I’m one of the many in my generation who would never have fantasized 50 or more years ago that Halloween would reach the proportion of popularity it has attained in current times. It’s amazing what solid promotions and marketing can do in the commercialized lifestyle we know today.

In reading one of my three or four daily newspapers one day, I became attracted to a story about a Racine, Wis., businessman who is in the forefront of organizing “The Halloween Association.” He wanted to promote a positive image for Halloween. He was headed for a National Halloween Costume and Party Show in Chicago to drum up enthusiasm.

The mentor pointed out that more beer is sold on Halloween than on March 17. I’m not quite sure if that statistic makes the Irish look bad or look good. The same fanatic suggests that Halloween be changed to the last Saturday in October.

Depending on what retailer you trust, Halloween is extolled as the second largest holiday in terms of sales. Only Christmas rings up more sales. Furthermore, Halloween has vaulted to No. 3 when it comes to party time. Only New Year’s and the Super Bowl are bigger party days.

One publication lists Halloween sales at more than $2.5 billion, with $1 billion going to purchase costumes, $50 million on greeting cards and $950 million on candy. The sales do not include the explosion of children’s books geared to Halloween, or in fact that it is the second biggest holiday for decorating.

If all of this money can be generated on Halloween no matter what day it now falls on, imagine what will happen to family budgets and retail sales if the nation stuffs yet another traditional holiday and puts Halloween on the last Saturday of October. Look out Thanksgiving and Christmas!

I remember Halloween when small kids had only funny or a scary mask to go house to house for trick or treating. Even our two sons, now 39 and 34, invaded the neighborhood with only a mask, a flashlight a bell to greet the neighbor and a bag for treats. Then along came the costumes. Our grandchildren are now into the new fashions of Halloween.

Private parties in homes, schools, recreation centers and so forth, have dislodged the old-fashioned door-to-door trick or treating because some pranks turned rowdy and destructive. Some tragic accidents occurred on Halloween night. Many cities discourage the trick-or-treat visits.

Some communities have turned to sponsoring bonfires, costume parades and contests, dances, skits and other forms of entertainment. Jack-o’-Lanterns are still hollowed out of pumpkins and fortune telling is still a big part of the celebration. Kids don’t believe in ghosts and witches like they once did, but the supernatural beings remain symbols of Halloween. Nor do we see bobbing for apples in a tub of water like we once did.

History tells us that Halloween dates to ancient new year festivals. The Celtic festival of Samhain is considered to be the source of current Halloween celebration. The holiday was big in Great Britain, Ireland and northern France. Early American settlers brought various customs and traditions with them when they left Europe to come to the United States.

I recall many of the Halloween celebrations while growing up in West End. Nothing fancy, but we had fun. Soaping car windows and house windows was considered a prank. Rowdies often targeted the neatly-stacked woodpiles which were more common then. Every household didn’t have indoor plumbing in the late ‘30s, so readers need only postulate what happened to the backyard outhouses.

I have an old newspaper clipping of the 1943 Halloween. Police chief Tony Jensen noted that “trick or treat” was new to Menominee, and that householders gave candy, cookies, crackers a penny or nickel, to appreciative visitors. Not much vandalism was reported by the six-man police department. None of the vandalism was considered to be destructive like in previous years.

Although I didn’t understand it as a 12-year-old kid at the time, there was a reason for the somber attitude on Halloween night. The nation was at war in 1943, and youngsters were as reconciled to patriotism and helping their neighbors as much as the adult population.

About the worst thing that happened, according to the police, was the triggering of fire alarm boxes throughout the city. The red fire alarms were secured to telephone poles in every neighborhood. It was a challenge for older juveniles to pull the alarm Halloween night and send the firemen on a false run. But the rascals needed to pad their britches if they got caught and a policeman knocked on their door. The aftermath of punishment usually extended to extra family chores well beyond Halloween night.

Halloween is ripe for dressing up to play various television or cartoon characters of modern times. Children, teenagers and adults enjoy doing it. They make the ghosts and witches and goblins and cars of our day look pretty ordinary.

The skilled marketing wizards of today may have a flair for putting Halloween in the $1 billion realm, but we had our own way of having fun a couple of generations ago. And our Halloweens were happy ones, too.