Monday, October 31, 2011

Dime store days

Neither my brother, sister nor I would know how to do Halloween if we found ourselves as children in 2011. In the 1950s, Halloween began at the dime store.

Several years ago, I participated in a Halloween-themed collaboration for Somerset Studio magazine. My contribution was memoir/fiction, illustrated with watercolor vignettes of childhood Halloween highlights. The elementary school carnival with its cake walk and cascarones (confetti eggs), the five-and-ten wax lips and masks, our mother's enthusiastic costume creation, all run together, one year indistinguishable from another, all happily revisited.

Whether or not what I remember is the literal truth of the moment, I trust the feeling that I've carried forward, certainly about Halloween. Yes, a huge bag of candy was an enjoyable pay-off, yet the heart of the holiday was more nuanced, more affectionately recalled. I hope the sight of jack o'lanterns and aisles of miniature Snickers put you into a state of smiling reverie.

Watercolor-illustrated trick-or-treat bag, from a collaborative project for Somerset Studio, several years ago.

14 comments:

Laoch of Chicago said...

Nice.

Erin in Morro Bay said...

I remember that Somerset piece fondly. And I totally agree with you, if my 1950's kid-self was plopped down in 2011 Halloween, I wouldn't have a clue!
Erin

Marylinn Kelly said...

Laoch - Thank you. Belated Halloween greetings.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Erin - How nice you remembered, thank you. Do you remember, I think it was Crawford's Market, as I recall it a giant place, maybe in El Monte? One year when I was about 4, we bought a costume (in a box with a cellophane window) there. Had not thought of it in years. xo

Kerry O'Gorman said...

My oh my! I haven't thought of wax lips in 40 years! We always made our costumes as well and that was the best part...oh, yeah, aside from half a pillowcase full of candy!

beth coyote said...

And wax moustaches!!! And candy cigarettes! And red hots and malted milk balls! No wonder I have a mouth full of fillings.

Love the paintings. Just beautiful

XX Beth

Erin in Morro Bay said...

Crawford Market in San Gabriel was across the street from where I lived when I was teaching in Watts in the mid '70's. It was huge - by the standards of those days and had lots of extra sections; like a deli, a wine store, etc. Old hat now, but way ahead of it's time back then.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Kerry - I know I've mentioned it before, but my sister and I, as soon as the time machine is mishap-free, plan to return to a dime store at Halloween. I have an aunt who, they say, could make her Halloween candy last until Christmas. Her siblings found it annoying.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Beth - Thank you. Yes, to all your selections. The moustaches were less pleasant to chew than the lips or the teeth, more crumbly. I'll still do whatever it takes for some malted milk balls. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Erin - Thank you for jogging my not-too-inaccurate memory...San Gabriel, yes. And even in the very late 1940s they were multi-departmented like that. I think I remember a pony ride in the parking lot. It was the Disneyland of its day for those of us who lived near the gravel pits. xo

susan t. landry said...

marylinn,

i thought those wax lips were totally gross, but my friends liked them--and possibly ate them? yucko.

i loved trick or treating tho...because some of the old people in my neighborhood would invite us in to their living rooms and give us hot cocoa. and talk to us. one woman, whom my mother always described as a "god-awful housekeeper," had a living room with books and magazines all over the place. i really, really liked going there.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Susan - Didn't eat the wax lips but did chew them, like gum. It may have been their grossness that appealed. I like your visit with the neighbor...we had a few who made us special treats and had us come inside to present them but never to sit and chat. I did enjoy the face-to-face moments with people one usually saw just in passing, kids-to-adults, no parents coming to the door with us, like going calling. I hadn't thought of that aspect. xo

KleinsteMotte said...

I loved the fact that we got really nice home backed goods and genuine taffy apples back then. My first Halloween was in 1954. I was a new immigrant earlier that month and only went to a few homes with mt brother. Our English was limited.

Marylinn Kelly said...

KleinsteMotte - That was culture immersion and quickly, too. I trust that the neighbors were kind, welcoming. I know I liked the home-baked treats, though they sometimes crumbled in the trick-or-treat bags.