The Baby Boomer generation heralded the modern-day popularity of the holiday, making it second to Christmas in consumer spending. But Halloween in the 1950s differed somewhat from today’s celebration. Primarily, kids created their own costumes from stuff they found in trunks or the back of their parents’ closet. I don’t think many of us were princesses or fairy godmothers, but you can bet if we were, our costumes were homemade and crowns and wands were fashioned from cardboard and aluminum foil or construction paper and glue and glitter.
Two of the most common characters of that era for dress-up were hobos and gypsies. Our parents, having lived through the depression, were all too familiar with the men who hopped the rails in search of work and food. Mama told about many a hobo who got off the train in Tallapoosa and meandered a block off main street to their house. Grandmother always fed the hobos as they sat gratefully and humbly on the back porch. It was a time when people with food unabashedly shared with those who had nothing.
Freddy the Freeloader, aka Red Skelton, served as an inspiration for hobo wannabees. A homemade outfit consisted of raggedy and oversized jeans or overalls, worn boots (or barefoot if the weather was still warm), tattered shirts and a cock-eyed hat. In other words, kids wore their dads’ yard clothes. The hallmark of a hobo costume, though, was a stuffed bandana or pillowcase tied to a broom stick, representing the bindle stick in which hobos carried all their worldly goods.
Girls on the other hand dressed as gypsies. Long skirts, lots of bracelets, huge ear bobs, and a scarf wrapped around the head added mystery to the costume. Bright red lipstick completed the look. Mama did not speak fondly of the gypsies who roamed the countryside during the first half of the last century. Their customs were raucous and bawdy – sleeping in tents, dancing around campfires, and tales of kidnapping local children. But the most intriguing person in the nomadic band of people was the fortune teller.
I’ve always been a little captivated by the thought of someone telling my future. I loved cousin Dot Moore’s book about Mayhaley Lancaster and tend to lean toward believing that the famous fortune teller might have had some mystical insights. About 10 years ago I was concerned about my future so my friend Suzanne and I went to see a fortune teller in Bowdon to find out what was to come. She hit several things right on the mark. I made the trek a second time with the kids from Camp Garrett, but was less impressed with her predictions.
What I have learned is that the future is unpredictable and even if you have an idea of what is to come, life unfolds in its own way in its own time.
This week has been one of unprecedented tragedy – both locally and nationally. I have wrestled as many of you have with the untimely death of Will Garrett. My heart aches for his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. Joe and Ali are quality people who have had to face a parent’s worst nightmare. I find myself searching for the right words to express my sorrow during their time of loss. Simply put, my heart aches for the pain the family is experiencing and like many of you, I send prayers for healing and comfort in God’s grace.
And as our community dealt with a local tragedy, along came Sandy and changed the future for millions of people. No warning in the world truly prepares anyone for such devastating losses.
We’ll never know what the future holds but we have been reminded this week that life changes on a dime. When wrestling with major life changes, all I know is that the only way to heal is through the love of family and friends and the assurance of faith.
So, maybe that’s why we sometimes invest in something so trite as costumes, candy and pumpkins. For a few minutes we escape into a world of make-believe where we can pretend to have super powers, be anyone we want to be and eat as much chocolate as our heart desires.
Perhaps there’s a better way to spend our time, money and energy. But then, maybe a little magical thinking is a welcome respite.
Garrett, a Carroll County resident, writes a weekly column for the Times-Georgian.