How to endure the spooky season, and we don’t mean Halloween


Dorothy Wilhelm

Dorothy Wilhelm

We had never been Trick or Treating before. But after five long years the sugar rationing was over and we were ready to try something new. It turned out that we weren’t very good at it.

It was 1947, the year the sugar rationing ended, and the goodies might be available again. Each family member had a ration book full of stamps (which had to be returned if the member died). The stamps were to be torn in the presence of the grocer. Tiny red and blue tokens were the change if your purchase didn’t quite match the stamps.

Almost everything was rationed, from cars, tires, gasoline, fuel oil, coal, firewood, nylon, silk and shoes. You couldn’t even get a minimum share of basic necessities without the stamps. This included meat, dairy, canned milk, coffee, dried fruits, jams, jellies, lard, shortening, and oils.

My mom befriended the butcher at Safeway, so we were okay with the meat.

Rationing did not officially end until 1954.

We had no butter, of course. On the radio, The Mystery Chef gave recipes for dishes like Mystery Margarine. We followed the recipe with optimism but it was pretty bad.

So naturally, we desperately wanted things to get back to normal. Why not try Trick or Treat?

The costumes assembled quickly from sheets, old daddy’s clothes, or whatever was practical. The boys were generally happy to throw a sheet over themselves or paint a tramp’s beard with the soot from the woodstove. The girls were more elaborate, of course.

The problem was, the masks were melting. After about 20 minutes, if you were determined to keep breathing, your whole face would drift toward the most prominent feature. In my case, the nose.

Our masks were made of stiffened gauze molded into horrific shapes, and we carried tiny papier-mâché pumpkins to collect treats. There were sometimes lighted lanterns in the windows of the neighborhood, but no one was decorated.

The treats were mostly homemade cookies, apples quite often, and popcorn scoops were a rare treat. We never thought of downsides like razor blades in the treats, as long as there was sugar.

My mom loved Halloween. I don’t know what was wrong with her. I remember coming home from a run after dark and stumbling across a tall, silent figure with a dark red face. He didn’t speak and it was on roller skates! The scariest Halloween appearance I have ever seen to date. Yeah. It was my mom.

The wonderful thing, when the blackouts ended, were the huge torchlight Halloween parades. They started out as municipal end-of-war celebrations with lots of lights and patriotic paintings. I still remember a Red Cross tank depicting a Red Cross nurse in uniform tending to a wounded soldier driving silently down dark Riverside Avenue in Spokane.

We’ve made our way into the New Normal, although we don’t call it that. Over the years, the little pumpkins have morphed into bigger pumpkins, then into shopping bags and pillowcases to pick up the bigger and better treats each year.

We seem to have come to the end of an era again. There was no Trick or Treaters last year and we don’t know what to expect for this year. It seems that what has been rationed now is common sense.

It’s hard to listen to the news. COVID. Rising crime rate. Rise of violence. Can’t nobody play well together? Bad news, with worse news. I don’t have to wait for Halloween. I am already scared to death. Anything that is normal would be new.

I told my firstborn, the healthcare professional, that I was worried and scared. “Of course,” she said in her straightforward voice, you missed the point again. “It’s because you haven’t activated your village.”

My village? I have a village?

“Sure, you need your people around you. There are always people who care, ”she said firmly. “In fact, TALK to them. You need to let them know you need it.

Then I read in the very diary you keep that the kind of informal relationships where you strike up a conversation in a cafe or on a walk is essential for older people. Do something with someone who has common interests. Play pickleball, for god’s sake. For example, the meditation garden at St. John Bosco Church in Lakewood is in need of volunteers (see last month’s column). Let’s do something together.

“You have to ask,” said First Offspring sternly. “Start with your kids and build from there.”

Can I practice with you?

“Hello. You seem like a smart and caring person. Turn off the phones, have a cup of coffee and build a village.

Where to find Dorothy in October

  • October 3 and 9: Reading with the Silver Sage Radio Players of Better Than I Deserve, at the Fred Oldfield Western Art Show, Western Heritage Center, Puyallup.
  • 9 a.m., October 4 and 18: Zoom Coffee Chat and change the world. An hour of quick community building featuring resources, special guests, and new ideas.
  • 2 p.m. on October 7: Doctors from the book Zoom. Subject: print and launch your book. Special guests Robbie Samuels, Larry Fowler and Susanne Bacon.

Request information and Zoom links for events at [email protected]

Listen to Dorothy’s Podcast, Anytime, Anywhere Podcasts are available or

Contact Dorothy at PO Box 881, DuPont, WA 98327, phone 800-548-9264 or [email protected]

This story was originally published October 3, 2021 5:00 a.m.

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