A Bad Craft With Unhealthy Fruit


This could be your head!

Oh no, it couldn’t. Because I do not want any part of Vincent Price’s dried-apple crafts. Not even on (especially not on!) Halloween. The ad says that if we all make little dried apple heads – and wear them as necklaces and things (what a thought) – it will be “like having Halloween all year round!” Yes, wearing an old piece of fruit on a string around my neck in August will really make it seem like the end of October. I’ll have to try that sometime, Vincent.

Not right now, though.

This ad is probably from the mid-1970s. I know this because I did some research (i.e. I Googled a little). I found a bit from Ms. Magazine, a delightful understated bit of snark, about this product:

“…dried apple sculpture is a respected folk art, but Vincent Price on the cover of Whiting’s grotesque Shrunken Head Apple Sculpture distorts a good craft, and a healthy fruit.”

I love that prissy phrasing: a good craft and a healthy fruit. As opposed to all those unhealthy fruits you see in the store. And – a good craft? Maybe so, but I can’t quite picture Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan sitting around making little granny dolls from apples, can you? A woman needs a shrunken apple head like a fish needs a bicycle!

Here’s a photo of the actual, horrible kit over at Boing Boing.

Anyway:  Happy Halloween, Samhain and All Hallows’ Eve. And Happy Reformation Day – today was the day in 1517 that Martin Luther tacked up his list of  95 theses (known as the 95 Theses, big surprise) on that church door in Wittenberg, Germany. And happy birthday to John Keats, born in 1795, who wrote sonnets about peaks in Darien, though he had never even been to Connecticut.* Also odes to nightingales. But never about apples, dried or fresh.

Oh, and to all my fellow NaNoWriMo-ers out there, happy last day before we all start staring at those blank screens and freaking out! I’ll be around, here and on Virtual Dime Museum – just not every day. And if the posts are even shorter and more inane than usual (that goes for both blogs and double for The Doubletake if I even get over there) – you’ll know why.

*I do know that he didn’t mean Darien, Connecticut.

Stop A Trick on Halloween

Life, October 26, 1959

This will indeed stop a trick – right in his or her tracks, as it were (you can make up a few jokes right about here*). Is it better, worse or about equal to getting a box of raisins or some pencils in your plastic pumpkin/laundry bag/gigantic Gor-Tex enhanced Mountain Equipment mountaineering pack?

I was not even particularly happy to see these mini boxes of cereal at breakfast. You thought: oh yeah, tiny cereal boxes, there they are. Big whoop. And never once did I cut them open and pour milk in them like you were supposed to be able to do (I think). That would be messy and boring. Two strikes. One to go. I guess this is strike three: seeing them on Halloween. At least they should be in disguise. In costume. Dress those little cereal boxes up in Brach’s chocolate wrappers or something, people!

*I’m a little low on creative energy today as I have just spent the morning writing up a synopsis for my NaNoWriMo novel – you can click on the link on the right if you want to check it out)

Date With A Pumpkin

No Halloween Mask Life Oct 26 1953
Life, October 26, 1953

Well that’s true. Morning mouth is scarier than a Halloween mask. But if you go out with guys wearing a pumpkin on your head, I guarantee that you’ll scare off your date.

A better date with a pumpkin would involve making a delicious dessert out of it, not wearing it.

Here’s one from The Lily Wallace Cookbook (1947) that isn’t the usual pie: 


4 cups light cream
2 beaten eggs
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups mashed or canned pumpkin

Put cream in saucepan. Cover and bring to boiling point. Reduce heat. Add eggs, sugar, and seasonings. Cook, stirring constantly, until a coating forms on spoon. Stir in pumpkin. Heat thoroughly. Chill and freeze. Yield: 1 quart.

Don’t forget to brush your teeth with Chlorodent after you eat your ice cream. And have a great Halloween!

Trick Or Raisin

Trick or Fruit Life Oct 16 1964
Life, October 16, 1964

Fewer tricks when you treat ‘em with Sun Maid Raisins, huh?

These children are probably not all that thrilled, not really. Like Junie B. Jones, they are thinking that they did not say “trick or fruit,”* did they? But they will pretend for the camera. They’ll come back and toilet paper the house later.

Having said that, the clown boy does look like he’s dropping the raisins back into the bowl. Doesn’t he? The tiger, too – he’s about to drop them back in, too. And the girl is only smiling because she decided to hang back and wait until they get to the next house, where there’s probably some candy corn, at least.

There’s a particularly funny bit in the sidebar, you can see it better here, where they are pushing raisins for the grownups, too. Set out some bowls of raisins, folks, because

Perhaps you’re having an adult-type party yourself!

What does that even mean, an “adult-type” party? If this adult-type person is going to have to keep answering the constant ding-donging of trick-or-treaters, I’ll need something more festive than Sun-Maid  to sustain me: a chocolate martini would be ideal, I think. Straight up, hold the raisins, please.

*This is my favorite line from the classic holiday tale Junie B. Jones, First Grader: Boo…And I MEAN IT!

Good Luck and Pirate Jinxes

This Johnson Smith Good Luck Ring (ad from 1922) intrigued me – because what it is, of course, is a skull ring. Skull rings were a form of memento mori jewelry created and worn to remember the deceased and literally to remind oneself of one’s mortality (which is, after all, part of the original meaning of All Hallows’ Eve). There are some spectacularly beautiful Georgian and Victorian skull rings here and here, for example. The 1922 ring looks a little bit happier than some of the other skull rings in old ads, and has curious horn-like eyebrows.

What is interesting about the novelty skull rings from the early 20th century is their detachment from this original meaning – in these ads, all from Popular Mechanics, the ring is supposed to be lucky or to frighten other people or, as in the 1952 ad, have something to do with a “Pirate Jinx.”

The earliest novelty skull ring ad I found was from October 1912 (ad at right), so was possibly a Halloween tie-in. It was made by Acme H. House of Milwaukee and was a “handsome up to date ring”  for “sporting men” guaranteed to “scare the timid.” What sort of sporting men would have worn this, do you think?

The “Skull Ring” on the left was advertised in 1917. The copy states that “women won’t like it, but for men or boys it is a great novelty.” 

In October 1947, Billboard advertised these “Superior” rings (for which read : “Cheap and Inferior”), including a multiple-snake ring and a skull ring. The skull eyes came in assorted colors and even though it was “truly a novel ring” you could buy them for “3.30 a dozen” (which hardly sounds novel, really).

The yellowed ad on the left is from 1952, by which time it is being called both a Skull Ring and a Pirate Jinx Ring. “Sterling silver” and yet only $1.98 – there’s a Pirate Jinx right there.

I had no idea where the Johnson Smith novelties ad was going to take me when I started yesterday’s post – but that is part of the enormous fun of writing about history and popular culture, and being able to pursue what seems interesting. This seems a bit more like a Dime Museum post, but it’s staying here anyway.

Tomorrow starts National Novel Writing Month – which means that once again I’ll be writing a first draft of what I hope will be, after 3 previous NaNos, a decent mystery novel (I have 3 bad first drafts and I don’t need to have a 4th, since I don’t intend to use them as dining room chairs). I will still be posting here, because I’m certainly going to need some laughs – but if I miss the odd day, you’ll know why. And if I don’t answer comments sometimes, you’ll know why, too – apologies in advance.

Strange Novelties From the Jazz Age

Here are three things you will want to have for that Halloween party tomorrow night, from Popular Mechanics, October 1922 – thanks to Johnson Smith, the noted leaders in weird novelties.

1. The Mystic Skeleton – Not really very mystic, it will do the Monster Mash and the Twist while “the operator” mans the remote control from across the room. It is only 14 inches tall, though, so you’d better clear the dance floor first. Otherwise the Mystic Skeleton will get crunched up.

2. Serpent’s Eggs – A dozen fake eggs that you “light with a match” and then a dozen fake snakes hatch and “twist about in a most life-like manner.” They will enjoy dancing with the Mystic Skeleton. You might want to have a few fire extinguishers on hand, too – lighting eggs sounds a little tricky.

3. The Wonderful X-Ray Tube – Well, it’s wonderful all right. You can see what are “apparently the bones in your fingers” through it. The Mystic Skeleton will want to try this out when it’s taking a break from dancing up a storm. He might be able to see some plastic marrow – or something. Or possibly nothing at all. Which might be what you end up seeing, too, since it isn’t really a Roentgen-approved scientific apparatus. But Johnson Smith promises that you will see the lead in a pencil and “the interior opening in a pipe stem” – which believe me, no one wants to see, not even a pipe cleaner.

The fourth novelty was so interesting I started doing a little extra research on it and…I’m going to post about it tomorrow. It is the perfect thing to show you on Halloween. And on that note – I’m going to leave you guessing!

The Weeny Witch Monarchy

This is just what the youngsters always wanted: to eat a witch made out of a hot dog. Therefore, your kids will be “kings and queens of the neighborhood” if you serve this to their friends. Granted, a hot dog is not generally interpreted as a mandate to rule, but perhaps the neighborhood does not know this.

What this really means is that YOU will be the acting Queen of the neighborhood, since your children will be too young to assume their royal duties. OK, now we’re talking! Bring on the weeny witches.

Now, after you have made the children eat weeny witches, and grabbed control of the monarchy, you can enter the “Make the Baby Talk Contest”* (that’s at the bottom of the ad). After all, you are the Queen, right? So the baby must have something to say about this. What will you make the baby say? How about:

- No, Your Highness, I will not throw my strained peas on the floor any more.

- Why certainly, I would love to sit in the playpen. Perhaps you could hand me a few magazines through the bars. If you would be so very kind. Or perhaps one of the courtiers could do this [hint: that would be the cats].

-Those Weeny Witches were an inspired idea, Your Highness! I simply cannot wait to see what delights you have in store for the Christmas season.

[From Life, October 26, 1953.]

* This referred to putting a cutesy caption on a baby photo, actually.

The Cereal Box Masquerade

Even the inanimate objects are dressing up in Halloween costumes here. The little cereal boxes decided to be -  treats.

So picture this:

You’re all dressed up like Grandpa from The Munsters.* Grandpa from The Munsters with a bad case of seasickness. So he’s grumpy and green and he really needs something good to happen. As for you, you want candy. It’s Halloween after all – the festival of free candy! And boy, things need to get better soon. It’s been pencils and apples mostly, so far. Oh, and a few molasses taffy kisses, the kind with the orange and black paper wrappers that are welded right onto the taffy.

Ding-dong, trick or treat!

This can’t be happening. Surely it is a bad dream. Maybe Grandpa never got off that boat and you’re both drifting in a skim milk sea of bad luck and Alphabits that spell L-O-S-E-R.. Because – mini boxes of breakfast cereal? For Halloween? Oh, Mrs. Post, you just didn’t!

Oh yes she did though! And the box even says Treat-Pak. The corporate Post Ghosties think this is a great idea. They even think you won’t play any tricks, you will be so happy!

At the bottom, a tiny picture of the same kid is saying “All Post cereals happen to be just a little bit better.” Just a little bit better than – than what? What else has Mrs. Post got on hand tonight? Goody bags filled with Bran Flakes? Skim milk cartons and spoons? Or something even more sinister?

Guess which house everyone’s going to be covering in toilet paper tonight.

*Good trick that, because this ad predates the TV series by several years. The Munsters ran from 1964 to 1966, and this ad is from 1958.

What was the worst treat you ever got trick-or-treating? Please share! (Mine were mini boxes of Chiclets, and pencils.)

[From Life, October 27, 1958. That gave everyone four days to rush out and buy Treat Paks. Oh, and toilet paper.]

A Three Stooges Jack-O-Lantern

A little Halloween decorating idea from Popular Mechanics in 1935: make a “safe and cheap” jack-o-lantern from a balloon, a flashlight and some wrapping paper. Before you start, though, you have to blow up the balloon and paint on a grumpy Curly Howard face. You could make Moe and Larry lanterns to go with it.

I’m not sure where you would put this, since the flashlight has to be laid flat in order for people to see the balloon face. And someone also needs to be flashing the light on and off. I’m sure someone at your house will gladly volunteer to just hold the Curly balloon-and-flashlight and flick the on-off switch, all evening. And they can say “woo woo!” instead of “boo!” That will be fun.

Bye Bye Halloween Birdie

And a Happy Sexist Halloween to you too, from Popular Mechanics in 1957!

If you are a little boy, you can be a cowboy with a horse and a gun. The horse looks like the top of a boudoir vanity table  with a broom and a horse’s head stuck at either end, but never mind. At least you aren’t a girl.

Because if you are a girl you are going be – a bird stuck in a “gilded” cage! You can wear a scratchy, itchy, ugly bird head, but the rest of you is all party dress and mary janes. What kind of bird is that supposed to be?

And if that wasn’t humiliating enough, you also get to carry your own personal prison cell around with you all night.

Also, you won’t be able to eat your jelly bean “bird seeds.” Not with that big bird head on. But, as the charming gentlemen at Popular Mechanics point out, at least the other guests can enjoy them.

Great. You’re stuck in a cage, wearing a ridiculous hot uncomfortable bird head, and all you can do is watch all the other kids scarf down your candy.

Aren’t you glad you’re a girl?

The big version is here, if you want to see all the annoying text, and how to make that cage out of curtain rings, dowels and a wash basin.