The Slide Years: Costumes

Week 44: #52 Ancestors – Trick or Treat

By Eilene Lyon

The Slide Years is a series in which I select an image my dad took from 1957-1982 with Kodachrome slide film, then I write a stream-of-consciousness essay – a sort of mini-memoir.

When I was a kid, trick-or-treat meant making a costume at home, not buying one in a store. Okay, for a couple years we had those plastic masks held on by a flimsy strip of rubber band stapled on either side of the face.

Before long, the inside would be dripping with condensate from our heavy breathing as we raced down the sidewalks. Between door knocks, we’d have to slide them on top of our heads to keep from suffocating.

Steve, Eilene and Phil Halse, Halloween
Me and my brothers dressed for Halloween in 1966, hopeful grocery bags in hand for the big haul.

You may note that I’m a (male) pirate in the feature picture from 1971 when I was not quite 10 years old. (Back then, I didn’t know that female pirates were real thing.) I had a fixation on pirates since at least age 5 – the romanticized notion of pirates, anyway. I remember burying a penny out in a field near home and drawing a treasure map to see if I could find it again. (Nope.)

I was a die-hard trick-or-treater until well into high school when we were living in the States. Free candy is free candy! Creating a costume from household scraps challenged me in a positive way.

When I moved to Durango after college, this touristy mountain town took Halloween very seriously. Downtown on the night of October 31 was an adult-oriented party scene. For years, they closed off part of Main Avenue. Eventually, some violent, drunk jerks ruined it for everyone.

Though some people rented elaborate costumes, homemade ones were the norm. They reflected popular movies, TV shows, classic horror films and sci-fi. A few of my costumes over the years: a sheep (I found Bo Peep!), a ski-mummy (as opposed to a ski-bunny), a brain donor, and Tom Hanks’s character in “Castaway”, complete with a Fedex box and Wilson, the bloody-handprinted volleyball.


Though the city eventually quit permitting the debauchery to spill into the streets, and things took a turn for the mellow, opportunities to dress in costume still abound. The most lively and notorious is our 5-day winter carnival, Snowdown. Each year features a different theme and dressing accordingly is encouraged at all events.

The only time I ever got The Putterer to dress up for Halloween, we went minimalist in the creativity department. We each donned coveralls, smeared our faces with grease, and jammed wrenches in our pockets – et víolà – a pair of auto mechanics.

Durango’s history provides ample opportunities to rent Victorian-era costumes. The Putterer and I dressed up for a New Year’s Eve narrow-gauge train ride in 2002.
Worst Halloween costume ever? (Photo credit: J. Anderson 1987)


Feature image: Me and Steve as pirates and little brother as who-knows-what on Halloween 1971.


40 thoughts on “The Slide Years: Costumes

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  1. Such precious pictures. Halloween was so much fun! Out after the street lights came on, without parents, running door to door – under those ridiculous plastic masks and the unicef box!! You brought back such fun memories. I haven’t any pictures from Halloween, the only costume I really remember was the old standby, white sheet ghost! Your adult street party sounds like it would have been a lot of fun, too bad for the spoilers.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I love the pictures!! I used to live in a town in Pennsylvania where Halloween was almost bigger than Christmas (we had three parades!). Planning costumes was a huge thing, and we started several months in advance. Today’s “trunk-or-theaters” don’t know what they’re missing, do they?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I love these.

    And yeah, homemade was the way we rolled as well. I remember being Dracula, Frankenstein, Batman (The Adam West version), a baseball player and Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man.

    Good times.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. LOL, this was pretty hilarious! I used to make most of my costumes, but not all. The first costume I have memory of was storebought–a Hopalong Cassidy cowgirl outfit. In 3rd grade my mother made me a gorgeous baby bonnet that I wore with PJs with feet, but when it came time for the parade for the best costumes to be selected, I had already taken off the bonnet and didn’t have it with me for the parade.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I wish you did, too! I have lots of my daughter’s actual costumes from dance in particular. I wonder if she’ll ever want them. I forgot to tell you that I love that you kept on trickortreating as long as you could. I was told that I had to stop at age 12 because I was “too old.” Wahhhh!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I loved this one Eilene as it brought back so many memories. When I was a kid (Triassic era) we would “make” costumes out of the contents of my grandmothers steamer trunk. Later, a friend and I made “monster” masks. I still have lots of photos that attest to the fact I was inventive, if not the best dressed guy out there on October 31.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My younger daughter used to change her mind about her costume last minute, so I was often challenged to create a costume from scratch with very limited time. It was just the best time for me, producing a dragon from pink construction paper and a sharpie, or an apple tree from a brown dog’s costume (minus the head, which was replaced by greenery and real apples she actually handed out to people in exchange for candy), Homemade costumes are the best!


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