Where was Peter Cottontail? Easter in the 60s
by Cindy Phillips
Peter Cottontail didn't come to our house. He may have been hopping down the bunny trail at the Vancott’s house, but he certainly wasn’t at mine. Well, what kid didn’t, at least once in her lifetime, go to bed the night before Easter hoping to find a bunny rabbit as her gift the next morning?
We all did it. We gazed at those cute little furry creatures in the pet store windows and hoped that maybe this would be the Easter when our parents would finally decide we were old enough to have a bunny.
We were the only kids on our block being raised by a single mom, a true novelty back in those days. I tended to live vicariously through the, seemingly, happy families that surrounded us on our street. The Vancotts were one of those happy families. There was a mom, a dad and four blond-haired, blue-eyed children.
And, the Vancotts had the coolest station wagon, a blue Chevrolet with a rear seat that faced out the back of the car. It always seemed like a hundred of us kids could cram into that wagon at one time. Well, the lack of seat belts probably helped with that achievement.
And, I remember all those times that a bunch of us kids would run to claim that back seat, and Mr. Vancott would give us a thrill by rolling the window down for the ride. He was the kind of dad who would take all the neighborhood kids to the drive-in movies or out for ice cream.
Of course, we soon discovered that when we were heading off to the drive-in movies, that coveted back seat was no longer worth fighting over.
The Vancotts had the most beautiful, manicured yard in the whole neighborhood. Every weekend, Mrs. V. would work on her flowerbeds, toiling away with weeding, pruning and fertilizing; and Mr. V. would cut the grass and trim the tall, immaculate hedges that encased their splendid yard.
Both Mr. and Mrs. V. worked at Pilgrim State Hospital, a local mental institution. Thinking back on it now, working at Pilgrim must have been a grueling job for both of them, and it’s no wonder that they enjoyed being outside during their free time. I’m sure their never-ending yard work was a form of therapy that helped them leave behind all that they saw and dealt with during the week.
And, when Mr. V. was done with the hedges, he would retreat to the backyard to tend to his pigeons. The Vancotts had a huge pigeon coop, built by Mr. V., himself. I don’t know how many pigeons he had, but he would release them all at once and they would fly in a pack, circle the house, and return, dutifully, upon his signal.
The Vancotts also had a yappy little dog named Suzy, as well as, a few cats. And then, there was the year they got the bunny. Mr. V. built a pen for it, as well.
Dying Easter Eggs at Our House
We typically colored eggs the night before. Mom bought the standard Paas dying kit, and after removing the dye tablets and the scrawny, wire egg holder, she would let us punch out the perforated circles on the back of the box to create the drying station. Mom would line the kitchen table with her white Corelle coffee cups, each one filled with its vinegar and boiling water mixture. Then, she would allow us to drop the dye tablet into the cup, if we promised to be very careful. It seemed like an hour, waiting for the tablet to fully dissolve. And, while we were waiting, we would color our designs on the egg with the clear wax crayon that came with the kit.
Each year, I got to get a new Easter dress, having outgrown the prior year’s model, and our annual shopping trip for the right dress was always an adventure. We typically went to Korvette’s or Modell’s, since they offered one-stop shopping. And, along with the dress, there would be a purchase of white patent leather shoes, anklet socks and a hat. And, for some reason, the purchase of new underwear also seemed to get lumped in. I knew enough to take my time picking out something I really liked, because it was going to be my church dress for the rest of the summer.
Mom and I would survey the racks, choosing from among the bright floral patterns that spoke of spring. And, as soon as I found the perfect dress, I'd be ready to pack it up and call it a day. But, Mom always steered me to an alternate style, telling me several reasons why the second dress was a better choice. I didn’t realize, until I was older, that things had different prices, and apparently, my taste in dresses leaned more towards caviar than hamburger.
Our Easter Baskets
Easter morning, we would wake up to find baskets full of chocolates, jellybeans, marshmallow eggs and Peeps, right outside our bedroom door. If it was a good year, there would be a Chunky right smack in the middle.
Each of our baskets would also contain the hard-boiled eggs we dyed the prior evening. But, before we could even bite into our first jellybean, Mom was grabbing those eggs to put them back into the refrigerator, to avoid the risk of salmonella poisoning, lest they “sit out too long.” I never understood why Mom just didn’t leave the colored eggs in the fridge. Obviously, we knew the Easter bunny hadn’t brought them.
After church, but before dinner, we always wanted to go outside to play with our friends. And, of course, I wanted to show off my new dress and shoes. However, each year, my mom would tell me to change into my play clothes. Hah! Ingenious little gem that I was, I always found a way to convince her that I would be oh...so...careful and nothing would get ruined.
Well, it never took more than five minutes before those white patent leather shoes had a big black scuff mark on them. I guess I wasn’t capable of taking care of things after all. It’s probably why I never got that bunny.
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