In mid-October, the downtown Woolworth's store set out thelong-awaited rack of ready-made costumes, and moms accompaniedtheir progeny downtown to pick out that year's winning choice. Yes,I know, these days retailers rush the seasons by entire MONTHS, butback then things were a little calmer.
The same costumes were displayed every year. Shoddy black bodysuits with startlingly white skeletons plastered on the frontcomprised of stiff, factory-applied paint. Red devils withpitchforks and long, pointy tails affixed in back. And naturally,several un-specified but tremendously ugly "monster" get-ups. Thiswas, of course, before costumes of celebrities and presidentsappeared on the scene.
Completing the costume was the mask, the grand topper, the piècede résistance. Talk about miserable! Masks came in two types: arubbery, non-breathable style with holes for eyes and nostrils,which felt like an octopus affixed to your mug and caused yourvoice to sound like you were speaking from the bottom of a well. Orthere was the stiff paper sort of disguise that left you knowingwhat a head cast felt like should you ever find yourself in such anunfortunate situation.
Because my mother was a great seamstress and made all my clothesand costumes, every Halloween I had the good fortune of wearing aknock-out get-up. My favorite was the "Queen of Hearts" I wore insixth grade where my full-length white "gown" was appliqued withlarge red felt hearts at the sleeves and hem. We found a fitting"crown" at the bottom of her jewelry box - an old tiara she hadworn in her younger, dress-up fancy days. And Mom went the extramile by baking a batch of cut-out heart cookies to carry to schoolon her special silver tray.
The good thing about such costumes is that I avoided the wholeicky mask thing, opting instead to wear one of the cute satiny typemasks that just covered the upper portion of my face. Thanks to mycreative mother, I had the "prettiest" prize all locked up.
Other moms got inventive as well. Some kids showed up as clowns,their moms sewing patchwork costumes with floppy pom-pom "buttons"down the front made out of yarn. An old pair of Dad's shoes and acrumpled up derby hat with a plastic flower sticking out on topaccessorized the stylish clowns.
And of course there were "hobos" on Halloween, too. Over-sizedpants and shirts rescued from the rag-bag were put into service,accessorized with a bindle stick made from a red bandanna tied to astick. That morning's coffee grounds were saved and applied wet andsticky to young faces - a hobo's stubbly five o'clock shadow.
The school's Halloween parade was grand, but still it was onlythe prelude to the trick-or-treat festivities after nightfall.Costumed kids appeared on twilit streets armed with pillowcases forholding precious candy. The real fun - besides the candy - wasbeing allowed out after dark. With a group of friends we werepermitted to go anywhere - as long as it was on "our street." Sooff we marched in our Halloween regalia, avoiding only the veryworst of the houses (i.e. crummy "treats"), setting off into thenight, making memories to last a lifetime as we seized anotherHalloween night of merriment and magic.
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