Memories of Halloweens past

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This season of harvest parties and trick-or-treat nights in communities all around us is a sweet time for children, giving them the opportunity to become a superhero, or a princess or a cartoon character for a magical moment in time.

Halloween memories

For those of us raised in the ’60s and ’70s, Halloween meant the simplest of costumes. A chintzy plastic mask, with a tiny stretchy band to hold it in place for a day (if luck held out), was often the entire get-up. Dad was always worried about one of us getting hurt. He vetoed those masks before I was even old enough to have a voice.

“Look at those tiny eye holes! No one can see through those. You might fall crossing the street. And you need to be able to breathe better than those little nostril spots would let you.”

We grumbled that he worried about everything, but over the space and time of many moons, that excessive concern reveals itself as a good father’s love.

So, we could wear those ridiculously vibrant masks in the house but nowhere else. Halloween, then, meant using our imagination.

One year, my older sister was Raggedy Andy, and I was Raggedy Ann, thanks to her ability to sew. I remember being a cat and, one year, a hobo, just like Red Skelton would have played it.

Best costume

But, most memorable, is the year I dressed up as Phyllis Diller, the messy comedian who was at her career peak. I found a wild orange ladies’ beach hat in Mom’s “I’ll never wear that” closet in the back room, where all things went to await a trip to either the dump or donation box.

This hat had sparkly little circles hanging from it that shimmered with movement and light. It was perfectly awful. I had my big sister help make a horrible mess of my hair, and put on makeup that should have been banned, then we found mismatched clothing to add to the look.

I was pretty proud of my made-up trick-or-treat costume. Dad was horrified, saying it was sure hard to raise pretty little daughters, who wanted to leave the house looking such a mess.

He grinned as he shook his head, saying, “I’m just hoping you don’t turn into Phyllis Diller. I’d like to have our little girl back when trick-or-treat is over.”

Then and now

I have watched this October event evolve from simplicity and innocent childhood community celebration to something that has become a high-dollar commercial industry.

One “horror house” in an Ohio city has been forced to answer for going too far in trying to scare adults to death.

All it ever was, for us, was one sparkling night of fun in our village, walking door-to-door and bringing home candy to be shared equally. The closest it ever came to ugliness was when a woman gave pencils instead of candy. We all gave her a little side-eye look of “Are you kiddin’ me?” as we turned and walked away, UNICEF collection bank in one hand, a simple bag for goodies in the other.

The next day, plans for the next costume was all we could talk about, bouncing high from the rare over-consumption of sugar and chocolate.

No other childhood celebration could beat the fun of this.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.

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