Bobbing For Apples


It’s Halloween in several countries today. A time of fancy dress, decorating of pumpkins and kids being hyper after eating six bags of Haribo gummy bears, four lollies and eighteen sherbet dips!

Blimey, I’m showing my age there! Can you still get sherbet dips? In my youth, hours of football and cricket were fueled by sherbet dips.

I’m not sure if they can be classed as a performance enhancing drug. However, if they are, I was lucky there were no blood tests taken after hours of playing footy on Allerdene field back in the day!


My kids are in their twenties now, but I can still recall their excitement on 31st October. I think we tended to celebrate more when we moved to Leeds in the mid 1990’s.

When they were younger we lived in Luton. Halloween didn’t have the same appeal there for some reason. It was possibly due to the fact that there wasn’t any novelty value to the evening. After all, we were used to frightening looking people with teeth missing knocking and asking for stuff!

Only kidding, Luton is a marvellous place with nice people and a thriving airport!

In Leeds, I used to make the kids lanterns from hollowed out pumpkins or large turnips. The turnip hollowing was a tradition thing from when I was a kid.

One year I hollowed out a pumpkin so large that my son Jonny couldn’t carry it. I don’t know what I’d been thinking of buying such a mammoth vegetable! Jonny had to wheel it around it was so large. The candle in it lit the whole of East Leeds for a few hours that dark and cold winter night!

When we’d finished with it the kids used it as a play shed. It had more room in it than Newcastle United’s trophy cabinet! When the kids got older we sold it to Haven holidays, who now house holidaymakers in it somewhere near Hornsea!

When I was a kid in the 70’s Halloween wasn’t as commercialised, or Americanised, as it is now. My dad still made my brother Ian, sister Helen and me a lantern from a hollowed out turnip. However, I don’t recall dressing up or even ‘trick or treating’.

An ‘old school’ turnip lantern

Turnip Lantern

Halloween was pretty rubbish from a getting sweets perspective then. On the plus side, for our parents at least, we weren’t up till all hours hyper from a sugar rush, like some young ones today.

The poorer kids in our area, whose parents couldn’t afford turnips, hollowed out onions. When they came to your door dishevelled and in tears, it was hard to tell whether that was down to poverty or the fact they were carrying an onion!

My memories of childhood Halloween’s are pretty sketchy but I do recall one occasion when a neighbour held a Halloween party in their house. We congregated in the front room with our turnip lanterns providing valuable additional warmth, especially when one of the cushions caught fire from a recklessly placed candle!

The lights were dimmed, not so we could get the full effect of the sculpted faces on our lanterns, rather so we couldn’t view the hideous scabs on a neighbours face. He had leprosy, or something!

I can recall during the party ‘bobbing for apples’ from a large bowl of water. The game finished early, though, after the bloke with leprosy’s nose came off during his turn!

We were easily pleased in those days. In this technological era kids now would rather bob for a different type of apple; one with a capital ‘A’! An ipad, ipod and iphone are what entertain them now, although attempting to retrieve them from a bowl of water wouldn’t be the best idea!

I’ve decided this year I’m going to have to make more effort to look tidier when answering the door to ‘trick or treaters’. I must have looked bad last year as one group gave me sweets when I opened the door!

bobbing for apples

Right, I’m going to hollow out a pumpkin, iron my Eddie Waring fancy dress outfit and put some sweets in the ‘trick or treat’ bowl!

Happy Halloween!

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