Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Hallowe'en Memories

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, October 29, 2014 by Sara Jewell Mattinson.

Homemade Hallowe'en circa 1979. My sister is behind the paper-plate mask.

“What was Hallowe’en like when you were a kid?” I asked my husband.
“Exciting,” he said without hesitation. “Really exciting.”
Since Dwayne grew up in the country and would have been a kid during the 1960’s, I wondered what could have been so exciting. 
“Did you go trick-or-treating?”
“Of course.”
And by the time he was finished telling me his story about trick-or-treating in the country in the 1960’s, I was in love all over again.
A whole bunch of the neighbourhood kids went together, about seven or eight of them. The Casey kids were dropped off at the Mattinsons and from there, the band of beggars  headed down the gravel road we now call Route 301.
Without any parents trailing along behind.
They had about a dozen homes to call at on their way to Port Howe, about a three mile walk.
“Dad was doing chores and he would pick us up when he was finished,” Dwayne explained. “We left a pile of stones on the road in front of every house we visited.”
That’s when I fell in love again with rural life and with Hallowe’en. With the image of that group of sibling and friends walking and chattering along an unpaved road and yelling “Trick or treat” at each house they stopped at then pausing to scoop dirt and stones into a pile so that Dwayne’s father could track them down.
“The farthest we ever made it was Bert and Flossie Bowser’s house just before the bridge.”
What a huge distance for a group of children to walk and yet they thought nothing of it. Dwayne’s dad would pick them up and take them into Port Howe for a final round of trick-or-treating.
“I remember walking in snow flurries some years,” Dwayne recalled.
“What were your costumes?”
“Rags. We went up to Granny’s kitchen chamber and put on whatever old clothes we could find.We used to wear the old jackets and scarves and hats. Most of them were ten times too big.”
The kitchen chamber at his grandparents’ house was upstairs and full of chests of old clothes.  The kids solved the size problem by stuffing the clothes with hay.
 “We used lipstick to change our faces and some kids wore masks,” Dwayne added. “One year, I had a Lone Ranger mask so I wore my cowboy hat and my holster with my cap guns.”
He laughs. The kind of laugh that says that these are good memories, that those were good times.
Old clothes scrounged from the rag bag, Mother’s makeup to create a new face, and, ladies, do you remember being annoyed because she had the perfect strappy shoes for your princess costume but there was no way to make them fit your child-sized feet? 
My own happy Hallowe’en memories are from the 1970’s when Hallowe’en was still simple, still mostly homemade. My princess costume started in my mother’s closet with a red caftan my father had given her for Christmas a decade earlier. That same year, my sister went as Santa Claus, wore her own almost-outgrown red slipper pajamas and a face mask made from...
....wait for it...
....a paper plate with cotton balls glued to it!
Homemade costumes aren’t as common as they once were. Thinking of my bizarre Miss Piggy costume, were they ever cool but in memory?
Yet when you consider how many Princess Elsas, Malificents, Spidermen, and Ninja Turtles will be wandering the streets Friday evening, it makes you kind of nostalgic for a time when a band of beggars wearing straw-stuffed cast-off clothes headed out for a three mile walk on a gravel road to collect apples, molasses candy kisses and peanuts, and thought it was “exciting”. 


  1. Lynne Freeman HaqueOctober 31, 2014 12:43 pm

    I went out trick-or-treating as a vampire - wearing my mom's frilly lace blouse (picture Jerry Seinfeld's "Pirate" shirt) and her wool nurse's cape. I was warmer than my friends, and the plastic vampire teeth in my mouth kept me from eating too much candy on my way. I went home to watch Disney's animated version of Washington Irving's wonderful book: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Magic!

    1. Hey, Lynne, I don't remember trick-or-treating in Trenton but I do remember you had the best costumes. Love the cape!