Retroween: A Collection of Characters
Collecting is a very personal hobby. The only rule is that whatever a person collects, it must be meaningful to them. For many people, this is an opportunity to catch up on something they may have missed out on earlier in their lives or just to enjoy something that gives them fond memories all over again. For Natalie Cardinal of Jacksonville, her collection allows her to celebrate her favorite holiday, Halloween, all year long.
When Natalie was a child, she was a Navy brat and her father was stationed in Hawaii. The Navy Exchange store carried Halloween costumes and she remembers seeing all the different styles the day they were put out on the shelves. Unfortunately, Natalie’s family was on a budget and she and her sister had to wait until the day of Halloween, when the costumes were marked down, before they could buy their own. While the girls would have preferred to be a princess or Barbie for Halloween, those costumes were long gone. All they had left to choose from was Casper the ghost and a skeleton but they were still very excited to finally have their own box costumes.
There were no arguments over who got to be what that year, Natalie was Casper and her sister was the skeleton. As they did the trick or treat rounds on the base, she saw her friends wearing all the other cool costumes that were available and wished she had been able to shop earlier. This would be Natalie’s only year with a store bought costume. Her parents were thoughtful enough to take photos of the children dressed for the occasion but the pictures were lost a few years later in a flood.
Natalie credits her father with being very creative and instilling in her a desire to make her own decorations and costumes. As she grew older and earned an allowance, she could afford to buy costumes for Halloween but still preferred to make her own instead. Some of her favorite memories of Halloween as a child are parading through the classrooms of her school and showing off her costume for that year while trying to guess which of her classmates were dressed as what.
As an adult, Natalie turned to eBay to see if she could find the costumes that she and her sister had as children. She not only found those but also other ones she remembered like the Barbie and princess costumes she missed out on originally. From there, she moved on to heroes and characters she admired as a child and, before she realized it, ten years had gone by and she had an entire collection of Halloween costumes.
Natalie’s collection is split evenly down the middle between traditional costumes and famous characters. She has the cream of the Looney Tunes crop including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and the Tasmanian Devil. Walt Disney is represented by their two most recognizable characters, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. The Superman costume she has is a later one featuring a full face mask of the Man of Steel and not the generic red party mask they were using when I was a kid. Her traditional costumes include the replaced Casper the ghost from her childhood, plus a witch, pirate, fairy princess, and my personal favorite, a devil. In fact, the scariest costume in Natalie’s collection is probably the one she has of a clown. The garishly colored face mask makes the poor guy look like he has jaundice and his evil grin is more nightmare inducing than any zombie I have ever seen!
In addition to vintage costumes, Natalie has also amassed an impressive collection of modern Halloween props that she uses to decorate. In previous years, she has turned her entire carport into a haunted house for the neighborhood children to walk through. In her own words, it was “a lot of work”. She has reached a point where the kids she was decorating for are becoming teenagers and loosing interest in Halloween and her son is too young to be fully involved in the holiday just yet. She is focusing on the “nicer” elements of Halloween at the moment and saving the gore and body parts until he is old enough to appreciate them!
This year she is branching out with a public Halloween party that includes music, food, and, of course, a costume contest. This will be a fundraiser for one of her other passions, BizE Moms, a group dedicated to supporting mothers who are small business owners, work from home, or make and sell their own products. Her website, bizemoms.net, helps these mothers network with one another to exchange ideas and business advice. One day, she would like to open her own business center with areas where mothers will have access to computers and other resources in one section while childcare is provided in another. If this party turns out to be a success, Natalie may even become a professional Halloween party planner on the side and hire out her services to other groups needing holiday themed fundraisers.
Natalie still has a few costumes she wants to add to her collection, including the skeleton one her sister wore, before she will consider it complete. She is also trying to tackle one of the problems that plagues almost every collector at one time or another – coming up with a way to properly display her collection. While her other interests have sidetracked her momentarily from her quest, she has every intention of getting back into tracking down costumes as soon as the holiday is over. In the meantime, Natalie is busy working on her own costume for this year, a gauze shrouded mummy that she designed herself. Fortunately, her party is not on October 31 so she will still be able to trick or treat with her son.