A mixture of renaissance and royalty — that might be the best way to describe Swampscott’s Edythe Comins Baker.
From being a political activist to volunteering on countless charitable and philanthropic endeavors to being a devoted mother of two and grandmother of one, “Edye” has done it all, spending her life looking out for others.
While many, no doubt, recognize Baker as the television face of the Channel 2 auction, in Swampscott circles, she is better known for her royal lineage.
She is the queen — the queen of Halloween.
Since 1975, Baker and her husband, Bob, have opened their elaborately-decorated home on Stanley Road to thousands of trick-or-treaters, inviting them in for doughnuts and Brooksby Farm cider. From the get-go, Baker put a personal spin on the open house, capturing the memories for future generations with her camera.
But this isn’t just an assortment of photographs tucked away in some old shoe box or drawer. Instead, Baker has meticulously catalogued each and every photo by year and by family name, which serves as the centerpiece of the Halloween festivities.
After that first year, it didn’t take long for the open house to explode in popularity.
“It was incredible. People came back the next year and all the years after that to see the prior year’s pictures,” Baker said. “At first we hung the posters in the hallway, but after a few years, we outgrew the space, so now they are everywhere.
“Every year, we see dozens of second-generation kids who are now adults. They come back to show their kids their photos of when they were kids and we have so many older kids who have outgrown trick-or-treating, but they still come to see their photos.”
Baker said families now come from everywhere, which includes a good many from Lynn.
“It’s become a Halloween destination, one of those things that at the time, we didn’t really realize what we were doing in terms of the impact it would ultimately have on so many thousands and thousands of people,” said Baker.
One story tells it all. Baker recalls a young girl whose family was planning to be out of town on Halloween. The little girl was distraught. She wasn’t doing well at school and her parents were struggling to find out why.
“Her father told me that she was upset that she was going to miss coming to our house,” Baker said. “That’s how important it was. It’s stories like that (that) tell me how people feel about our tradition. So last year with COVID, obviously we couldn’t have it, but people kept telling me, ‘Edye, you can’t stop this tradition.'”
In past years, it took Bob and Edye about a week to decorate nearly every nook and cranny of the house. The entire house was decked out in orange (Edye’s favorite color) with the front foyer creatively decorated right up to the ceiling with crepe paper — orange, of course.
This year, the Bakers strictly observed the town’s suggested safety protocols. Instead of Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkins, they gave out full-size candy bars with “blinky” rings for those who could not have candy. The front porch was decorated with lights and Halloween decorations. Photo posters from the last eight years (2012-19) were on display with special Halloween lighting. Edye estimates an average of 300 people visit the home every year.
While Halloween is usually associated with spooky creatures, goblins, witches and monsters, the Bakers like to keep it kid-friendly.
“We have some things like a haunted house and train, but we prefer to be the ‘pumpkin and kitty’ house, nothing that would scare kids away,” Edye said. “It’s a happy Halloween house.”
Baker said Stanley Road has always been a family neighborhood. She estimates that the street has turned over three times since she and Bob moved here in 1972 shortly after the Syracuse University grads were married. That union is still going strong after 57 years.
“Chalk it all up to we’re extremely compatible,” said Baker. “Bob retired just before COVID, so we have spent a lot of time together and just love being here in this neighborhood. When families move out, young families take their place, so there are always lots of children, which makes for a very close neighborhood.”
Baker is quick to credit Bob’s selfless contributions to the community, saying their activism and outreach to those in need has been a lifelong passion.
“He’s very important in all of this,” said Baker, who together with Bob actively protested against the Vietnam War while they were students at Syracuse. “He served as chair of the Finance Committee during the Proposition 2 ½ years, was a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals and Town Meeting and worked on the YES campaign to build the new school.”
Edye also played an extremely important role in the community, serving on the board of The Tower School when her son, Roger, and daughter, Annette, were students. She spent close to 20 years on the Swampscott Democratic Town Committee (SDTC), starting a speaker series that featured prominent local, regional, and nationally-elected officials. She and Bob served as delegates at the annual state convention. She was also active in the League of Women Voters.
Baker said her sense of activism and giving back to the community began with her parents, Connie Weinstein and Adrian Comins. She and Bob are extremely proud that their granddaughter, Charley Baker, is continuing the family tradition.
“She’s a student at the New School in New York City and is out on the front lines seeking equity and social justice,” Edye said.
Baker is still active with the WGBH auction, serving on the Board of Advisors. She first volunteered in 1971 as a “table loader” and gradually moved up the ranks to auction manager, a massive position coordinating more than 5,000 volunteers and more than 100 hours of live television with just three paid employees. Under her two decades of leadership, the auction raised more than $21 million, most of it designated for children’s programming, she said.
“I guess you could say I was involved in every phase of the auction,” Baker said. “I loved it as there was always a great sense of pride in the community. I developed connections to people I never would have been exposed to in such a thoughtful and human way.”
As far as Halloween goes, the sign on the Bakers’ front lawn says it all — “Back again in 2021.”
“After not being able to celebrate last year, we couldn’t be more happy knowing that we are keeping the tradition going,” Edye said. “Last year, the kids were able to have a parade, but I know they really missed this. I know we did. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. We have grandparents who come; we have dogs, so we added dog biscuits. That all makes it so special for everyone. We can’t imagine ever not doing such a wonderful tradition.”
With Halloween in the rearview mirror, what’s next for Edye?
“Planning our 60th high-school reunion,” said the 1962 Swampscott High graduate. “I’ve been doing it for what will be 60 years and it’s a lot of work. I always say my middle name is ‘organization’ so I think between that and the fact that the fun is always in the planning, we should be OK.”