Reflection: Retro Halloween Parading

The following opinion piece on Halloween through the generations in Fair Haven was originally published in 2015. It is reprised annually … 

After the parade passed by, this kid from Fair Haven had some parading memories on which to reflect. Remember this scene?

It’s a longstanding tradition — the Fair Haven Halloween Parade.

I remember it well — from my first parade trek back in the late 1960s to the ’70s, 80s, 90s and now.

It all started at age 7 with a wish to be Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. I noticed a few this year and the green-eyed jealousy monster of a near senior reared its head. But I digress … That little dress-up fantasy of the 60s of mine was foiled when my mother couldn’t get the gingham outfit together, my pigtails were not so poised for the silver screen look and my sister refused to crawl down Hance Road as Toto.

I guess it was bad enough that from the age of 3, she was forced by this pint-sized dominatrix 5-year-old Dorothy to crawl on a makeshift Funk and Wagnall’s encyclopedia Yellow Brick Road to Oz in the living room. The neighbors never quite got over it, either.

So, sans the proper companion dog and doable costume, my mother decided I should go full-on gore instead — not because it was her preference, but because she happened upon this very scary looking full-head, hand-me-down rubber mask. Mom was big on hand-me-down giving and receiving. In those days of cheap plastic front-cover Casper face masks with a  single stapled elastic band to hold it in place and blind you, too, the full-head mask was quite the find.

I donned the rubbery Frankenstein-meets-cyclops mask, blind and sweaty, but pretty darn scary, I thought, I hobbled, tripping all the way while maintaining an evil stare no one could see,  down the street to Knollwood School. Good thing my mom was holding my hand, or I’d have flattened my gruesome little rubbery face on the sidewalk all the way.

And so, as it goes and has gone for decades, this 1967, we lined up in age category and, to the drum beat of the RFH Marching Band and fire engine sirens, we marched. Oh, there were dolls, and fairies and princesses and Caspers aplenty. And, yes, there was a stinking Dorothy or two. Bah!

So, I thought for sure, I, the compromised, scariest and most Halloweenied of the bunch, would garner first place. Besides, I thought what with all the sweat, (unseen) in character glaring and tripping, I deserved it, darn it!

So, all the way down Hance Road onto River and the firehouse, I stared down the judge. I can still see her, a fire company auxiliary member who was probably trying really hard not to laugh. And as I walked, glared, sweat, tripped and, in the end, couldn’t breathe, I just knew I must have had it in the ol’ trick-or-treat bag to win that doll I knew they were giving away for first place honor.

Besides, I really thought I had it in the bag when the lady handed me a ticket that allowed me to stand in the winner’s circle. And a real circle it was. So, we arrived.

We had made the parade trek, partially blind and without a fall. The scent of fire truck fuel, apple cider and donuts was in the air — ahhh, comfort scents. I spied that doll. It was mine.

Muffled announcements had this kid spinning, especially from inside this now dizzying sweat-infested, blinding mask. But in character I stayed, as it was my plan to, with the announcement of my win, unmask my sorry little self, take a bow, take my doll and exit, firehouse garage stage left, with my mommy.

But, noooooooo! The cutesie kid costume got MY doll. I got a rock … or some coloring book and an honorable mention.

OK, so I never got over it. But I also never got over the glory of being a kid and then raising a full-on Halloween-spirited kid (who got into the ghoulish costuming like a pro and decorated like a champ) in Fair Haven at Halloween parade time. I also never got over the all-in-good-fun scare, the gore and the ghoulish and eventually became a cast member and make-up artist at one of largest, most noted haunted attraction on the east coast — The Haunted Mansion.

And I’m not scared o’ that, either!

So, yes, the Retro Pic(s) of the day honor the memory of the Fair Haven Halloween Parade. Enjoy and send us your retro Halloween parade pics and memories! Trick or treat?

— Elaine Van Develde

John Caroli
BCS Wealth Management