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My Blog

Pumpkin Display at Amlings Floral

Good morning to all.  The sun has slowly risen over the roof tops and it appears it will be a lovely day.  I just love the pink color that appears in the morning.  It is so soft and lovely.  Makes it feel all soft and new. Watching a sunrise is so inspiring. 
Well, on to todays story.
I grew up living in the Chicago land area with my mom and grandparents.  Luckily, my mother knew how to drive a car and had one.  Now a days this would not seem to be such a big deal, but back in the 50's and 60's it really was. 
Well, when it got to be fall time...a trip to Amling's Florist was  always on the agenda.  Now, if you had never been there as a child or are not from this area...you might be wondering why a child would enjoy a trip to a florist, right?
Well, This particular Amling's was in Melrose Park, a suburb of Chicago straight down North Ave.  It was more like a nursery than a florist. Outside there was a pond with all these ducks and swans swimming around.  We used to take popcorn and feed them. 
But that wasn't the biggest attraction.  The big attraction was in the Florist dept. behind the glass doors where all the flowers were kept.  There, they had on display, all these decorated pumpkins.  They were spectacular! There must have been 20 or so different pumpkins on display.  I remember having my nose jut about pressed into the windows to look at every detail.  These were nothing like anyone had seen before.  They were spray painted different colors, they had used not only the pumpkins, but also different sized and varieties of gourds and created all these different types of faces.  From monsters to witches to scarecrows.  They added some straw or raffia's here and there, but the were an unbelievable sight to see.  We carefully studied them and tried to decide which one was our favorite.  It was almost like  going downtown to see the Marshall Fields Christmas windows, only with pumpkins. 
Once we decided upon our favorite design, we would go out back into the nursery area were there were mounds of pumpkins stacked up and walk around pulling pumpkins here and there.  It had to be just the right shape for us to make our face at home.  We pulled and placed them in a row.  They also had to be able to stand correctly.  Once we found the right pumpkin, then it was onto the carts that were filled with all different types and shapes of gourds.  This was the next difficult task.  The two gourds that looks like a comma stroke had to be the same size because we were going to use them for ears.  Now, not only did they need to be the same size, they also need to be size appropriate for the pumpkin we choose.  The ears were always a smooth gourd, but then we needed one that was a similar shape for the nose, but wanted one that had lots of bumps..the bumps could be the ugly nose with lots of warts.  We lamented over the color the pumpkin would be and purchased the other necessary items needed to complete our design. 
It was a couple hour visit, that was always enjoyed and looked forward to.  We always went back a few weeks later, because they erected an unbelievable haunted house on the property as well.  It was one scary trip into a make believe world.  
Once we arrived home from our Amlings outing.  We would set up the table with all the goodies and begin our creation.  We wanted to make sure we worked on it right away, while the ideas were still fresh in our minds.  When all the painting and assembly work was done, our new creation would have it's place of honor out on the front porch on a this tall telephone stand that Grandma had covered with a black cloth.  It sat right next to the front door.  I had never given it's placement much thought, but perhaps now, I think maybe it was  so no one took off with it.  It was truly a work of art!  Back then, as a child, I was quite gullible.  My mother and grandmother had me convinced that if I was good, then on the eve of Halloween, the good witch would bring me treats and goodies.  Sure enough, every year I ran out to the pumpkin head to see what she had brought me.  It was like having Christmas early.  I can't say I know of anyone else who spoke of gifts on Hallow's Eve, but enjoy looking back now on the memory with fondness.  The whole neighborhood used to love to come and look at our design.  We never did the carved out pumpkins like everyone else.  I guess that was part of it's charm.  
Looking back now, perhaps that is where some of my artistic talent began.  I, to this day love the challenge of art and decorating. 
As I grew older and had children, we used to visit Amlings as well.  They stopped making the pumpkins some time in the early 70's.  But I remember the thrill of still taking the girls there to get their pumpkins, walk around and told them of the pumpkin designs that used to be displayed.  I remember when the girls entered a pumpkin decorating contest, we made one that looked like a cactus.  We put all these toothpicks all around the pumpkin and painted it green and then placed it in a large flowerpot.  They won first place.  I guess all those years at Amlings paid off.  An experience that turned into teaching an art.  What a great time we used to have.  It is one of those memories and places you really wish you could go back and revisit.   

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