Halloweens past in Waco

By: Terri Jo Ryan, Waco Tribune-Herald

Oct. 30, 2006

Halloween in Waco in the late 1940s was a simple affair, according to Sharon (Liston) Griffith, who grew up at 1615 Columbus Ave. in a Craftsman Style house that no longer exists.

For example, when she was a youngster, people didn't go to the store and purchase a costume — they had to be creative with their own materials.

"Only such items as papier- mache pumpkins and tin noisemakers could be found at Woolworth's, Kress or McCrory's dime stores in downtown Waco," she recalled.

Her grandmother, a skilled seamstress, created her witch costume in 1948 from scraps of material found in her quilt box.

"My hat was made from cardboard painted orange and covered with elegant black lace left from a lady's stylish evening gown. My black stockings were nylons, which had been soaked overnight in RIT in our bathtub," she recalled. "There were some cardboard masks to be found in the dime stores, but mine had to be altered. At that time I wore little gold-rimmed glasses, so the eyeholes had to be enlarged in order for me to see where I was going!"

That Halloween evening, Griffith recalled, was particularly memorable: "I was escorted across the street for trick-or-treating. There were no young children in our neighborhood at that time, and the lady across the street was taken by surprise when this tiny witch rang her doorbell."

The neighbor, flustered, exclaimed, "I don't have a single bit of candy in the house!" Griffith remembered.

"I must have looked terribly disappointed, for she then said, 'But don't go away! I will be right back!' And back she came with a brown paper grocery bag filled with 'treats.'"

Across the street in her own living room, eagerly anticipating quite a haul, the tiny witch discovered that her sack held "an apple, an orange, a banana, a can of pork 'n' beans, a can of evaporated milk and Campbell's tomato soup."

About three years later, while her family still lived on Columbus Avenue, she said, Waco's dime stores began to sell "boxed" Halloween costumes.

"My first 'store-bought' costume was a skeleton. The eyes on my mask had not yet been altered to accommodate my glasses (in the photo her family took). Note that the skeleton wore saddle oxfords," she said.

Many Halloween memories have survived the passing of time, but few of the homes of her old neighborhood have, she concluded.

Her home, "as well as the grand and stately Victorians which surrounded it are gone — all torn down in the name of progress and neighborhood beautification," Griffith said.

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