Does Fairmount Have a Halloween for White Kids?

By Tara Murtha
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 25 | Posted Nov. 2, 2010

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“When we bought this house, it was Ukrainian and Polish here,” she nods.

She recalls past Halloweens. “It was a mess,” she says. “Not because [the trick-or-treaters] were black, no. They used to come here but a lot of people wouldn’t open their doors.”

Ella doesn’t elaborate but Grasmuck, who calls herself a “yuppie newcomer” because she’s “only” been living in Fairmount 25 years, recalls some trouble more specifically.

“I just remember one year in particular there was large numbers of older kids … not having costumes and ringing your door and it was, ‘Give me your candy.’ So the charm of it didn’t feel really nice,” she says. “Several teenagers came and knocked [younger kids] down and grabbed their bags. I mean, knocked them down hard… Then it just spreads like wildfire. But it was one incident one year that a lot of people talked about.”

Tonight, there are no signs out trouble, except empty candy bowls.

Indeed, as Grasmuck’s research and a simple walk around the hood shows, Fairmount has changed dramatically in recent years. Eastern State Penitentiary, considered more architecturally progressive than the White House because it had flushing toilets when it opened in 1829, went from being a model of prison reform to a symbol of inhumane treatment to a tourist attraction—which causes parking problems that are far and away the Halloween concern on most Fairmounters’ minds these days.

It’s almost 8 p.m. and the trick-or-treating is mostly over. Back on North Croskey Street, Branon, a 39-year-old black resident of Aspen Street, sits on a stoop in front of his friend’s house, relaxing with a beer. He snorts when I ask about “two Halloweens.”

“I have to laugh, because it was that way … I know for a fact there were two separate nights,” he says. “People had another night prior to Halloween … when the kids in the neighborhood came out. When I say ‘the neighborhood,’ I mean south of Poplar Street.”

Branon says he learned of the “two Halloweens” from his white neighbors on Aspen Street, who he says “bucked the system” by sitting out on their stoops and giving out candy on real Halloween.

“The people in the neighborhood on Halloween night, they’d turn out their lights off and not be available … it didn’t happen this year or last.”

Branon says he thinks the tradition dissolved completely in the last few years, mostly because of shifts in the neighborhood population—but not because more black people moved in. He can still count the number of nonwhites on his block on one hand.

But like other residents, Branon says separate, smaller Halloween events that go on now aren’t racially motivated anymore.

“The new people are accustomed to the regular way,” he says, meaning one Halloween for all. “Or just never heard of it.”

Meanwhile, as one neighborhood in the city lays its demons to rest, another begins to make familiar noises.

A Port Richmond resident recently wrote me to tell me about some Halloween problems down his way.

“A lot of people are upset here because people take the 60 bus over and don’t dress up, then knock on your door loudly like they’re cops. The Hispanics and blacks are really aggressive with their trick-or-treating,” he writes. “Most people only give to kids on their block and are thinking about having a community meeting to do it a different day.”

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Comments 1 - 25 of 25
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1. Anonymous said... on Nov 3, 2010 at 11:07AM

“This was my first year giving out candy on Halloween in Fairmount. It wasn't good and I'm discouraged from doing it again. When I was growing up, kids collected candy - not adults. We had many adults collecting candy and yelling and drinking beers. Kids wore costumes - not coats and jeans. Kids greeted "Trick or treat!" They didn't ask "Can I have some for my friend who is not here?" Maybe it is not about race - but it is about the lack of courtesy that all the trick-or-treaters have shown over the years that makes smaller groups of friendly neighbors opt for a block party instead.”

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2. Anonymous said... on Nov 3, 2010 at 11:54AM

“There were 2 Halloween's this year, we came home about 6pm the Sunday before Halloween and there were trick or treaters all over between 26th, 27th and Apsen and Parish Streets and it wasn't a block party. People were sitting on there steps with bowls of candy. My Husband's family are long time residents. My sister-in-law who lives in the Northeast Section even brought her son down to go with her friends' kids. My husband said it wasn't that bad(there were some incidents but nothing major) and they trick or treated on Halloween when he was a kid in the 70's early 80's. I have heard it happens now because parents work but that excuse only works when Halloween falls during the week unlike this year. What is the difference between the 2 sunday's!!!!!!”

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3. Anonymous said... on Nov 3, 2010 at 02:20PM

“I've lived in Fairmount for 5 years now and I've not been aware of this tradition until your paper mentioned it. I sat out on Halloween and handed out lots of candy. Most of the kids were not from Fairmount, that was pretty clear, but most were well behaved.”

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4. Anonymous said... on Nov 3, 2010 at 06:35PM

“The reason some Fairmounters celebrate halloween on a different day is due to the animals that invade our community because they don't give out candy in "the hood" Some communities would bus kids into Fairmount. Now the animals just come around Fairmount and rob people at gunpoint. You want trick or treat do it in your own neighborhood and if they don't do it there then too damn bad.”

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5. Anonymous said... on Nov 3, 2010 at 11:43PM

“For the "yuppies", who haven't lived in the neighborhood for less than 5 years:
Im 20 years of age and grew up in Fairmount for the first 15. For as long as I can remember "Fairmount Halloween" has always been something our neighborhood has celebrated. And for as long as I lived there, I had friends of various race and ethnicity( myself coming from Spanish descent). So for the uneducated journalist( which is clearly an understatement), this is not an issue of race! "Fairmount Halloween" is a neighborhood tradition that has been going on for over 30 years. Yes, one of the reasons for this tradition is to ensure the safety of the children and older neighborhood citizens alike. Since Oct. 12, 2010, in the Fairmount area, and north above Girard Ave, there have been 32 counts of theft, 7 counts of burglary, and 5 counts of robbery! Now Tara, you tell me if you think that is a safe enviornment to send your children, niece etc. out trick-or-treating in? No need that question was rhetorical!”

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6. Anonymous said... on Nov 4, 2010 at 01:02PM

“I live in East Falls and on the night of Halloween, 90% of the kids coming to my door are being driven in from other neighborhoods to go trick-or-treating in my neighborhood. There are even teenagers w/o costumes and adults taking candy. But it's Halloween and my door is open for candy to give to any kid from any neighborhood.”

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7. Anonymous said... on Nov 4, 2010 at 02:56PM

“Don't feed the animals. I grew up in Fairmount and witnessed buses literally parking on Brown St. and letting out about 50 non-neighborhood kids, who happened to be 100% black. Halloween is a community celebration to have a chance to interact with neighbors and see their kids in their outfits and to reward them with candy. How can one view a bunch kids and adults, descending like locusts, many without any costume, as being a community event? Last year, a friend of mine, who recently bought a home in Faimount, decided she did not like the "Fairmount Halloween" idea and decided to give out candy on real Halloween. She regretted that decision when a teenager forced his way into her home and demanded all of her candy.


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8. Anonymous said... on Nov 8, 2010 at 11:04PM

“my family and I fear halloween every year because we live in fairmount. they come pounding on your door like they're going to break down the door. it's very scary for the elderly to have that happen. step up the police presence at halloween.”

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9. Anonymous said... on Nov 9, 2010 at 08:50AM

“I give out almost 400 pieces of candy on the "regular" Halloween night in Spring Garden. I can afford it, and if kids are not from my neighborhood, so what. They are still a part of my community and I want my daughter to see me welcome them.”

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10. Anonymous said... on Nov 9, 2010 at 09:27AM

“For the last four years I've gotten the notice in the mail notifying me that Fairmount Halloween occurs the week before and for the last four years I've ignored it and I've never had a negative experience on Halloween. I have chosen to make Fairmount my home and call it my neighborhood and raise my children here, but I am dismayed that some people seem to forget that we don't exist in a bubble and we are part of a larger community.”

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11. Anonymous said... on Nov 9, 2010 at 09:49AM

“No one on my Fairmount block participates in this "other" Halloween, and highly doubt they would want to! This is really a revolting attitude and people who still think this way need to go back to the 50s and stay there. My daughter had a wonderful Halloween this year, largely in part to the big turn out, and saw absolutely no negative behavior from trick or treaters at all. I do often see kids with no costumes and it makes me a bit sad. What child would not WANT to wear a costume? Perhaps we need to think outside of this "bubble" and realize some families cannot afford it. I am thankful that I live in a nice, safe neighborhood and can afford to give out candy and brighten the night of so many children, regardless of where they live. Anyone who would refer to children as "animals" are vile human beings and an embarrassment to our neighborhood.”

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12. Anonymous said... on Nov 9, 2010 at 10:17AM

“I experienced Halloween in Fairmont this year for the first time. The experience was mixed. Early in the evening the kids were little, cute and polite. Later in the evening after 7:00 alot of the kids were older. Some of the older kids were grabby, pushy and impolite. I had the same experience in the suburb from where I moved last year. I gave out candy until I ran out in both locations. We are a part of a larger community and we need to remember that!! The term of "animal" used in some of these comments is so offensive and hatefull! I won't be apart of such language and thought process!!”

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13. Anonymous said... on Nov 9, 2010 at 03:25PM

“I've lived in Fairmount about 10 years now. I'm happy to report that it seemed like more neighborhood kids were out trick or treating on halloween this year. i loved it!
as far as a community goes, the kids coming from outside the neighborhood are still in philadelphia - which i like to think is our community at large. i will happily serve them as much as I would my neighborhood kids. but, i actually say something to the handful of adults who are not with a kid or kids who are not in a costume. I may or may not give them a treat...but i definitely say something. There's no need to be scared most of the time. People smell your fear, too! I sure the fear and ignorance of some of the writers here!

Check this out, too: my treats including halloween erasers and pencils as well as candy. I'm surprised how many kids from in and outside our hood wanted the erasers and pencils over candy.”

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14. Anonymous said... on Nov 11, 2010 at 04:01PM

“Denigrating children and even adults as "animals" is abhorrent and shameful. This notion of "others" invading a neighborhood is ludicrous. Sounds like the same thought process of The Valley Swim Club earlier this year.

If you're going to make a judgement of who "deserves" candy on Halloween, and a large portion of Philadelphia doesn't fit that form, don't give it out. And while you're at it why don't you move out of the city as well. This balkanization and the region is the reason we have such acute needs in areas less privileged than Fairmount.”

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15. Anonymous said... on Nov 12, 2010 at 12:55PM

“We most definitely did have segregated Halloween this year and for all the time we've lived in Fairmount. (4 years). The 2700 and 2800 blocks of Brown Street still get the slip of paper through the door about the "Fairmount Tradition" of holding Halloween on the previous Sunday, even when Halloween falls on the weekend. Of 20-25 houses in my neighborhood we had maybe 5 handing out to the kids who come on actual Halloween. It broke my heart because in the majority before 7pm these kids behaved even better than the neighborhood regulars the previous weekend. Nice, polite, in costume and kind. I deal with this by handing out candy two weekends in a row. Halloween is about kids, not about historic racist issues that really need to disappear. Fairmount is still VERY RACIST.”

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16. Jimmy Doc said... on Nov 18, 2010 at 01:05PM

“Since when was a Block Party for our children who live on this Street an issue or a Racially motivated thing around Halloween? My neighbors and I are like family with each other, We have functions all the year round to have fun, raise money for charity, and support our sports teams who make the play-offs. Meredith street is a racially diverse street with all neighbors looking out for each other, no matter what! Tell me Tara, how come you did not come to Meredith Street and ask people of the block thier opinion? I thought reporters were supposed to get all sides of an issue before they run stories, especially one that might give the impression people on "The Best Block in Fairmount" are Racists. For the sake of everyone involved, you should apologize for not doing your duty as a reporter. Do your job before you run your mouth again about Meredith Street.
To the above people with strong anonymous opinions, put your name on them, if you are scared, get a dog !!!!!!”

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17. Rick said... on Nov 18, 2010 at 07:45PM

“You don't mean to stir things up. You don't mean to do respectable journalism either, Ms. Tara. Five, ten years ago, this would have been a story, a real scoop, but you took ten year old mutton and dressed it up as lamb. You also made a weak and entirely inaccurate connection between our block party, at which we do all the good stuff Jim Doc talks about. We have beer tastings, New Years, street movies, street socials too. The one thing we don't have anymore, pay attention, Tara, a good journalist would have confirmed this, is ...
White Ween
Of which I'm incredibly proud of my neighbors for.
Five years or so ago, I and a bunch of neighbors argued this same issue out on the fairmountparents list. Amazingly, after that, White Ween died a natural death. We all recognize that a generation ago, this neighborhoods' black and white kids fought on the street. Times were different.
In this generation, the black and white kids play together on the street. Black kids and white kids get candy”

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18. Rick said... on Nov 18, 2010 at 07:46PM

“Black kids and white kids live here. My street is Meredith. We're damned proud of it. Before you dig up old skeletons Tara, check and see if they still have a leg to stand on. This one doesn't.

PS: What is that ridiculous and offensive cartoon supposed to mean?”

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19. Rick said... on Nov 19, 2010 at 12:55AM

“Just so you and Joe have it clear, our blockparty is not only "NOT ON HALLOWEEN", it takes place on the weekend before July 4th. What a sleazy (or lazy) bit of reporting.”

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20. Demetrious said... on Nov 29, 2010 at 11:52PM

“I live in the Fairmount area. Those of you who don't are more than free to come sit on a corner in our neighborhood and give out as much candy as your heart desires. We have a separate Halloween because none of us want to deal with the hundreds of too-old teenagers, homeless crack addicts, and latch-key children who come down costume-less from the Girrard area ghettos with their hands extended. They've sucked the spirit out of Halloween to such an extent that we were forced to move the holiday. It's as simple as that. If you nay-saying, finger-wagging, liberal f***-heads don't like it than post your addresses. I'll kindly hand out directions to your house next year.”

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21. McGuigs said... on Feb 24, 2011 at 02:53PM

“My entire family grew up in Fairmount, and although we did have issues with certain areas surrounding Fairmount, I am hear to tell you, it was the best neighborhood in the world to grow up in. The way this is reported seems to me like it's one sided. Back in the 60's, 70's, people from Fairmount kids could not dare pass poplar street, we would be jumped and robbed and beat up and have to fight our way back down to our homes trying to hold onto our parents milk money, and although two wrongs don't make a right, when publishing stories about a neighborhood, make sure you have all sides covered!! As far as Halloween......this is how it all began....One year, small children were out in costume, ONE HALLOWEEN NIGHT! when a group of african americans pulled up in three large car loads with a plastic shopping bag in costumes, came running up to the houses, pushing, shoving, and knocking small children down to the ground, when a few adults said something to them about it.”

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22. McGuigs continued said... on Feb 24, 2011 at 02:59PM

“When a man turned around and threw his chest in the air and said "What The F are you gonna do about it"? This went on for many years where the parents would hold out their bag for candy too, and when the house would refuse them, violents would occur.....sooooo, in order for the children in Fairmount to have the experience and memories of Halloween, they decided to just do their own Halloween so that the CHILDREN would have a pleasant experience and fond memories, so call it race if you want, but truthfully it's all about the young children of Fairmount, if you're an African American child living in Fairmount, then you know about the seperate day just for the children!...........Any Questions? I'm happy to answer!!”

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23. mike said... on Oct 24, 2012 at 07:00PM

“ihe same people that are complaining about Whiteween would you send your child out trick or treating in the neighborhoods north of Girard ? The rest of the year would you take a stroll through the same neighborhoods on a hot summer night ? Would you let your child take a walk through the same neighborhoods?”

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24. Anonymous said... on Oct 25, 2012 at 07:31AM

“The bigger question is .Why don't they give out candy in their own meighborhoods north of girard ?”

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25. Anonymous said... on Nov 2, 2012 at 08:15AM

“I love how a white liberal is always the one point out potential racism.... oh the irony....


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