Meet Your Neighbors: Shirley Wills

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Vintage Halloween in ’09

by Meredith Kay

Photography By Al Rendon

We all have that one neighbor that goes all out for the holidays. There is always that one house at Christmas with so many decorations that Clark Griswold would be proud, and we’ve all seen the patriotic neighbor that proudly displays so many American flags that they can probably be seen waving from space.

October in San Antonio is a wonderful time of year. The weather finally starts to cool down, and although the big department stores are already putting out the holiday decorations, some of us turn our attention toward the spookier things in life in anticipation of Halloween. Shirley Wills, a longtime Alamo Heights resident, gets very excited this time of year as she pulls out her beloved Halloween collection of vintage novelties and antique decorations.

Shirley was born and raised in San Antonio. She grew up in the Los Angeles Heights neighborhood and graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School, where she proudly served as a Jefferson Lasso, the unique performance roping team that is still going strong today. She also received her bachelor’s degree in Communications from Trinity University, and she currently runs a dynamic public relations agency aptly named Shirley Wills & Associates. Shirley has lived in the Terrell Hills area for over 30 years now, and she shares her adorable cottage with two lovable rescue dogs named Red and Blue, but it is during this season of black and orange that she transforms her home into a veritable Halloween museum.

She began collecting interesting vintage Halloween and Christmas decorations many years ago and has become quite the expert and aficionado on antique Halloween costumes and novelties. Some of her favorite pieces include crepe paper decorations and antique costumes, but she is most proud of her collection of Bogie Books. These printed advertising pamphlets provided an array of party activities, costume ideas, and decorating advice for the Halloween season utilizing Dennison’s Paper Goods between 1912 and 1935.

Every space in Shirley’s home at this time of year is dedicated to the ghoulish holiday. You’ll see framed antique posters and flags, orange and black tablescapes featuring antique Halloween figurines, and an assortment of knick-knacks, costumes, and spooky decorations. Shirley still actively collects vintage Halloween items and sources her items online on eBay and through antique shows. 

She says, “When you are looking for specific holiday items, it takes you to another level as a collector. I love to collect items from the golden age of Halloween, which was between 1900 to 1920. I always tell people that you should buy what you like and whatever brings you joy.”

Shirley also loves vintage wicker furniture from the turn of the century and has several unique and intricately woven pieces. She is happy to show people her collections and absolutely loves her neighborhood and the neighbors that she has grown to know over the years. She states, “I have always felt safe in my neighborhood, and I love that the police station is just down the street. We look after one another around here, and that’s rare today.”

You won’t find large cartoon character inflatables in the front yard at the home of Shirley Wills, but once you step inside, you’ll be transported back in time to another century where Halloween wasn’t mass produced, and novelties and decorations depicting the theme of the season were hand-painted, handcrafted, and lovingly collected.

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Half Texan on her mama’s side, Meredith grew up in Southern California and graduated from Pepperdine University, with a degree in Advertising. This allowed her to use words creatively, and to find her voice as a writer. She is a food enthusiast, and will eat anything but broccoli. Meredith has an incurable case of wanderlust, and she loves to cook, travel and eat. She spends her days raising two kids, and rescuing as many dogs as possible. She wanders the streets of San Antonio, and the rest of the world when she can, searching for great restaurants, tasty cocktails and interesting people. She is also still waiting for Shiner Bock to make her their official spokesperson.

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