents have a photograph of me as I headed out. You can faintly see an 'X' through the silver paint on my chest along with the label "Lucky Lager."

I was 5 years old that year. I roamed the neighborhood under the supervision of my 7-year-old brother and his friends. I don't remember any parents on the street. Half the treats we got were homemade - popcorn balls, candied apples, cookies. Things were certainly different 'back in the day.'

Parents are more careful now.

Costumes, parties, decorations, candy, and more candy - Halloween has always been a fun day. But keeping it fun isn't always easy to do.

You rarely see those homemade confections any more. Too many stories have been bandied about telling of bad people attempting to do bad things with Halloween treats. Prudence dictates caution, so parents are advised to check over the treats. Homemade treats generally head for the trash, unless parents are sure of the source.

It is rare for young children to hit the streets without adult supervision, too. There is almost always a parent lurking in the shadows, keeping an eye on things when the little goblins ring the doorbell.

A few years ago, there was talk about the end of trick-or-treating. Alternative parties or other celebrations were seen as the wave of the future. The pendulum seems to be swinging back the other way, now. But now there is a greater emphasis on safety than in the past.

On military installations parents have always had an advantage. How could you be safer'

Here on Fort Lewis, trick-or-treating hours are announced - 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. - and the military police have extra courtesy patrols out in the neighborhoods. The MPs even hand out chemical light sticks to increase visibility.

Those living off post can take advantage of the same common-sense precautions recommended on-post. All trick-or-treaters should carry a light of some sort. They should make their tour in groups. They should practice good traffic safety - using sidewalks, when they can, walking facing traffic, using marked crosswalks, looking both ways - and do all they can to make it a safe evening.

Even those without children have a place in keeping Halloween safe.

No matter how much good advice is offered, children are children. They will dart in front of cars, they will lose their lights and they will do unexpected things.

Drivers need to show an extra level of caution.

If adults all do their part, we can make sure that the ringing bell and cry of "Trick or treat" remains a sign of joy - and not a reminder of tragedy.

David W. Kuhns Sr. is editor of Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.