The Ghost of Halloweens Past

OK, so I’m Old.

Here are some vintage things from Halloweens of my misspent youth in the 1960s

1.) Collegeville Halloween Costumes – Ill-fitting, uncomfortable, and cheap, with the stiff uncomfortable plastic mask (with eye-holes that never lined up) packaged up front


2.) “Vintage” cardboard Halloween decoartions – they’re still available!

3.) Halloween Stickers – I can’t find exactly what we had – it was somewhere between the ersatz “Victorian” stickers and the “retro” ones. They were reproduced from painted originals, not cartoony ones

Something like this:

4.) Cheap makeup “kits”, The local 5 and 10 (yes, we really had one, with that on the sign. Most things cost more than 10 cents, but that’s the cost of the makeup cards). They sold a LOT of these. Some were inoffensive – Clown, Princess, Pirate. But others would definitely be considered politically incorrect today. These are the only ones I can find pictures of on the internet:


Minstrel and Chinese

Indian and Chinese

Gypsy and Pirate

Here’s a Big Box of Kits, which I never saw as a kid. They must’ve shipped al the cards in boxes like this

Here’s an all-in-one that I never saw before

5.) It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown – This was on at least twice in prime time this month. Like a vampire, it never dies, and never gets older. Mad magazine parodied it’s longevity last year (like they’ve got reason to complain)

Our daughter made a couple of comments while watching it with us:

“So Lucy is upset that her lips touched dog lips, but it doesn’t bother her that there was an entire dog in the tub?”

“Were kids more aware of World War I in the 1960s? Because all those scenes with Snoopy as the Flying Ace really confused me when I was younger.”

Happy Halloween.

Oh, yeah, also:

6.) Jointed Life Size Cardboard Skeletons

7.) “Action Dancers”"action+dancers"&tbm=isch&source=univ&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj16IzPzMblAhVxh-AKHQHPDR0QsAR6BAgHEAE&biw=1440&bih=789

8.) Vincent Price in The House on Haunted Hill – the movie made not one bit of sense, but it was creepy fun, even without the “Emergo” skeleton. I understand that, in recent years, some theaters have been holding showings complete with the skeleton.

Love the Old Lady on Roller Skates!

We had those exact same vintage cardboard cutouts in our windows every year when I was a kid. Just seeing them draws me back in time.

NEVER had one of those costumes with the plastic mask and vinyl cape or whatever it was. My mom made all of our costumes. For a couple of years, my sister and I were rabbits complete with headpieces and tails. Then when my next sister arrived, my mom made leopard costumes. All of those costumes were handed down to the 4th kid, who came as a big surprise 7 years after the 3rd!

A couple of years I was a hippie/flower child. My mom painted flowers and peace signs on my face. I had white go-go boots, a Nehru shirt, beads, etc. That was my favorite costume of all time.

One year the weather on Halloween night was particularly awful - cold and rain. Whatever I was going to dress up like wasn’t going to work. So my mom created a woodsman/lumberjack outfit for me out of whatever was around the house. I was devastated. I can still remember crying because I didn’t want to wear it. But I did and I was warm. The old guys in the neighborhood knew exactly what I was!

I remember how excited we were to get out and start trick or treating. We wanted to go immediately after we ate dinner. My dad wouldn’t allow it. He said that we had to wait until it was dark before we could go!!! Afterall, who went trick or treating when it was still daylight?! That’s crazy! When I think of that, I always laugh. He would be considered a terrible parent these days.

My grandma lived close by so we were able to trick or treat at her house. She would always give us those giant Hershey bars - not just the full-size bars, they were the huge ones - maybe 1/2# or maybe 1#.

We’d get home and sort our candy, trade and then horde it. We didn’t have any restrictions. We could eat as much as we wanted. We lost interest eventually. I remember having a forgotten bowl of Halloween candy under my bed three months later.

We dressed up for school and had a Halloween party and then all of the kids paraded through the other classrooms.

What an amazing day Halloween was!

I went to a Catholic school. We could dress up on Halloween in school and have a parade – but we had to dress as saints.


I was anachronistically dressed as a monk (which my saint wasn’t, but we had no clue about how else to costume me).

The first Halloween I can recall, I had a costume even less comfortable than those Collegeville costumes. I went as Mickey Mouse, and my mask wasn’t plastic – it was starched linen (!) God knows where that antique came from. Probably a hand-me-down from relatives dating back to the 1940s or older.

Anyway, it rained that night. Starch doesn’t do well in the rain. The mask essentially melted on my face. Just when we got to the house my kindergarten teacher lived in, too.

9.) Retro Paper Halloween Goody Bags

Does ANYONE like Mary Janes? Always traded them for something else–usually a half-dozen MJs for something better, but I haven’t seen them eaten too often. I speculate there’s a mountainous pile of traded-up MJs somewhere, waiting to take over the world.

Possibly good news for you. Mary Janes were most recently produced by Necco candy in Revere, Massachusetts, in the plant that just closed down. Wikipedia thinks they might not be made any more ( Mary Jane (candy) - Wikipedia )

This site says that they’ve been discontinued – Mary Janes –

Even Amazon lists them as “out of stock” –

This site gives some of the gory details, but if Mary Janes were bought by any other manufacturer, I haven’t found it yet –

WalMart still lists it, though. Maybe they’ve got pallets of them stuck away in the back – Mary Jane Original Molasses & Peanut Butter Candy, 6 Oz. -
You can find it on eBay. Pricey, though – mary jane candy products for sale | eBay

Keep in mind that a lot of young kids in the 1960s would have had grandparents that fought in World War I. I’m a little surprised it’s still that popular, given that the strip hasn’t had any new strips drawn for it in 20 years.

One good thing that ABC does is to put it in an hour slot, either with some “filler” cartoons or a lesser-known special (like You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown - originally called You’re Elected, Charlie Brown, until somebody noticed that he isn’t running for any office, much less being elected to one) that they can cut so the better-known special can air uncut even though there are more commercials per hour. (Not too long ago, when NBC aired How the Grinch Stole Christmas, it had one of those warnings at the beginning: “This program has been edited from its original format. It has been edited to fit in the time allowed.”)

I remember stories about how, in reality, Charlie Brown would get more Halloween candy than any real child - children watched the show, felt sorry for him, and send some of their candy to him through their TV stations. They would do the same thing with valentines every year they read the comics and see that he never got any.

Something that a lot of people don’t realize; a lot of it, including pretty much the entire Linus and Sally in the pumpkin patch story, first appeared in the comic strips. (A Charlie Brown Christmas, on the other hand, is almost entirely original material.)

I was a kid back in the '50s, and we lived in a suburb with lots of streets, in a grid. We used to go out trick-or-treating on both the 30th and the 31st, and we went up and down all the streets. When our shopping bags were full, we came home, got a new bag and went out for more. We ended up with 4 big bags full of candy, enough to last months.

We always made our own costumes. In kindergarten my mom and I made a really scary witch costume, including a mask and a broom with a black cat on it. She taught me how to cackle. I won a prize in school.

One year we made a tree costume, and another, a robot with flashing lights. Another year, I went as “backwards man,” with all my clothes backwards and a mask on the back of my head (the shoes were tricky). When people opened their door, I’d show them that my joints bent the wrong way. Scared the hell out of some people.

Halloween was so much fun back then.

I remember the Halloween kits. They’re still around, though updates and usually found in Spirit Halloween stores* and online. Materials are better, but the concept is still around.

They also have makeup, though nothing so obviously racist.

We used them when I was little, but I started making my own variations. My best was in 1964 when I was twelve. I spotted a Khruschev mask in the local five-and-ten. He had just been deposed as leader of the Soviet Union and my first thought was, “That one’s not going to sell.” But after some thought, I bought it, put on an ill-fitting suit, and trick or treated with a sign “Out of a Job.”
*They open these in vacant storefronts and close down a week or so after November 1.

^ 5-ish years ago, a young man, roughly 10 YO, came to our door for Hallowe’en; he had on a blue suit, white shirt, red tie, a bad fitting orange wig and a name tag: Hi! My name’s Donald Trump! I did the appropriate thing–shrieked in “fear” and tossed candy at him. He seemed pleased. :slight_smile:

My mom did make some costumes. She made a black head-to-toe suit, like this, but with nio piece covering my head –

I then painted a skeleton on it with fluorescent paint, and wore an off-the-shelf skull mask.

Another time she made a similar suit in green, added a tail, and I wore two alligator masks, and went as a Dragon (two masks because each was only half the head – down to the jawline. I wanted my dragon to have a complete mouth, so I wore one upside-down under the other.)

I was also a devotee of Dick Smith’s Monster Makeup Handbook, that magazine-sized set of instructions on making your own monster makeup, which inspired and corrupted a generation of monster-movie fans.

I did a lot of the stuff from that book. Years later, in Grad school and afterwards, I did some pretty elaborate makeup, going so far as to make a plaster cast of my face, modelling “appliances” on it, making a countermold, and casting the pieces in casting gelatin. I went as a gorilla, a lion, Frankenstein, and Vincent from Beauty and the Beast.

Of course, Snoopy as the World War I Flying Ace was a recurring gag in the comic strips for years, long after the actual WWI had become part of history. I’m glad they were able to work it into one of the TV specials. I love that part of the show, especially the mournful music and that lonesome train whistle that accompanies Snoopy when he’s down “behind the lines.”

My wife and I just watched The Great Pumpkin last night (having DVR-ed it on Monday, I believe it was). I do miss the Dolly Madison advertisements, though.

I LOVE Mary Janes! The problem is, they should be soft and chewy, but most of the time when I am able to find some they are hard as a rock. I suspect they’ve been sitting in a warehouse for years.

I wonder if THIS is where my starched linen Miockey Mouse mask came from. The site says it dates to the 1940s, which is believable if it’s a hand-me-down from my older cousins

Our mother made most of our costumes when I was young. Ones I especially remember were Mammy and Pappy Yokum for me and the girl next door, which won a best costume prize, a One-eyed, One-horned Flying Purple People Eater, and a mug of hot chocolate with a big marshmallow in it for my head to go in.

As an adult I wore a costume for a few years to hand out candy, a long, black, hooded cape with a black mask with red LEDs in the “eyes”. It had the desired effect - a few times when I wore it I could hear groups of kids at the end of the walk, “You go up first.” “No, YOU go first.”

We’re of an age and all that my list is about the same.

But the thing I remember most is that between us and older siblings, all us Boomers and post-Korea kids, the number of us who were out and about on Halloween. Once we moved to Da Burbs from the coal-patch we’re talking hundreds and more. Even back in The Patch we’re talking a good hundred. Now few places, even “family communities” have a hundred. Schools are smaller, classes smaller, families smaller — and Halloween is smaller along with it all at least to me.