Friday, October 31, 2008

Dress Up Day - It was Halloween

When I was a kid, I think Halloween must have been the next best thing to Christmas or to my birthday. We used to dress up and take off to canvas the neighborhood in little packs of 5 or 6 kids. No danger of poisoned apples or "seeded" candied popcorn balls. Our Mothers warned us to look carefully at all of the street corners before crossing and to stay together. We knew the boundaries of the neighborhood and actually never thought of going outside of them. No parents were required to guarantee our safety as we streaked around the neighborhood, sometimes with a flashlight and sometimes not, ringing, giggling, shouting "trick or treat" with not an idea in our heads of ever really tricking anyone!

My brother, I and our friends and cousins dressed up in all kinds of costumes - mostly sheets, or grown ups' clothes, high heels or Dad's shoes - sometimes a brown paper grocery bag became a neat cut out costume of some sort and corrugated boxes could be all sorts of things - brightly wrapped packages with one of our heads sticking out of the top, arms out the side and legs out the bottom. Our Mother, or for that matter any of our friends' mothers, never would have thought about "ordering" a costume. There was no money for such an extravagance nor was there a desire from any of us for a store-bought creation.

Occasionally though our Mother, a wonderful seamstress, would sew up something really special. Today rustling through old photos, I came across this darling photo of my younger brother - I believe he was nine in this photo - I wonder if this was one of those occasions or was this a school production outfit? Whatever the event was, what a darling little boy - no embarrassment, no tears - just loving the whole look! It seems to be the only costume photo I've found in the family photos that I possess; I could not resist placing it on my site today.

There will be lots or maybe only a few trick or treaters in our neighborhood tonight. We've purchased the obligatory wrapped candy treats and I'll resist the temptation to turn off the porch light and retire with a Netflix in hand......"Really?" you think. Yeah, really but actually I'll keep the light on and ooh and aahh at every little costumed creature that rings the bell, I'll tell them how spectacular they look and let them select from the candy basket. I'll wave to their parents who are very close at hand, sometimes as far away as the front curb but not much further than that. A child could not troop around these days unchaperoned after dark even in the closest of neighborhoods. Halloween is still a wonderful time for the kids but for the parents it's a time for guarded trick or treating with their little goblins!

Happy Halloween JDS!


  1. What a gorgeous photo! We've only very recently started trick or treating in the UK, so we've only ever bought into the commercialised version, which gets more extreme each year. It was good to hear your memories of a simpler, saner time.

  2. I recognized that outfit as soon as I saw it. It was for a school play, and Mother did indeed make it from scratch. I actually had some lines to say in the production. I remember dressing at home for the play, throwing up my dinner because I was so nervous, and saying something like, "OK, let's go!"

    I see the date on the picture was May, 1955. My guess is that the picture may have been taken in December and not developed until May. Pictures were taken judiciously and the film not sent off for developing until the roll of 12, 24, or (wow!) 36, pictures had been fully used.

    For the "trick or treat" celebration, there was often a gathering of the kids and the "loot" at the community center. Imagine a big room full of kids in costume and on a sugar high!

  3. love the picture and the memories of days gone by. i remember being about 8 or 9 and finally receiving the coveted "store bought" costume. i was cinderella complete with cheap flimsy fabric and a hard plastic mask that i could not see out of. i am pretty sure that by the next year i decided that the costumes mother and i pulled together from 'stuff' were much more comfortable and fun...and creative!!

    i also spent some time this morning hoping i could find the 1970's era photo of mother and daddy when they dressed up as beatniks for their own halloween celebration...alas it has disappeared into another unknown set of archives. the image, however, is brilliant in my mind.

  4. We used to have the thrill and anticipation of festivals and special days and households used to start preparing well in advance.

    Today, it is all last minute shopping for bulk manufactured items, mostly from China or Bagladesh!

    Festivals inevitably dove tailed into agricultural slack periods and gave something to do for the rural folk.

    The vessels have now taken over. The contents have more or less disappeared! All that is left is nostalgia

  5. Tess - trick or treat time is the time all of our waist lines start slipping again - way too much candy in the house. We tried to get rid of it as quickly as possible!

    Geezer - so glad to receive clarification on the costume. You were/are? a nervous tummy kid. My nervous tummy usually took me down before concerts or special high school events....yuk!

    Lucy and RM - I don't think I ever had a store bought costume and remember the years when I started seeing them "come to the front door" - I also felt there was something lost in just buying an outfit from a catalogue - not near as much fun as making one.

    Thanks to all of you for the nice comments!

  6. You are too cute! It will interesting to see what Ella has to say about her memories of Halloween. It is her FAVORITE holiday but we live abroad, so it is a bit anti-climatic...

    My mom made incredible costumes too and we would stay out all night (9pm). She actually save our witches and M&M costumes that she sewed..but they are in storage in the US. I guess they can be used for Henry and Ella's kids!

    Happy Halloween!

  7. Lucy - I remember those Beatnik costumes - I believe that was a time I saw the two of them truly engage in fun! I wonder which one of them thought through those outfits?

    Sarah - I think I've seen pictures of you and Jen dressed up. I know your Mom was very creative when it came to those times of the year.....her creativity is/was outstanding. I wonder if she realizes that?