Thursday, October 27, 2011

Boo! and Poo

It’s a good thing--Halloween hijinks have been toned down so much over the years they hardly exist anymore.  Back in the 40s and 50s failing to provide a proper treat could result in some serious tricks.
In many communities, “Gate Night” produced various levels of damage and civic disruption by older youths, who perpetrated some strange acts apparently just for the hell of it.

Soaping windows was fairly innocuous.  Tossing trash onto Main Street from cars driven by juveniles set the bar a little higher.  Actually tearing gates off fenced areas to fulfill the Gate Night tradition was not uncommon. There were other types of property damage.  Local police gave chase when they spotted miscreants, but they were outnumbered by bands of roving youths and had little chance of apprehending anybody.
The police even could be the target. My father recalled Gate Night escapades back in the early 1900s when he was growing up in Wausau, Wisconsin, long before police had squad cars.  They traveled by bicycle when in hot pursuit.  His favorite story:
A group of boys spread horse manure liberally in an alley between two garages.  They strung a sturdy cord between the buildings about four feet above the mess, and then lured an officer into chasing them into the alley on his bike at full speed.  The result was not pretty for one of Wausau’s finest.
A somewhat similar Halloween story told in my hometown involved the lads who lived in "Jersey City," a community a short distance outside the city limits. The victim was "Shorty" Ruff, a small man whose outhouse was a favorite tip-over target during Gate Night forays by neighborhood youths.
After several years of outhouse restoration projects, Shorty decided enough was enough. Early on Gate Night, he took a seat in his outhouse with shotgun in hand, ready to scare away the most dedicated vandals who might show up.
Legend has it that Shorty fell asleep. The tippers appeared and had their way with the outhouse as usual. Shorty fell into the pit. He was said to be uninjured but considerably more aromatic when he emerged.
Cops, outhouse users, and all the rest of us can be happy these sorts of things won’t happen this year.  Or will they? Only the witches’ brew can tell us for sure.

5 comments:

Alan G said...

Indeed, back in the day “trick or treating” was something you really looked forward too. Have to say that my friends and I did not seem to have a mischievous streak in us when it came to the event. The worse we may have ever done is turn over somebody’s lawn chair.

Actually the worse “trick” that I was involved in on a Halloween night was actually perpetrated on me and a friend of mine. When I was around nine or ten years old and a friend and I approached a home one Halloween night late into our annual goodie quest. A couple of young women answered the door. We spewed forth the required password “trick or treat” and waited for our reward. Now in those days we would usually carry around an old brown grocery bag to collect our goodies. One of the women asked if they could see our bags and see what was in them so they wouldn’t give us something we already had. When we handed them our bags they stepped back, slammed their door and that is the last we saw of our bags, treats or them again!

I remember we were completely stunned about what had just happened. You would have thought we would have really done something quite terrible to their front porch or yard. We banged on their front door to no avail and finally we just left, angry and licking our wounds pondering what we would do next.

It was getting late at the time. We thought about going back home and getting new bags and starting over but we realized we really couldn’t go back to the same houses again so we would have to venture even further from our homes before we could even restart our quest. Realizing we weren’t likely to successfully recoup our losses, we sadly returned home and related our tale of woe to any who would listen.

And to this day, I still remember where that house is and that night just as if it had happened last year. I may still need to go visit a therapist but enough already – that was sixty years ago!

schmidleysscribblins,wordpress.com said...

A nice walk through history. I should have known kids were up to things in my dad's day. He expected us to behave, however. Dianne

Sightings said...

Remember collecting for UNICEF? My most vivid memory is the Halloween night when we were a little older, maybe 12 or 13, and decided go trick or treating a little farther afield from our usual haunts. On a dark footpath in back of a main street we ran into some toughs. They stopped us, then grabbed my friend's UNICEF box, full of dimes and quarters, and ran away, leaving us standing there feeling like chumps. We went home with our candy, but it didn't taste very good that night.

We were pretty innocent. All we did was ... lots of TP.

Big John said...

In the UK we have copied the American 'Trick or Treat', but few people seem to understand how it should be organised which results in unpleasant incidents, such as masked 'man-sized' teenage yobs knocking on doors and demanding cash. My local neighbourhood watch issued posters for residents to put on their street doors warning trick or treaters to stay away.

Rain said...

My father, who has been long dead, remembered putting Model T autos onto barn roofs. Today you'd go to prison for that probably-- assuming you were caught anyway.