Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Americanized Halloween

Happy Monday to everybody – and a chilling, un-official, Halloween week (literally – burr)! As for myself, I look forward to every Monday of the year, because they’re my 52 Chances in which I get to share Memories of My Mom with all of you!


It’s less than a week until Sunday, when America’s second largest commercial holiday (next to Christmas) arrives! Halloween has come a long way from its origin, as a Celtic pagan ritual, a couple thousand years ago, to the Americanized holiday that millions of people celebrate today.

The most prevalent change for observing Halloween in America started in the 1800s, with the influx of Irish immigrants that came here. Popularity grew for celebrating the day with community parties and neighborhood gatherings for local families and celebrators of all ages. The special events focused more on kinship and cooperative spirit and less on evil pranks, ghosts, and witchery; often including festive music, costumes, games, seasonal foods, and a bonfire.

By the 20th century, parades, pumpkin-carving, and neighborhood “trick-or-treating” were also added into the mix of celebration activities. Families were encouraged by their communities and the local media to take the scariness out of what was once known as “All Hallows Eve”. To learn more about the origins of Halloween and how it came to be what we celebrate now, check out

When I was growing up, in Algonac, in the 1970s, I remember going with my family to fun Halloween parties at our local Lions Club, where Dad was a member for at least a decade. They would have adult and children’s costume contests, arts and crafts projects for the kids, hayrides, games (like bobbing-for-apples and 3-legged races), music and dancing. There would also be a big bring-a-dish-to-pass smorgasbord and a classic bonfire.

Mom usually made our costumes until we were big enough to create our own. I can remember dressing up as a ghost, witch, black cat, scarecrow, hobo, Raggedy Ann, and an angel. I also remember making our own popcorn ball treats, with Mom, to take to school for Halloween parties. Did you know that food is the most common denominator in almost any commemoration or celebration, in any country, regardless of culture or religion?


As seen in…

No Laughing Matter, a syndicated column by Gloria Pitzer (no date on reprint)

[Originally printed in her syndicated Food For Thought column, circa 1969]


EVERY YEAR, I KEEP hoping somebody will do something about Halloween costumes. Shopping for really weird costumes poses a problem when we are still offered the same monotonous choices we were given back in the Neo-Saddle-Shoe days of [my] own tarnished youth.

Somehow, I’ll locate those boxes in the attic that contain all the rain-soaked, Donald Duck outfits, Bozo suits, Frankenstein masks with missing elastics, and the gypsy attires. And if I do, I’ll be able to clothe an entire hippie colony for at least a year.

Somewhere, I also have a box of threadbare pillowcases stained with licorice and lipstick that didn’t wash out. However, if I’m lucky, I won’t have to give our 12-year-old a bag this year because he says he’s ‘going to eat the stuff right on the spot!’ And, if it’s an especially good year, he promises to save me all the chocolate Easter bunnies he gets. Mike told me not to worry about getting his sister a mask, ‘since Debi doesn’t need one!’

I’ve decided their father can take them trick-or-treating this year! I’m still quite hurt from the tactless comment made by the neighbor at the end of the block, who offered me the candy corn last year because he thought I had a sensational costume. Trouble was, I wasn’t wearing one! I looked like an accident, going somewhere to happen!

‘That’s my mom!’ Mike told the man. ‘But if you think she looks scary now, you should see her in the morning!’

That kid is going to get underwear for Christmas! In fact, a few more comments like that may turn me against honesty, altogether.

Actually, some of the costumes the kids have dreamed up, themselves, have shown more ingenuity than the manufacturers who produce kids’ costumes that are somehow programmed to self-destruct before a mother can find a safety pin to fasten the neck opening.

You’d think, for $2.98, they would at least put gripper snaps or zippers or supply you with their safety pins on those skimpy outfits. Do they care that a mother cannot locate a safety pin when she needs one, without summoning the aid of Mannix and Mr. Keane, Tracer of Lost Persons?

Trying to find safety pins for Halloween costumes in October is as likely as finding D batteries for Christmas toys in December!

Naturally, all my good suggestions went out the window, so the kids tried to put their own costumes together and I’m supposed to act surprised, when they come calling at our house Halloween night. Now, maybe I won’t be able to recognize my offspring, but one thing’s for sure… I can certainly identify my sheets!

Or, if you’ll excuse the pun – they don’t have a ghost of a chance of fooling me!


As seen in…

Food For Thought, a syndicated column by Gloria Pitzer [circa 1973]


WHERE WE LIVE, IN Halloween Heights, trick-or-treat is nothing to get excited about. I mean, explaining mischief to the kids in this neighborhood is like trying to explain sex to Dr. Reuben. With the kids on our block, Halloween is a way of life; religiously observed on any day that has the letter ‘Y’ in it!

Last year, we rushed out and bought 100 pieces of penny candy. A lot of good that did! The first kid who rang our doorbell wanted to borrow a cup of bullets. The year before that, nobody rang the doorbell… Somebody had stolen it.

And to think that when we first moved into this neighborhood, from the ‘big city’ 8 years ago; things were so dull all we had to look forward to was our dentist appointments. We couldn’t wait until some families moved in, with children for ours to play with.

Imagine our surprise when we got our wish but learned that those kids gave incentive lectures to pickpockets. They carry their BB guns around in violin cases. Even their sweatshirts are inscribed with slogans like ‘Boris Karloff is a SISSY!’ ‘The mafia wants to join you!’ And… ‘Do unto others before they do it unto you!’

Halloween to these kids is about as exciting as Girl Scout Thinking Day is to the Godfather. They don’t have time to fool around with child’s play. At least, not until they’ve finished putting up all of their signs, reading: ‘KEEP ON THE GRASS!’

I don’t understand them at all. Halloween used to be a marvelous time for masquerading and mischief when our parents would take us to the Five-and-Dime to select a costume and warn us not to fall for the first ugly face we see.

The kind of costumes we used to wear for trick-or-treat would completely turn off today’s kids. After all, they dress that way for school every day. There was always something so wonderfully scary about when we were kids. The kids in this neighborhood aren’t scared by anything.

They aren’t afraid of their parents. They aren’t afraid of the police. They’d probably run Godzilla out of town if they had the chance! For the kids in this neighborhood, doing a good deed is making a contribution in your name to local crime statistics.

Be careful! If one of them ever asks you for the time, it means they want your watch! Listen! Because of the kids in this neighborhood, my Avon lady sends me my order BY MAIL!

Remember how kids used to swallow goldfish as a teenaged prank? Well, around here the kids swallow piranhas! Fortunately, though, they haven’t bothered me much. Somebody told them the syndicate has a contract on me – and they didn’t realize that it meant my column was being carried in newspapers across the country.

It wouldn’t do any good to pass out candy to these kids this Halloween. By the time they ring the bell, we look through the peep-hole, unfasten the lock, slide back the bolt, unhook the chain, leash-up the German shepherd, disconnect the burglar alarm, and open the door – it would be Thanksgiving!


Even though winter is right on its heels, I love the fall season, with its slightly warm days and chilly nights (perfect for sleeping)! At this time of year, my memories often flood with recollections of all the fall and winter homemade holidays from my childhood – Halloween through St. Patrick’s Day. Mom was quite crafty and usually made almost everything by hand. She greatly influenced me in doing the same for my own children.

In fact, the crafty, homemade format Mom used in her newsletters and cookbooks was influenced, in part, by her favorite crafter, Carol Duvall. In the 1970s, Carol had her own “Craft Letter” (as she called it), to which Mom subscribed; and she, likewise, subscribed to Mom’s newsletter.

Mom and Carol became fast friends in the 1970s. When they first met, Carol had a 5 minute crafting segment on WDIV-TV (in Detroit), called “Here’s Carol Duvall”. Years later, she moved from the Detroit area to Traverse City. Then she was a regular on ABC’s “Home” show in California (1988-1994), on which she got Mom an interview invitation. Afterward, she hosted “The Carol Duvall Show” on HGTV (1994-2005) and then she moved her crafting talents to the DIY network (2005-2009).

Soon after Halloween, in what’ll feel like the blink of an eye, Thanksgiving will be upon us. Equally as quick, that celebration will be followed by the hustle and bustle of all the December holidays and then the new year will be here! 2022 – it’s only 68 days away, which is only about 9 and a half weeks or two and a quarter months from now. Wow! Don’t blink!




Since it’s still National Caramel Month, National Popcorn Poppin’ Month, and almost Halloween, here’s one of my favorite homemade treats from Mom’s copycat recipe collection – homemade Caramel Corn & Peanuts, like Cracker Jack’s; as seen in her self-published cookbook… The Second Helping Of Secret Recipes (National Homemakers Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; July 1978, p. 12).



P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…


October’s month-long drink/food-related celebrations include… Eat Better & Eat Together Month, National Apple Month, National Applejack Month, National Bake and Decorate Month, National Cookie Month, National Dessert Month, National Pasta Month, National Pickled Peppers Month, National Pizza Month, National Pork MonthNational Pretzel Month, National Sausage Month, National Seafood Month, Pear and Pineapple Month, Rhubarb Month, Spinach Lovers Month, and Vegetarian Month!

Other October observances that could be food-related include… Italian-American Heritage Month, National Fire Prevention Month, National Reading Group Month, National Go On A Field Trip Month, National Kitchen & Bath Month, Polish American Heritage Month, National Women’s Small Business Month, National Work and Family Month, and Self-Promotion Month!

Today is also… National Greasy Food Day and National Sourest Day!

Tomorrow is… National Tennessee Day, National Pumpkin Day, and National Mincemeat Day!

Wednesday, October 27th is… National American Beer Day, National Navy Day, and National Black Cat Day!

Thursday, October 28th is… National Chocolate Day and National First Responders Day!

October 29th is… National Cat Day, National Oatmeal Day, and World Stroke Day! Plus, as the last Friday in October, it’s also… National Breadstick Day !

October 30th is… National Publicist Day and National Candy Corn Day! Plus, as the last Saturday in October, it’s also… National Trick or Treat Day!

Sunday, October 31st is also… National Caramel Apple Day and National Magic Day!


…43 down and 9 to go!

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