Ah yes….there was a Halloween decades ago when I was still a growing "tadpole". I think our Halloween adventures were even more daring and creative than the ones right now….there is so much to worry about now…creepy people lurking for little kids, tainted treats or razor blades in apples….kids have to be warned of the many dangers Halloween Now can pose but when I was a Trick or Treater—–we were pretty much free of the present day worries and fears..it was a much different era..free of the anxieties that kids and parents have to deal with now.
The Tricks were a lot bolder and funnier then too. I do not remember wanton damage inflicted on homes or businesses then—-getting your windows "soaped" was about as wicked as it got. Not too many years ago in this community, a whole row of windows were broken at the school by Halloween vandals—teenagers who combined a night of so called fun with too much alcohol. Alcohol was not a key factor in my Halloweens. Kids my age knew how to have a lot of fun and how to get very creative in causing "tricks" or mischief…but there was little or no alcohol involved..just kids full of the dickens who knew where and how… to play "Tricks".
The small town creamery kept stacks of the metal milk and cream cans OUTSIDE of the building just behind it…what a target—those cream cans were the first to go after it got dark. Some gang of kids always knocked all the cans down and the sound of "rolling thunder" at the south end of Main Street was always the first sign of the night’s Tricks kicking off…literally. There were still old fashioned outhouses to be tipped also….pretty much gone from the town scene but the Master Toilet Tippers knew where the outhouses were located in the country near town. I never heard if anyone was in an outhouse when it got tipped over but there were some "rural legends" abounding of such an occurence—-made up stories mostly. (I take back what I said about harmless tricks—tipping toilets and kicking the cream cans WAS a form of vandalism and someone else had to fix things in the morning…but in that era, Halloween Hijinks were tolerated, even expected.)
The greatest Halloween Trick or "feat" I ever witnessed was the appearance on the morning of November 1 of an old threshing machine that had been hauled to the school grounds by an obviously huge gang of "Hallow-"Weiners". Somehow in the dead of the night, when the one local cop had probably fallen asleep in his car…the Gang of 50 or more got an old threshing machine moved from the local junkyard on the east edge of town to the schoolyard about 5 blocks further west. How they got it there without anyone seeing it or waking up is a testament to the sound sleep habits of grown ups in those days. It was an amazing sight for the kids arriving at school that morning after Halloween. Nobody ever revealed the identity of the Movers and Shakers and I never heard for certain who did it. I was much too timid in those days to stay out that late and be a part of such an amazing Trick…I just basked in the aftermath on November 1 like the other kids did.
Another Halloween, about the same era, the one lone cop in town, known as "Fearless Fosdick" to us kids, actually did fall asleep at an intersection in town…obviously worn out completely from the impossible task of keeping track of small town kids who knew how to outsmart grownups on Halloween. A gang of late night celebrators succeeded in quietly and softly pushing him and his car into the middle of the intersection before he woke up, in a confused and bleary-eyed state of exhaustion. "Here comes "Fearless!" was a cry heard many times on Halloween or on other nights when mischief was abroad. Teens scattering in alleys and dark nooks and crannies was common and all the Miscreants knew all the escape routes… the whereabouts of which "Fearless" knew nothing of!
Much later, after "Fearless" was retired and gone, there was another local deputy whom the kids of that era nicknamed "Bookem" probably after the Hawaii 5-0 show that always featured the boss saying "Book ‘em, Danno" when a criminal was cornered. I was much too adult to learn about the antics of that generation of kids who tortured "Bookem" just as my generation had tortured "Fearless". But I picked up occasional rumors… overhearing my teenage sons talking and trying to keep things secretive from me.
My mother and father, as young marrieds in the mid-1930′s, had the best story of all about Halloween High-Jinks. There was a business where young people gathered in those days—-the era of the 1930′s. It was called "Mac’s Sweet Shop" and it was the kid hangout for more than two decades in our small town. "Mac" was the nickname for Ern M. who was the owner and operator of the ice cream and soda shop of the day. Kids tormented Ern who was a naturally crabby man who had no children of his own, even though he coveted the business of the kids of the town. He would have gone bust if it weren’t for their business but he had a hard time being the friendly "Arnold" type of "Happy Days". He was a Curmugeon who could simply not help himself when it came to kids and their high spirits. After being treated fairly badly by Ern on a daily basis, the kids planned a magnificent Halloween prank for that October 31. Word got around about the night’s plans and a lot of young and older adults gathered on Main Street for the Kids’ Grand Finale to the Night of Nights—-October 31. Just about closing time at the Sweet Shop , a massive mob of teenagers and younger kids came marching down the street, bearing an outhouse. My Dad estimated the crowd at over 100 kids. They carried the outhouse right up to the front door of Ern’s Sweet Shop and placed it so that Ern could not get out his front door. Apparently it was the only exit as Ern pleaded and scolded through the windows for the kids to let him out. Nobody budged….not the kids, not the adults , not even the lone local cop….Ray W… who was enjoying Ern’s come-uppance as much as the kids and the others. This continued….the stand-off of the outhouse against Ern’s front door, the mob of kids, the adult onlookers and the one local cop of the time. Sometime about Midnight or thereafter, the gang of kids picked up the outhouse and carried it back up Main Street, probably to return it to its owner. Ern came out, sputtering like a wet firecracker,according to my parents, and went grumbling home to sleep a few hours before he would open his Sweet Shop for the breakfast crowd on November 1. The battle between the crabby Ern and the teenagers of the town continued until Ern retired and sold the Sweet Shop to another owner.
Mac’s Sweet Shop later became the "Ben-Lee Cafe" which was our hang out in my era. That building is now the City Hall of the town. Quite a sedate end to the lively soda shop and cafe of decades ago. I still think of an outhouse propped in front of the same front door that is still there when I go by the building…..what fun it would have been to have seen the vengeful plan carried out that long- ago Halloween night in the 1930′s. But at that time I was only a twinkle in my Daddy’s eye!!