October 30, 2011

Remembering painted Halloween storefront windows

Day 303 of Vintage 365


In countless ways the world is always moving forward. As part of this process, which has been the pattern of life since the dawn of time, certain things that were once commonplace start to fade away, further and further into our memories - or at least appearing less commonly in the course of our lives. Some vanish entirely, and others simply become harder to track down.

A few days ago while pursing Flickr for some more vintage Halloween inspiration, I chanced upon a photograph from the 1950s that instantly made me stop and reflect upon the fact that it has been years (well over a decade) since the last time I saw a storefront window painted up for Halloween.

Now granted I live in a big city (Toronto) these days, but nevertheless, I've gone past my fair share of storefronts during October each year, and while some put out fun, festive displays (e.g., mannequins with scary masks, clothing in shades of only orange and black), rack my brain as I may, I simply cannot remember seeing a window that had been painted for Halloween since I was about fifteen or sixteen (growing up in a moderate sized town in British Columbia).

In the image below we see three youngsters who have paused to admire a pair of painted windows. One of the girls points to the smiling moon face that looks down upon a delightfully spooky scene of black cats, leaf-less trees, eerie ghosts, and frightful black bats, and her friends’ gaze follows her outstretched arm.

{Wonderful vintage photo of a painted Halloween storefront window via fluffy chetworth on Flickr.}


I smiled ear-to-ear when I saw this photograph. I transported me back in time to my childhood in the 80s and 90s, when local businesses on main street routinely painted their windows for All Hallows Eve (not to mention Christmas and Easter, too).

Sometimes a professional window painter (I'd venture to guess not too many of those still exist any more) would be brought in to do the job; alternatively some shop owners who an interest in art would adorn their storefronts themselves. Other times still stores would let local school kids have a crack at painting murals on their windows.

If I had to take a guess at who painted the Halloween scene in this lovely vintage photo, I'd veer towards either kids or the shop's owner. There's something extra endearing about the fact that the artwork here doesn't look like it was lifted straight from a Madison Avenue art agency. It has a playful, relatable quality that makes it so sweet, fun, and easy to imagine oneself having created.

While I'm sure some businesses (particularly small town and mom and pop ones) are still holding onto the tradition of painting their windows for Halloween (and other holidays), I get the feeling that this classic art is one of those elements of society that will (sadly) continue to become harder and harder to find as time rolls onward.

Luckily however, we have images like this one from the 1950s to invoke nostalgia in those of us who grew up with painted Halloween storefront windows, and show others who didn't one of the most charming public ways of celebrating Halloween that has ever existed.


  1. Wonderful photo! And yes, the only painted window I recall seeing recently is at a local Tim Horton's. Monsters and tombstones, likely done by the staff.

  2. Wonderful photo. We have a painter that comes around at Christmas time and does the store fronts if they want to pay for it. It looks vintage, too! Love it!!!