Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Halloween on Parade (1950-1955)

Good morning!

As I was looking for Halloween stuff to share with you today (it's coming, it's coming, it's coming!), I was surprised by the tone a lot of the midcentury magazines I habitually read took towards little Halloweeners and their bent towards mischief. Every other article is like "HOW CAN WE STOP THE MAYHEM?!" Though I like to think of most high school hijinks of the fifties' as involving gum that turns your teeth black or a bucket of water that gets you when you unsuspectingly open a door, I remember my grandaddy (who would have been a young miscreant sometime in the early 30's) telling me about a time he and some of his neighborhood pals hog-greased the trolley car tracks from town so that the next to last stop, in Inglewood, didn't stop at the last stop, but kept careening down the line without pause, to the great delight of said miscreant and pals. So I guess, maybe, Halloween prankers of days gone by went hard or went home, truly taking the "trick" part of trick or treat to heart!

Here are some of the things I took note of in The Rotarian, Popular Mechanics, and Life from the Halloween seasons between 1950 and 1955:

1) Shop Window Soap Decorations:
In a 1951 issue of the Rotarian, the accompanying copy to these illustrations is "Halloween without Havoc". Apparently, the local middle and high school kids were all rounded up to soap-paint the windows on purpose, as part of a fundraising competition, rather than under cover of night and deep secrecy, as I guess they were used to doing on actual Halloween. This is a good example of "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!". The pink guy in the first picture is also a good example of "my date to the Fall Festival, plus I love him in all his ghoulishness":

Some of these are also from Life, but I forgot to mark which was which (I am an ace reporter at reporting, I am). Here, local school teachers give the proto-StayPuft man (who for some reason lives in a cobweb) his due scores. I like the collegiate look of the teacher at right.

The good kids from the local Boys and Girls Club even clean up afterward! Again, this is major progress over previous years in which I'm sure Floyd the Barber lookalikes were outside angrily brandishing scrub brushes to remove soap graffiti of a much less inspired sort from their storefront windows. Bravo, Rotarians! What an idear!

2) Halloween Parades:

I think I was aware of the tradition of having parades at Halloween, but I don't think I've ever attended or participated in one. If it had been anything like these, I think I would have remembered! Below, three brontosauri with (two with "come hither" eyes and lipstick!!!!) precede a pair of dice and follow a couple of clowns on their procession march. How freakin cute are these dinos? Where I'm not partial to wearing a costume myself that obscures my face (so vain), I would love to see these guys out on the town, with the dice, especially!

The October 1954 Popular Mechanics spread on Halloween parades featured two, knock-your-socks-off floats built by junior mechanical engineers....this, ladies and gentlemen, is a rocket piloted by a robot that shoots popcorn balls out of its ray gun turrets. WOULD YOU BELIEVE!

The rocketeer, in close up:

Marking a close second, Hazel the Witch, with flapping arms and sidekick bats:

3) Halloween Costumes:

This little guy was in a Hawaiian Punch ad from the fifties', and I couldn't get over the combination of skeleton costume and Hawaiian accouterments. YES!

A schoolgirl in Life magazine shows us how to make an awesome, pinata-like head out of papier-mâché. My main concerns out of this are that people would spend all night treating you like you have a pinata for a head. However! How cool would it be to make one of these of the Jack in the Box head and just wear it with a suit? ANSWER: VERY COOL. Also, dig the little girl's hair and glasses...so perfect.

Last but not least, lots of "what the heck are you?!" real life Halloween costumes from the fifties:

The one kid's mustache (left, above)!

Note to fifties' mom of the kid in front...putting your boy in your bra and panties and lipstick, to be worn in  public as a costume, is not thinking on your feet because you forgot to get him a dime store mask before they were all out-- I'm pretty sure it's a minor case of child abuse. I like the solemn look of "Well, this is happening" on his face. Father time (behind the wagon, white wig) is a pretty good idea.

Look at the tiny devil in front! Why are little little children always the scariest in masks?!

Well, hope you got a kick out of some of the midcentury madness. Have you decided on your costume yet? Any memories of parades/ soaped windows/ horrible last minute homemade costumes you'd like to share? Spill!

That's all for today...see you guys tomorrow!


  1. Great post! Wow, 1. I bet those popcorn balls hurt like hell! and 2. that greasing the trolley tracks was hardcore! I love those old timey devil costumes.

    1. I forgot to mention those devil costumes! Isn't it neat how they're standing in this little group with their tridents in front of the witch? Those parades were SERIOUS.

  2. I already have my costume for this year, but I LOVE the papier-mache tiger head. It goes against my "nothing that is more restrictive or less comfortable than pajamas" costume rule but it is so cool!!! We're going to be IN a Halloween parade this weekend - the oldest of its kind in these parts (since 1924)!!! I'll let you know how it goes.

    1. Good luck! Knock 'em dead (tiger head or no)!



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