Column, Looking Back

Halloween memories

By Mary Ellen Shaw

Halloween will certainly not be the same this year. The much anticipated parade will not wind its way through downtown Rutland. The crowd that the parade draws is not safe with social distancing guidelines. Sometimes we just have to accept that people who know more than we do have made the best decision for all of us.

Rutland’s Halloween parade has been around for 60 years. I was in high school when the first parade was held. Since my trick or treating days were over the parade was a new and different way to celebrate that holiday. So what did we do for fun at this spooky time of year before the parade came into being? Let’s take a look back and see!

During most of my grade school years the big event was painting store windows in downtown Rutland. Just about every store was willing to let school children paint their windows with festive Halloween scenes. After school was out for the day those of us who wanted to paint worked together, supervised of course, to create witches, cemeteries, pumpkins and “all things Halloween.” The first thing we wanted to do after the windows were completed was to show our parents. I remember walking around downtown in the evening with my mom and dad to check out everyone’s creativity. Any time a child could go out at night back in the 50s seemed like a big deal!

There really wasn’t any worry about children trick or treating with their friends back then. Parents sent you out with a bag to hold the candy, told you to have a good time and when to be home! I remember one of our teachers told the class that we were welcome to go to her house for candy. Two of us did just that and I doubt we told our parents that we were going about a mile and a half from our homes just to get candy! They might have trusted us to go out by ourselves but I don’t think it even entered their minds that we would travel that far.

As I look back my friend Elaine and I were quite adventuresome on Halloween. She was my “partner in crime” when we visited the teacher and the two of us also traveled about two miles in another direction the next year to a friend’s house. That led to the three of us trick or treating in her neighborhood. Those carefree days are gone when parents didn’t worry about an inappropriate person coming in contact with their child as they walked the streets.

There was a gap of many years without my being in a Halloween costume. But when I went to work at city hall that holiday took on a whole new meaning. We all dressed up and chipped in on candy for the counter. I am not one bit handy when it comes to sewing but my former coworker, Cathy Cioffi Taggart, is very talented in that respect. One year she created costumes for everyone in our office. It was our “money bags” costume. That was totally in sync with our employment in the treasurer’s office. For a number of years I did the banking for the city and I remember all the banks had a sign posted to remove masks before entering. When our work costumes included a painted face I just opened the door to the bank, called out a teller’s name and told them who I was. No problem!

I find it amusing that today we are required to wear a mask in banks and we are willingly given the cash that we want. What a difference a pandemic makes!

As I am writing it appears that trick or treating will go on but some parents will probably have concerns about letting their children do that. I expect that masked adults will be answering the doorbell. But it won’t be because it’s Halloween. It will be a safety precaution for themselves and the children.

Let’s be optimistic and hope that there will be a Halloween parade in 2021 and children can go from door to door without a worry and get all the candy their bags can hold. After all, that’s what Halloween is all about!

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