Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Past.

It's almost here.  Halloween 2014, but most kids have already been celebrating for a while.  Parties at church, Trunk or Treat, private parties, school celebrations.  By the time Halloween rolls around, the kids have had their costumes and make-up on many times over.
Back in the 1950s and 1960s, when I was a bit younger, things were quite different.  Anticipation built during the final days before Halloween.  We weren’t running to the stores looking for costumes.  We’d trot upstairs to the attic and start rummaging through the “old-clothes” bags, pulling out over-sized shirts, pants, scarfs, dresses and old jewelry.  We used our imaginations with the little resources we had. My parents never really got into the excitement.  Matter of fact, it was more of a nuisance to them.  We were on our own to find costumes…and we LIKED it that way!

The boys usually dressed as (and this may not be politically correct) “bums” or hobos. They’d burn a cork and smear the ashes on their faces to make the perfect whiskers, and they’d fashion a "bag" made from a red handkerchief to throw over their shoulders.

And the girls?  They’d don an over-sized white shirt of their dad’s, slip on some black tights, whiten their lips, darken their eyes and they’d become, like, instant beatniks, man.   

Of course, there were still the witches and ghosts, and gypsies, and occasional princesses, super heroes and Draculas, but compared to today’s elaborate costumes, the get-ups in the 50s and 60s were quite simple.

For more than a year or two, I helped dress my young sisters as nuns for Halloween.  The length of a cloth diaper (and we had many) served as the perfect front for their costume, and another formed the back.  A black scarf around their head completed the “sister” look.   And the diaper pins?  They were perfect for holding together our make-shift getups.

I recall one year when I was about 11, I went out as Alice in Wonderland.  I didn’t WANT to, but I HAD to.  We had the costume so I had no choice.  I wore a long blue dress with puffy sleeves.  Thank God it had an apron…a very wrinkled apron…with a glittery scene of the Mad Hatter Tea Party on it.  If it weren’t for that apron, no one would have known who or what I was.  And, take it from me, no kid wants to be asked “and what are you dressed as.”  I remember being embarrassed at that question.  Alice in Wonderland was supposed to be beautiful…and I didn’t feel that way.  Not in my garb.

In the Detroit suburb of Dearborn Heights where I grew up, we didn’t trick or treat...we went BEGGING.

Large packs of kids roamed door to door repeating “HELP THE POOOOOR” (help the poor, my pants are tore, give me some money, I'll buy some more) in our sing-songy voices.  You could hear the chants echoing throughout the close-knit neighborhood. 
Not too many parents walked with their kids in those days.  The older kids took care of their younger siblings, even though the little ones tried desperately to keep up with the older kids as they ran from house to house. 
And we always knew which houses passed out the “GOOD” stuff.  Most of what we got was suckers, wads of bubble gum, MaryJanes (yuck), and small candy bars.  We’d get a penny or two, too.  But once in a while, some of the “GOOD” houses gave out bags of chips, popcorn, and even NICKLES!

The week before Halloween…and especially the night before…Devil’s Night…was always punctuated by acts of mischief.  Mostly ringing doorbells and running, and waxing windows.  I wasn’t allowed to do those things, but I had a friend whose mother would give her soap to “soap windows.”  The mother said that waxing windows was not nice because the wax was hard to remove, but she would give her daughter free-reign when it came to soaping windows.  I never quite understood that one.

I remember making our own decorations.  We kids would draw and color pumpkins on paper, cut them out and hang them in the front window.  Other than a lighted pumpkin that we carved earlier in the day, that was the extent of our Halloween decorating. 

I expect about 150 little buggers “beggers” at my house.  I hope I am one of the “GOOD” houses. I'll passed out chips, Doritos, Fritos and cheese curls.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed it very much. Happy to see more of your writing.


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