February 26, 2013

Parachute Jumping, Costume Making, and Halloween

Bill Matteson
Uptown Chicago History Correspondent

Now, as a kid I wasn't stupid, but I sure did my share of dumb things. Right after the war, surplus stores opened up, and I couldn't wait to buy a parachute.

Now just about every kid my age needed a parachute, but most of them wouldn't admit it. So I bought one from the surplus store on Broadway just North of Montrose for fifty cents; it was bright yellow and came in a canvas backpack. It was originally designed to drop supplies to the troops.

I couldn't wait to get home and open it up; it was a little bigger than I thought, so I repacked it, put in on my back, and climbed up on the garage roof, which was only a maximum of 15 feet off the ground. But as a kid it looked high enough, so I spread out the chute on the roof and jumped off.

I landed hard on the ground, and the chute was still on the roof top. I didn't allow for the 20 feet of shroud line, I had my tongue in between my teeth, and when I smacked the ground my chin hit my knee and I almost bit it off. It bled a lot and I had to keep the injury hidden from my parents. I mumbled for a few days.

So I packed the chute away until the following Halloween.

One of my favorite Saturday afternoon movie serials was "The Scarlet Horseman," so I decided to cut up the parachute and make my costume out of this bright yellow material. I made a hood, mask, shirt, and pants. I am not a particularly gifted tailor, but for my purpose, it was good enough.

In those days, if you needed a costume, you made it. On Halloween, Stewart School always took pictures of the class. I wore it to school, the teacher asked who I was, so I told her and the class I was the Scarlet Horseman. She started laughing, they all started laughing. All Serials were black and white, and I had no idea that Scarlet was a color.

When I got home, Mom and Dad asked me how my day went, so I told them. They laughed, too, so did my little sister.

I guess I was the Scarlet-Faced Horseman

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