Do you send Hallowe’en cards? Judging from the racks of greeting cards in stores these days, many people do.
Stores selling Hallowe’en costumes and party gear are now occupying vacated commercial space. October issues of magazines offer decorating ideas including “Boo-tiful” tablescapes. The current Better Homes and Gardens special edition (2016) displays patterns for creative pumpkin carving.
This magazine, founded in 1922, was not even in circulation when my Grandma Longenecker received these postcards, this one an invitation from cousin Lulu, mailed from the Mount Joy, PA post office in October 1908.
Another one with a more spooky vibe (freakish cats setting ghostly pumpkins airborne) requests that Fannie “Bring refreshments.”
The venue is John Ebersole’s barn in Kingston, PA. The date: Tuesday, October 31, 1911. According to Google Maps, Kingston is 112 miles from Middletown, Fannie Martin’s hometown.
By car, in this century it would take about 2 hours. Did Grandma Fannie attend? Was her transportation horse and buggy or a Model T Ford that was in production as early as 1908? It could have been Model A Ford manufactured in 1903 – 1904. And I wonder how refreshments would fare during the long trip?
I am pleased to have access to such family artifacts, but I have to speculate about so many details surrounding the events.
Grandma would have known, but she’s not here any more, so I can’t ask her. I can live out my days not knowing details about a minor, but interesting, event. If I devised a story from this event, I’d have to indulge in “perhapsing,” a creative non-fiction technique I discussed in this post.
Still, I’m curious!
What artifacts have stoked your curiosity about family events of long ago?
How do you fill in the gaps when details are vague or absent?
Dorothy had the Good Witch of the North to give her “magical protection from fatal harm” on her journey to the land of Oz and back. Yet she followed an uneven path, using her brain, sometimes thinking with her heart, and slowly but surely developing courage.
I had my own Good Witch, Aunt Ruthie Longenecker from Pennsylvania, not Kansas. As a plain Mennonite, she never gave me glittering red shoes. I had to buy them on my own after I turned from plain to fancy. But she gave me plenty of golden advice, none more emotionally charged than the time she perceived I was veering off course at college and falling for a young man she imagined would be my downfall.
The advice arrived in a 4-cent envelope written in her flowing, left-handed cursive:
The Gibson greeting card is a cute pop-up.
Enclosed with the card was a terse note written on the back of a deposit slip from the First National Bank of Marietta, a curious choice of stationery. (You can read this note or the text below it in print.)
Here is her message in print form, directing me to forsake that boyfriend (aka “opera singer”) at the top of the hill:
Tell that opera singer on the top of the hill he has already sung his “swan song” and that you have decided to contribute more to this world than dishpan hands and another case for the marital appeasement courts. Think for yourself and your own future and let him produce positive evidence of his greatness. Call his bluff. – Don’t be licked. If he doesn’t understand English there’s always the possibility of a second semester transfer to Millersville, E-town or Goshen – Halloween is a good time to get rid of all ghosts and apparitions, so good luck to the Little Witch in Peachey House.
Added to this note was a “Hazel” cartoon clipping to reinforce her words:
The ink jotting has become almost indecipherable over the years, but she notes:
Hazel never went to High School, but she sure is a graduate student of human nature – by the length of the unwritten line the word must be “nuts” – or maybe it’s “yellow.”
At the time (my sophomore year at Eastern Mennonite College), I was trying to keep my life on track academically despite romantic upsets and did not then realize the full force of Aunt Ruthie’s words or the depth of feeling behind then. Squinting back through the telescope of years as a much older adult, I do now.
In Aunt Ruthie’s day, women usually chose either the single life and a career or motherhood and maintaining a household. Hardly ever both.
I was beginning to see from the models emerging in the 1960s that one could answer the call of both vocations, professional and domestic. Choices did not have to be an either-or proposition, and they didn’t have to happen simultaneously either.
How about you?
Did you ever benefit from unsolicited advice?
What models of vocational choice made an impression on you growing up? How did these influence you?
Ten years ago grandsons Patrick and Curtis were one-year-olds at Hallowe’en. In October 2004 they lived far away from us in Chicago. Fortunately, their parents captured snapshots of them in costume, Curtis a pumpkin and Patrick, Tigger, both in store-bought outfits, unlike my own get-ups, which were always homemade as shown in my Hallowe’en post last year.
Last weekend, among the children dressed as Muggles, Dumbledores, or Valdemort, Patrick and Curtis chose to attend the “Harry Potter” Sunday Symphony sans costume. Only Curtis wielded a wand, which caused a wee bit of trouble amidst the spider webs.
* * *
Students at Rheems Elementary School grades 1 – 8, though familiar with Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Ichabod Crane” and perhaps Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” could not have anticipated J. R. R. Rowlings’ Harry Potter series.
Though Rheems was no School for Hogwarts, our village school had its own version of The Sorcerer’s Stone and the Goblet of Fire in the Deathly Hallows of the school’s basement, made ghoulish by the upper grades who created scary events with “eye” grapes in bowls, ghostly recorded voices among the hay-bales, and an illuminated skeleton.
Students raided closets and attics to conjure up costumes for the Hallowe’en parade, the culmination of visits to the House of Horrors in the basement of the school. My Mennonite aunt, also my teacher Miss Longenecker, initiated much of the fanfare that marked all the holidays, both the sacred and the secular. Here she has recorded our annual Hallowe’en parade, including the stumbles and falls!
Quote of the week by Erma Bombeck:
A grandmother pretends she doesn’t know who you are on Halloween.
Your Hallowe’en memories — a scary tale? a memorable outfit? The conversation starts here.
Coming next: What’s for Dinner: Dried Beef Gravy and . . .
“Tick-uh-tick-uh-tick-uh-tick . . . ” The needle on my mom’s Singer sewing machine jabs the orange crepe paper as her feet mumble on the treadle. Usually the material comes from Mohr’s Fabrics in Lancaster or the Marian & Ruth Covering Shop in Mount Joy. She even uses printed feed bag for aprons or skirts. But today Mother is making an outrageously detailed Hallowe’en costume for me with orange and white crepe paper.
Hallowe’en was a big deal growing up. Every October the students in grades 1-4 in Miss Longenecker’s class and grades 5-8 in Mrs. Kilhelfner’s class skipped class for Hallowe’en fun. Blind-folded, we descended the cellar steps and guided by an older student stepped gingerly through a tunnel of hay bales to begin the scary trip through the fun house in the basement of Rheems Elementary School. Peeled grapes became the naked eye balls of the “remains” we touched. Instructed to blow a penny out of a dish, we proceeded through the maze with a flour-covered face. Then there were sounds of violence and a scream as we imagined mayhem. Finally, we took off our blind-folds to behold the fright of a luminous skeleton with moaning noises before mounting the back stair steps into the light.
And Hallowe’en night was even more fun. Often our outfits were home-made: a hobo or a ghost. But sometimes Aunt Ruthie went over-board with her other nieces, my younger sisters. One October 31st Ruthie created a yellow and black bee hive costume for cute little Jeanie complete with a stick she held with a wee bee bobbing up and down on the end. Janice was so jealous at having a plain old something or other to wear instead.
One year, the sisters put their heads together and decided to dress up our younger brother Mark, 12 years young than I. So we grabbed Janice’s navy blue gym suit with a built-in belt and legs that ended mid-thigh, a garter belt and nylon hosiery (Mom’s?) with my shiny, high-heeled shoes. So attired, we helped Mark navigate the 1/3-mile distance between our house and Grandma’s, where he was greeted with dumb-founded faces. “Where did this girl/woman come from?” they must have thought. In the end, the mask came off to gales of laughter. He was a SCREAM. And a good sport!
Generally, Mennonites in the 50s and 60s did not dress up or throw parties on Hallowe’en. I am certain our pastor, deacon, and bishop’s children did not ring door-bells bedecked in worldly costumes, collecting candy from neighbors. For sure, in a Church that “believes that wearing a necktie is a worldly practice,” fancy get-ups like these would be definitely frowned upon.* For us, though, Hallowe’en was such fun!
* Statement of Christian Doctrine and Rules and Discipline of the Lancaster Conference of the Mennonite Church, July 1968, (21)
Upcoming Feature and Book Giveaway of Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels by Valerie Weaver-Zercher.
On Saturday, November 2, I will be featuring Valerie Weaver-Zercher’s Book: The Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels.
Here are the details:
WHAT: An introduction to Valerie Weaver-Zercher’s Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels: The author and her book.
PLUS: One lucky commenter will win a copy of Valerie’s book
WHEN: Saturday, November 2, 2013
WHERE: Right here on Plain and Fancy Girl
And all you have to do is show up, read the blog post and leave a comment or pose a question..
The giveaway will close one week later on Saturday, November 9, 2013 at noon. The winner will be chosen in a random drawing. I will announce the winner here and by email.
I invite you to come by and enter. Feel free to invite your reading friends!
Today’s invitation: What are your childhood memories of Hallowe’en? What new memories are you creating?