By Neena Strichart
Halloween has always been a fun time for me. When I was a child, our family didn’t have much money for things like fancy decorations or costumes. I mostly relied on my parents’ imagination and ingenuity to provide me with a suitable outfit to wear while trick-or-treating through our Signal Hill neighborhood. I remember when I was about 6 years old, Dad bought me a gypsy mask to wear with my red, black and white ruffled dress. Mom helped finish up the outfit as she threw some big, dangly clip-on earrings on me along with a scarf and half a dozen strands of long beads. Once the costume was complete, Dad declared me “Queen of the Gypsies”– what fun!
Another time, Mom dug out a sleeveless summer dress of mine that had a solid-color body with rows of different-color flounces at the hem. While I had long, colorful beads tied in a knot across my chest, a little rouge and lipstick along with a ribbon tied across my head, she declared me a flapper from the 1920s! I felt so pretty.
About ten minutes into our trick-or-treat trekking, I thought I was going to freeze to death in that little flapper-style dress. Mom to the rescue– she had brought along a sweater for me “just in case.” Now, even then I was pretty sure flappers didn’t wear button-up sweaters, but Mom convinced me that knits over dresses had been all the rage in the olden days. She sure had a gift of persuasion– still does.
Back then, we didn’t have organized school-, church- or city-sponsored carnivals for Halloween. Nope, instead we visited our friends’ and neighbors’ homes, all the while trying to remember who had given out the best candy the year before. Some folks gave out homemade treats (all but forbidden these days). Others gave out pencils, small candies, gum, pennies, or our favorites– full-sized candy bars. In our early years, our parents went trick-or-treating with us. As we got older, we kids traveled in groups and promised to be careful. We’d put the candy in our bags, buckets, sacks or pillowcases while eating and walking, walking and eating, trying to gobble down as much good stuff as we could before going home where Mom and Dad perused our booty for inappropriate treats. After confiscating what they deemed dangerous or questionable, our folks would allow us a piece or two of candy (after we had already eaten our fill on the way home) before sending us off to bed with a sugar high that kept us hyped-up for days.
Looking back to those simpler, sweet days, I believe that it was the fun of creating the costumes with my folks that made it so memorable. I don’t think a store-bought outfit would have been as unforgettable, or even worth writing about. Have fun with your kids, grandkids and neighbors this Halloween. You just may build some fond memories.