TELL ME. When you went trick-or-treating, what did you use to hold the candy? A McBoo pail? A pillowcase? A Radio Flyer wagon?
Most often, I’m guessing you used a plastic bag made specifically for that purpose. The “trick-or-treat sack” has historically been just as integral a part of a kid’s Halloween experience as his or her costume, so it’s no big shock that tons of companies made them for promotional giveaways. Think of the free advertising! If I gave away 50 Dino Drac treat sacks, I’d have effectively turned 50 people in walking billboards.
I’ve collected five such promotional trick-or-treat sacks from the ‘80s and ‘90s, which aren’t only windows into Halloweens past, but remembrances of companies as they used to be… or even companies that folded when you were still young enough to go door-to-door for free candy!
Let’s take a look. A look at bags.
#1: Toys “R” Us Treat Sack!
Based on the art, I’m guessing this is from the mid ‘80s. I’m also guessing that TRU sold them rather than gave them away, because a free treat sack would not have had that reinforcing hard plastic oval thing lining the handle. (You’ll notice that the rest of the bags featured here lack it — and they were all obvious freebies, because nobody would’ve paid for them.)
Cold, hard truth: ‘80s kids has the best-ever Geoffrey. Not too creepy, not too sleek, and definitely not too much like a real giraffe… which is good, because real giraffes don’t know what’s going on, and as mascots for toy stores, they’re de facto detached.
Back then, Geoffrey’s family was seen much more often, too. I can’t remember the last time I saw Geoffrietta or Geoffrey Junior; clearly it’s been long enough to forget their real names. Here, the Giraffes (capitalized to denote surname, not species) contemplate trick-or-treating at the scariest house in their neighborhood. Are four fun-sized Almond Joys really worth the risk?
If you look at this bag as a sort of open-ended one-panel comic, it’s pretty Creepypastaish.
#2: Little Caesars Pizza Treat Sack!
To this day, I’ve never had reasonable access to Little Caesars Pizza. That didn’t stop them from endlessly running TV commercials in my city, damning me to the seventh hell that was wanting Little Caesars Pizza, but never actually getting Little Caesars Pizza. My therapist calls it “untapped lust.”
All I have left are the vague memories of those commercials, with their super-deformed Caesar mascot saying “Pizza Pizza” and nothing but “Pizza Pizza.” I’m assuming Little Caesars still uses that character and slogan, but since I only watch TV in the middle of the night, the only things I see advertised are juicers and sleep aids and the world’s safest irons.
There’s something extra dicky about nitpicking the grammar in a speech balloon, but those extraneous exclamation points are goddamned distracting. If we agree that there must be a brief verbal pause after each of them, Little Caesar sounds like he’s talking through a stroke. Still, few things are unforgivable, and Little Caesar wearing a pumpkin lid is a kickass mea culpa.
#3: Kentucky Friend I Mean Fried Chicken Treat Sack!
This Kentucky Fried Chicken bag is undated, but it must be old, because they were still down with using the word “fried.” (Since modified to “crispy,” when it’s mentioned at all.) If I’m remembering the ancient rumors correctly, changing the name to “KFC” was a direct attempt to make people forget what they were eating.
This bag did little to mask its promotional purpose, with “KENTUCKY FRIED CHICKEN” written so aggressively large that even the most socially unaware children had to really think about whether they wanted to be known as the “kids carrying fried chicken bags on Halloween.” As much as I love that jubilant jack-o’-lantern, I think I’d balk.
I know you can’t read the “Safety Tips” in the photo, but good God are they hilarious. An example:
“Go trick or treating with an adult or sketch 2 maps of the route your friends will take. Give 1 map to your parents, take the other with you — follow that route.”
Wouldn’t it be easier to just clear the approved streets with your parents before heading out? Am I to believe that kids could effectively draw their neighborhood and get all of the street names correctly? I can’t do that now, and I’m 600.
“Here Mom, this is where I’ll be.” *hands over sheet of paper with two dinosaurs and a bunch of X’s drawn on it*
#4: Lionel Kiddie City Treat Sack!
Least impressive of the bags is this one, and I say that with a heavy heart. It truly pains me to call anything with a costumed kangaroo the “least impressive.”
Quality aside, I had to include this bag, because they used to give them away at — pause for heavenly hum — Lionel Kiddie City! I’ve beaten this horse before, but holy hell was that an AMAZING toy store. It was the size of Toys “R” Us, but had the sensibilities of a Kay Bee. Kiddie City never removed old stock. They just kept lowering the prices until you could barely see the toys under 55 hexagonal clearance stickers. It was fantastic.
#5: Creepy Creatures Treat Sack!
Last and weirdest — and possibly best — is this “Creepy Creatures” bag. That company, which was probably more of a company-within-a-company, made everything from Halloween makeup kits to all-out costumes, often with goofy special features that helped them stand apart from the millions of mask-and-smock combos that lined the aisles of every Halloween section from Kmart to CVS.
The art thrills and chills me, and somehow reminds me of Halloween III. There’s something sinister about those kids, and I’m not just saying that because they’re dressed like vampires, ninjas and WWE superstar Goldust. If I stared at this bag and said the forbidden word three times, weird Candyman shit would absolutely happen.
Thanks for reading about five old plastic bags.
I mean it. It’s a lot to ask, if you think about it.