Wednesday, October 29, 2014

1930s Halloween in Lorain

Since the Postwar era of the 1950s, most communities have celebrated Halloween by designating a night for Trick or Treat, on which costumed kids go door to door collecting candy and goodies. But it wasn't always that way.
Halloween in Lorain was very different eighty years ago.
1930s Halloween Decoration
How do I know? I recently talked to someone who grew up at 1216 Sixth Street in Lorain during the 1930s – namely, my 87-year old mother.

The way Mom remembers it, there was no designated night or time for Trick or Treat in Lorain back then. And, it was much more about the tricks, than the treats.

"We went trick or treating for a couple of weeks," Mom reminisced. "It wasn't just one night." She said she and her friends pretty much stuck to the houses on Sixth Street – her neighbors, the people she knew.

I asked her what they did for tricks.

"Oh, we rang doorbells, and banged on people's porches with a stick," she said. "They'd come to the door and then we'd run like hell. I also remember soaping windows and throwing leaves on people's porches."

I kidded Mom as to whether or not the statute of limitations on those crimes had truly expired, or if she could now expect a knock on her West Side door by one of Lorain's Finest.

The funniest trick Mom remembered was seeing two boys standing on the opposite side of a street, both pretending to be holding an end of a rope extending across the road. A car would approach, and the driver couldn't tell if the pranksters were really holding something or not. (After hearing this story in the late 1960s, my brothers and I tried it on our street. It is a good gag, except for the annoyed driver of the car!)

Apparently, Mom's tricks were mild compared to what Dad's Uncle Ben got into when he was a kid in Lorain, twenty years earlier. "Dad said that his Uncle Ben told him that he and his friends used to put people's outhouses on their roofs as a prank."

What about costumes back in the 1930s? I asked Mom about what kind of costumes she and her friends wore when they went trick or treating. "Everyone wore black masks, like the Lone Ranger," she said.

She remembered that there really weren't a lot of store-bought Halloween costumes, or at least no one could afford them anyway. "It was Depression times – people were hurting. You had to make up your own outfit. Sometimes we wore our costumes from our dancing routines." (Mom and her sister Helen were tap dancers, and the duo performed in costume at a variety of local shows during the 1930s.)

The newspapers did mention that Lorain had an annual Halloween "Mardi Gras" parade for the kids to march in while they wore their costumes.

Lastly, how were the Halloween treats back then?

The former Hawkins house at 1172 Sixth Street
Mom has one specific memory about a special treat on one Halloween. There was a house on Sixth Street just across Oberlin Avenue to the east. "An auto dealer named Hawkins lived there," she remembered. One Halloween he was handing out ice cream cones."

That's a pretty nice treat – much better than the tiny "fun size" candy bars being given out now!

The auto dealer was Edwin J. Hawkins, President of Hawkins Motor Sales, and his house – still a magnificent one – is at 1172 Sixth Street. (It is a great house. The spouse and I attended an Open House there back in the late 1990s, and the realtor who was there that day became a family friend. She not only found our current house in Sheffield Lake, but sold our house on Nebraska Ave as well.)

Anyway, special thanks to Mom for sharing some of her 1930s Halloween memories. It was a simpler time back then, and a poorer one – but still a lot of fun for Lorain's youth.

Part of the 1937 Lorain City Directory Listing for Sixth Street

1 comment:

Ken said...

What a pleasure to read this morning!