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In Chicago, it’s tricky finding Halloween treats

From the Saturday, Oct. 29, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.)

In Chicago, it’s tricky finding Halloween treats

The WISCH LIST

Oct. 29, 2011

It’s been more than 20 years since I went trick-or-treating.

Which is probably a good thing. You know, considering that I’m 35 years old.

Nevertheless, the fact that I haven’t donned a costume to ring doorbells and demand Butterfingers since my early teens did get me thinking once again this week: you just don’t see trick-or-treaters in Chicago.

Not where I live in Wrigleyville, at least. Certainly not in the way I was accustomed to while growing up in Bourbonnais. Back in those days, packs of trick-or-treaters – some with parents, some without – would pretty much roam the neighborhood at will.

It wasn’t particularly structured event, nor did we want it to be. Halloween was an adventure – which is exactly what you should have when you’re dressed up as a superhero or a flesh-eating zombie.

These days, though, what does pass for trick-or-treating in my neighborhood is a much more choreographed production that takes place in the daylight (boo). On Sunday afternoon, businesses along a 12-block stretch of Southport Avenue between Belmont and Irving Park will open their doors from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. as tiny costumed kids stop by to satiate their sweet tooth.

Or, just as likely, their parents’.

I know, however, that traditional trick-or-treating does take place in the Windy City – somewhere. So this week, I sent a text to my buddy, Harvey, who grew up on Chicago’s North Side farther west from where I live.

“Yeah, for sure,” he wrote back when asked if he trick-or-treated around his family home. “It was a very family-oriented neighborhood.” Although Harvey added the radius to roam was only, “About two blocks. Couldn’t go past Addison, Ashland or Ravenswood … Good times for sure.

“Though the worst was when old ladies gave you an apple or loose change. What the heck were you supposed to do with those?!”

Looking to trick myself into feeling the Halloween rush I felt as a kid, I set out on Tuesday evening to seek a treat at Margie’s Candies. Located at 1960 N. Western Ave., Margie’s celebrates its 80th anniversary this year – but this was my first ever visit to the Chicago institution.

Originally, it was known as the Security Sweet Shop when it founded in 1921 by a Greek immigrant named Peter George Poulos, who handed over the business to his son George not long after. During the shop’s early years, Al Capone allegedly patronized the confectionery – as he seemed to allegedly patronize every place in Chicago during that time.

In 1933, George renamed the sweet shop Margie’s Candies in honor of his wife, whom he had met there. And by the 1940s, with her husband at war, Margie herself was running the business before taking over full control in 1954 when George died of an ulcer.

Twelve years later, Margie’s cemented its place in Chicago lore when after their 1965 concert at Comiskey Park, the Beatles swung by with five girls and ordered several six-scoop “Atomic Sundaes” to share with them.

When I arrived at Margie’s this week, I felt as if I had just walked in to the home of one of those of old ladies that used to give Harvey loose change. Much of the cozy décor – including Tiffany lamps, old-fashioned leather booths and miniature jukeboxes – has remained unchanged since the shop’s early days.

And making like the Fab Four, I ordered myself an Atomic Sundae, albeit with just two scoops. The treat didn’t come in a plastic pumpkin and it wasn’t Halloween candy, but I made it suffice.

After all, finding a place to trick-or-treat in Chicago can make for one Hard Day’s Night.