Halloween and Owl Hats


By Joyce Westner


Oct 17– Some folks really get into the spirit of whatever season is upon us, and perhaps none more than Cambridge Street residents Robin and Jon Swan.  Robin spends all year crocheting owl hats for all the preschool and kindergarten kids in town, as many as 300 each year, and the family elaborately decorates their front yard for a month-long celebration of Halloween.


Located across from Bonnell Ford, the area is too dangerous for trick or treaters, says Robin.  “We’re really bummed out about our driveway,” she says, adding that there’s no sidewalk on their side of the street.  So a few years ago, “we made a ten-foot skeleton,” and that simple beginning has morphed into five “skelleys,” three pumpkin infernos, two witches and various swamp creatures.  “We can’t wait to see what Home Depot comes out with each fall.”


And everyone is welcome to pull into their driveway to get a better look and to help themselves to a Halloween treat.  “We’ve been buying candy and toys for months now,” she says. 


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It all started as the result of a heartbreak.  “My mom [who loved Halloween] lived with us, and we lost her in October of 2020.  We wanted to find a way to honor her memory and it was a really rough time.  How can you help your kids when you’re feeling sad and down?  What you can do is make other people happy.” 


Another tradition born out of difficult times was Robin’s owl hats.  When the pandemic started she began to crochet the hats, and she’s been doing it every year since.  This year she made 309 hats from yarn she buys or from yarn people donate.  “This year I tried to do more than one a day so I’d have them ready for the cold season.  I take it everywhere, including to soccer games, and I do it while watching TV.” 


Robin grew up on farms in several states including Montana and, “We had big Halloween shindigs.”  Jon grew up in Montana on a Chippewa Cree Reservation, and the two met in Missoula where Jon went to college.  Work brought them to Massachusetts (Jon is managing director of BCG Consulting Group in Boston), and they’ve raised their four kids, ages 10 to 17, in Winchester. 


The Boston Globe and various Boston TV stations have run stories about their Halloween decorations, and Winchester Facebook members get to see pictures of Robin’s hats.  Perhaps when colder weather arrives, residents will see those hats all over town, a tribute to the generosity and creativity of this family. 

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