Archives for posts with tag: Halloween

I traveled to Louisville, KY to visit the Filson Historical Society where I had learned some of my family’s papers were stored. One of the items that had been donated was a scrapbook assembled by a cousin of mine, probably 2nd or 3rd cousin or 2nd cousin once removed, however that goes. The scrapbook was full of clippings glued to the pages, overlapping, and dated from 1908 to around 1945. I found all kinds of treasures which I was allowed to photograph. I went through a lot of materials quickly that day and hope to go back to spend more time someday. If not, I learned a lot of interesting things about my Kentucky family.

My father, grandfather, great-grandfather, grandmother and others were all born in Uniontown, Kentucky, a small Ohio River town that flourished during the 19th century and into the 20th until the mighty Ohio River overflowed its banks and into town one too many times. Most of my family was gone by the major disaster of the 1937 flood, but so many good things happened to them before that one caused so much damage to the family home.

A little family history is that my grandfather was one of 12 children, 9 of whom survived infancy and toddlerhood. One of his sisters married a local man, Virgil Givens, but she died soon after the birth of one of their children. Several years later, he remarried – to one of my grandfather’s other sisters. Basically, he married his sister-in-law, and I think the family was very happy about it. In the Uniontown cemetery, you find the graves of the three of them all together, which I think is a sweet story.

In the scrapbook were several clippings about this second marriage, describing the wedding and several bridal showers. I had never thought much about the history of bridal showers although I had several when I got married, as did my daughters and daughter-in-law. When I looked it up, I found that bridal showers date back to around 1890 in this country, beginning in the urban areas and spreading to the rural areas by the 1930s. Since the showers I’m talking about took place in Uniontown in 1908, I think that makes this little town a definitely sophisticated place for its time. I know my relatives traveled to nearby Morganfield, Evanston, Il and Louisville, so they had been to the city!

Here is one clipping from the Morganfield paper, although there is a typo on the date where it says 1808 instead of 1908. The first thing that struck me was the similarity of these events then and now, although we don’t have society pages to post the details like we did in 1908 and back in 1966, when I got married. Note the space given to the list of names of the guests.

IMG_8680I thought the description of the decorations for this Halloween shower were right up to Pinterest standards today as they used jack o’lanterns filled with flowers placed over the doorways. More details show that the guests were served punch before lunch, assisted by young girls, including the soon to be stepdaughter/niece of the bride. IMG_8684We may not dress in blue satin and silk these days and we don’t really have parlors anymore, but the rest of the details are so very familiar to those of us who have been to many bridal showers in our lifetimes.

In these clippings published after the wedding, we get the description of the ceremony along with other shower details. My grandfather gave his sister away at the wedding, so I can picture that ceremony. In details of the other showers, the guests brought recipes, each of which was tried at the shower. At my kitchen/recipe shower, we didn’t get to try the dishes, so I thought this was a nice touch. The gifts were brought into the room in a child’s wagon, something I have done myself. Brick cream and cake were served. Yum. That doesn’t change at all. Ever.

IMG_8683You will notice that six-handed euchre was played at two of the showers. I had to look this up, although I knew it was a card game. Euchre was very popular at this time and was the game that introduced jokers to the deck. I can’t give you many details other than it involves taking tricks, so maybe it’s close to Bridge. I guess the practice of playing cards at bridal showers has gone by the wayside, although I think it sounded like a fun thing to do.

I don’t know if I have a point to this story other than to show that there are some things that change a little, but stay enough the same in order to give us a sense on continuity and community. I don’t know if bridal showers will go by the wayside by the time my great-grandchildren are getting married, but, so far, this little tradition seems to have endured for over 100 years without changing too much. I don’t think they’re the most most important event in a bride’s life, but they do give those who love the couple a chance to share their happiness and present them with something to start their new life.

I bet there is a similar experience in many cultures, but this one is sweet enough to continue in its simplest forms. I will say that I doubt either of my grandmothers had bridal showers since they came from poor families. Anyway, it was nice to find this common experience that tied me and my Oklahoma family to our long ago Kentucky family in ways that haven’t changed all that much in a world where so many things have disappeared or changed so quickly in my lifetime.

It was fun to open a book and find a family thread that made me smile, a precious family link.

Here’s a Halloween treat for you.  I was driving on a rural Oklahoma road today and turned around on a dead end where there were three or four trailers that looked a little shady.  I don’t want to be judgmental here, but they could be people who are just down on their luck, meth dealers, independent souls, or whatever you can imagine.  While turning around, the last trailer had a large dog chained in the yard, jumping towards us, although not barking.  Just watching us.  As we went by the trailer, something caught my eye and I jerked my camera up to catch it, not even knowing if it was real or not.

Here’s what I saw.  DSC_0019I hope you can see the pink bow and the red nail polish on the fanciest living thing in the neighborhood.

Let me know what you think the story is…

Happy Halloween!


Listening to my 4 year old granddaughter repeat the old Halloween taunt…Trick or Treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat…in all its variations was a cute reminder of Halloweens past. I looked it up to see when we started celebrating this strange holiday and found it was brought to America by the Scots-Irish at the end of the 19th century. It’s been around a long time, being celebrated in ways that haven’t changed so much. I see vintage Halloween decorations at antique shops and flea markets, vintage surely meaning before my time…


When I was little, we dressed up, mostly in homemade costumes. I remember witches, cowboys, gypsies, devils, wolfmen and vampires,ghosts and being a hobo. Does anyone even know what a hobo is these days? We had store-bought costumes that were silly plastic masks and some kind of cheap material to wear and Superman and Batman were popular then as now…


And we had our paper dolls to play with…


When my baby sister was maybe six months old, my Daddy carried her around…she was dressed in a pink snowsuit with a rubber monkey mask…to show the neighbors. I still remember how adorable that was. That may be the only time I remember Daddy going with us although I’m sure there were a few other times. Mostly we grabbed pillow cases and ran house to house as fast as we could, filling the case and then unloading it at home and going for more. Those were pretty safe times in the 50s. We’d bring the candy home and lay it out on the floor or the bed, organizing it by treat to see how we did. Some of the neighbors made popcorn balls or caramel apples for us and we had banana bites, root beer barrels, candy bars (real size ones – none of those little bitty bite-sizes), tootsie rolls, tootsie pops. There was no Halloween packaging although sometimes people bought little Halloween sacks and filled them with unwrapped candies like candy corn. I heard rumors of people giving dimes although I don’t remember getting them. We snacked from the candy we kept under the bed for days, weeks.


There were Halloween parties decorated with black and orange crepe paper, cardboard decorations or maybe those kind of paper decorations that fanned out into 3-D pumpkins or black cats. And pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns. We bobbed for apples and munched on Rice Krispies treats or cookies. Houses were decorated with pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns and those cardboard decorations taped in windows. In high school, there were a few costume parties. Hayrides were popular, real hayrides on big wagons loaded with piles of hay. These were popular because it was a great make-out date, even on church hayrides. Think of laying in the lay with your boyfriend, snuggled up against the cold, bouncing along under a starlit night…

Halloween has evolved during my lifetime, an understatement to say the least. When my four kids were little, we had more decorations, there were more pumpkin patches and we made an annual trip to find our best pumpkins. The carving took place close to the day, putting them out on Halloween night. If we put them out too early, they got stolen or withered. We didn’t care who took them after Halloween, just not before! There were no fancy cutting tools or designs, just pumpkin faces you made up. Pumpkin contests and Halloween parties were a big deal at elementary school.

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My post-war generation threw Halloween parties for adults and kids alike. There weren’t too many, but, right after having our fourth child, we dressed as rabbits to laugh at ourselves in an age when birth control and zero population growth were the ideas of the moment. We didn’t plan to have four children, but there we were…my 6’4″ husband was a cute pink bunny and I was the prolific mommy bunny.

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Sometime when my kids were little, the stories of razor blades in candy and drugs slipped into treats began and we had to take more cautions. The dads went with the kids, standing in the street talking while the kids ran to familiar houses for treats. The freedom of being on your own like in the days of my childhood was gone. Sure, there were scary houses in every neighborhood back then, enhanced by our imaginations, but we weren’t in real danger. It was a scarier world now. My son and his friends were allowed to travel in groups by the time they were 9 or ten, but they had to check in often and we inspected their candy.

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In the early 90s, I opened a gift shop, about the time that Halloween was becoming a billion dollar industry. It became one of our biggest shopping seasons with decorations, specialty foods, and novelties exploding onto the market. The candy companies learned that packing items for the holiday made a big difference in sales and costumes became more sophisticated for all ages. Halloween was celebrated in bars, on airlines, in offices. Adults loved acting like kids, playing make-believe.

By the time I had grandchildren, Halloween was a big deal. In the age of political correctness, when people decided that this was a pagan holiday celebrating evil, Halloween parties changed to Fall Festivals in schools and churches. Only the name changed in the long run. We had our little goblins…

Marc & Jeff

Marc & Caroline - Halloween 2003

…the adults dressed up…


and the holiday continued to grow. And grow.

Yesterday, I was at a Halloween costume parade in the neighborhood, marveling at the costumes on all ages. There are a lot of super heroes and movie monsters and princesses and even the dogs have a costume contest. I had just looked through a brochure of different ways to make hot dogs look Halloweeny, food being one of the creative ways we celebrate these days. Television is full of Halloween movie festivals, Halloween episodes of your favorite show and scary movies are scarier than ever.

The holiday permeates our culture these days. It’s a celebration of harvest and fall colors and shorter days and cooler weather and imagination and creativity and acting like a kid and facing the scary things in life with a sense of humor.


It Halloween time and all the scary movies are returning. One that frightened me and stuck in my head forever was “The Incredible Shrinking Man,” which came out in 1957 when I was in 6th or 7th grade. The images are so vivid to me of the man who kept getting smaller and smaller until he lived in a dollhouse, terrorized by the family cat and household spiders. The old black and white movie was well done, at least to this young mind. He got so small his wife couldn’t see him anymore and he was lost in the house.



Yesterday, I was measured at a doctor’s office and seemed to have shrunk. I still think she measured me wrong, but whatever. Good grief, I take enough calcium and eat enough dairy and exercise. Another strange thing about aging. Those movie images came back to me along with the fact that I would be getting smaller as my grandchildren get bigger and bigger – a couple are already around 6’4″ and still growing.

Scary movies have nothing on real life. The good news is that the movie ended on a positive note as the incredible shrinking man realized that he was going to shrink to atomic size but that there was no zero in the universe and he would always be a part of it. As the minister said at my son’s memorial service, “He is now all around us.”

In the meantime, look for the little woman in my family pictures. That will be me. Incredible.

Halloween has become one of the biggest holidays of the year.  Back in my day, we dressed up in simple costumes (gypsy, ghost, hobo) or wore the cheap ones from the dime store with the funny mask, grabbed a pillow case and ran up and down the streets trick or treating.  My grandmother had candy corn in a dish through Thanksgiving – a sure sign it was fall.  After a certain age, we didn’t need our parents with us and ran for blocks, filling our case and coming home for another one. We had sacks of candy (full size bars), popcorn balls, and carmel apples hidden under our beds for weeks.  Nobody worried about poison from the neighbors and nobody worried about us getting grabbed off the streets.  Sometimes there would be a party with bobbing for apples, cider, popcorn and snacks.  I don’t remember ever seeing an adult in costume unless a rare one dressed up as a witch with a caldron of dry ice steaming at the door.

My, how it has changed!  By the time my kids were big enough to go out, there were more decorations than just the construction paper cut outs we made.  I dreaded the costumes since that really wasn’t one of my strengths, but we muddled through.  Occasionally there was a costume party with our friends.  In our neighborhood, the dads went out with the kids and you could see them in the streets laughing, drinking a beer, watching the kids run up and down while the moms opened the doors with treats, waving to all.  Then that first bit of aspirin was found in candy and people started having private parties and strangers started bringing their kids from the “unsafe” neighborhoods to the nicer ones for treats so we didn’t know who was at the door.  That was ok since treats were getting more expensive and I understood those parents wanting to give their kids a better experience with less worry.  I was sad when my mother started turning off her lights and pretending she wasn’t home for fear of the big kids who came to the door long after the trick or treating should have ended.  It was a new era and Halloween had gotten a little scarier.

By the time I opened my gift shop in 1992, the Halloween phenomenon was an explosion.  Decorations were getting pretty fancy and adult parties were the norm.  Costumes were more elaborate and the kids I had handed treats were not wanting to stop dressing up.  Parties in bars, parties at churches, parties in neighborhoods…Halloween was everywhere!  The candy companies got smart and learned the power of packaging with treat sizes and holiday themed wrappers.  Smart business!  What an array of treat choices we have today with the greatest danger being buying them too early and then having to get more when you realize you have eaten them all way before the holiday.

I still get a kick out of the kids coming to the door.  They’re always polite, sometimes shy, sometimes bold.  Great costumes. Their parents come right up to the door these days…hovering over the kids.  That part is a little sadder.  Some of the fun is gone for the kids…but, that’s just my opinion.  It’s still a great holiday and I love that it’s enjoyed by all ages!  Have a Happy Halloween, come by my house for treats, and be safe out there!Scan 6

My childhood Halloween memories include jack-o-lanterns, but I don’t remember where we got them.  They must have come from the grocery store.  It wasn’t until I married a man who was in love with Halloween that I discovered the pumpkin patches.  Every year we headed for the country to find the best pumpkins.  Around here, it was in Bixby and we stopped at the pumpkin farms to go into the patches and pick our own.  Everyone had to have a pumpkin, with Daddy’s being the biggest, and we took them home to carve.  Over the years, the pumpkin patches got a little more sophisticated and added animals and places to pose for photos and sold cider and gourds and corn stalks.  Halloween was becoming a big deal everywhere!  The pumpkins got bigger and bigger and then they came out with the tiny ones and the odd ones and it was an adventure.  Even after our kids were grown and in college or married, we had to go get our pumpkins.  I miss watching him carve the faces – he would be amazed at the design industry built around pumpkin carving today.

Our grandchildren have always gone to the pumpkin patches.  Now the atmosphere is like a fall carnival with hay & corn mazes, more rides, and higher piles of pumpkins.  This year I was thinking about how much time the farmers had spent on all these extras and wonder if they make enough money selling pumpkins to cover the costs or if it’s just as fun for them as it is for the rest of us.  It’s kind of an innocent tradition for our family and bring memories of long drives, nights at the kitchen table watching Daddy carve the pumpkins, and then the final lighting of the jack-o-lanterns on Halloween night.  Boo! – to your family from mine…

When I was a little girl, there was a couple who lived on 21st Street who decorated their yard for every holiday.  They used yards of tulle and other simple decorations, but it was always a treat to drive by.  The May Pole was one of the favorites.  When I was about 30 with four kids of my own, I knocked on their door and asked to interview them for a class project for a journalism class I was taking at TU.  She was a nurse and they had no children of their own, so they did this for everyone.  They must have decorated for at least 20 years as my kids remember it, too.

I admire people who use their time and resources just to delight people they don’t even know.  They must get a special joy from knowing they have inspired so many smiles. There is a house, just south of 16th & Cheyenne, that gives me such a good feeling.  They do it up big and welcome anyone to walk around their entire yard, front & back.  That’s a brave thing in an age when people are afraid of anyone coming to their front door.  Drive by & see their “Monster Manor” and see if you can resist a chuckle.  

Thank you to these nice people!  Happy Halloween to all!!!

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