"In your Easter bonnet with all the frills upon it..." my Mom sang this song to us every Easter when we were little children. Every Easter Mom dressed us from head to toe with patent leather shoes and purses, white gloves and an Easter bonnet too.
Mom went all out even though she was on a limited budget. We even had brand new dress coats to wear to church on Easter Sunday. When she took us shopping for our outfits for Easter 1963 we came home with a few extra special surprises.
One surprise was for Irene and I and they were the latest craze...sponge coats. Well, that is what we called them. They were made of foam that was covered with fabric. Irene and I had identical sponge coats, except for the color. My coat was pastel blue, and Irene's coat was navy.
Our bonnets were usually white and had a brim adorned with a white or pastel satin ribbon, and paper or silk flowers. I can remember thinking that I looked so sophisticated with a hat and gloves, however I didn't keep them on for long. The hats usually had an elastic strap that cut into my chubby little chin, so I took it off as soon as the opportunity came. Once inside the Sunday school classroom the hat came off and the gloves went into the purse.
Our mother saw to it that each one of us had everything new for Easter, underwear, socks, hat, gloves, shoes, and dress. Sometimes, they may have been hand me downs, if they were in good shape. Even if it was a hand me down...it looked new. My Nannie Wahlers who was my Dad's Mom was an excellent seamstress, she would sew pretty dresses for us for Easter too. I can remember a dress that she sewed for me that had a bouquet of paper flowers with lace under them attached at the waist on the left side, and I just loved that dress.
The 1960s was a decade of new ideas, fun ideas, and frivolous ideas...like the sponge coats. One of these ideas was to inject dye into little chicken peeps, making their feathers turn all kinds of pretty Easter colors. When you are a child, you don't worry about the health hazards inflicted on these peeps...just the cute little colored chicks that you would love to have running around your house. I can remember shopping at Woolworth's Department Store at the Hillcrest Mall in Phillipsburg, New Jersey with my Mom. Mom loved to buy her hyacinths there as they were less expensive than other stores. Woolworths would display their Easter flowers and colored peeps out front on the sidewalk. I would go to the little cages and talk to them and wish that I would get one for Easter. We had chicken coops when we lived on Williams Street, so the chicks had a place to go when they began to grow into adult chickens. But many of the children that received colored peeps for Easter had no place to keep them when they began to grow. Many of the chicks didn't get the right food and they would get sick and die.
The next step in preparing us for Easter was a trip to Harold's Shoe Store for the patent leather shoes. I had and extra wide foot...most likely because I hated to wear shoes in the summer and went without them most of the time. Everyone would be fitted for their favorite kind of shoe and there I was trying on every shoe Harold had in his store that was extra wide and hated them all. I would soon settle on a pair and that is what I did settle whether I really liked them or not. But, all the fuss was worth it when we found out that Harold was giving away colored peeps to each child who purchased new Easter shoes. So, we each took home a colored peep in our shoe box that had holes punched into the lid as so the violet, aqua, pink, green, or yellow peep could breath. Boy, was I thrilled, proudly carrying my very own colored peep out of that store and I didn't even care what my shoes looked like.
The weekend before Easter we would attend the neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt which was held in a nearby park. It was like a race to find the prize egg. I never did find a prize egg, but when your mommy was little she did and won a two wheeled bicycle with training wheels. But, every kid took home a hollow chocolate egg and that was fine with me.
On Easter morning we would awake to a beautiful basket which was decorated by our Mom with crepe paper(an art she learned from her Aunt Let), filled with; coconut creme, peanut butter, marshmallow, butter creme, and hawk (pastel hard coated marshmallow) eggs, yellow sugar coated marshmallow peeps, jelly beans, milk and white chocolate mini binks (miniature chocolate bunnies, lambs, and chicks), and one tall chocolate bunny.
We would get dressed for church. In Sunday School we would learn about the resurrection of Christ, reinforcing what our Mom had always told us. She told us about when Christ died on the cross on Good Friday for our sins. On Good Friday we were not allowed to watch TV, or listen to the radio and were told to remain quiet and pray from noon to three, which were the hours that Jesus suffered on the cross so we could have everlasting life. Mom always taught us to have a personal relationship with the Lord. We liked to go to Sunday School too, especially on Easter as our Sunday School class gave us a dark chocolate covered creme cross as an Easter gift.
We would visit our Great Aunt Ree and Uncle Bill for Easter Sunday dinner. They were our God parents and they were also like grand parents as they raised my Mom. Every year Aunt Ree painted hard boiled eggs with toothpicks using food coloring. She would make eggs that had a tulip, hyacinth, and daffodil on one side and a cross set in a tuft of grass on the other and she separated the two sides with a frilly design. The side with the flowers usually also had our name written on it too. She would then make an Easter gift for each of us using a one pound coconut cream egg which came in a card board box. When you opened the box, on each end of the egg was a little compartment where a divider was added to keep the egg still in the box. Aunt Ree used this divider to add a few jelly beans, the hard boiled egg, a sugar coated marshmallow peep, and chocolate mini binks to each side of the coconut cream egg.
I have carried bits of these traditions on to make Easter a little extra special for your Mommies...with one big exception "colored peeps" as they had been outlawed not long after we took our cute little peeps home that very special Easter.
With All My Love,