TRICK OR. . . . Trick

Trick or . . . . trick

Halloween in the late 20th, Early 21st Century is a "holiday" that has completely metamorphosed from the form it had at mid-20th Century. If a teen-aged boy of those days were somehow magically time-traveled to Halloween night 2014 and saw little kids going from door to door dressed in some outlandish costume, ringing doorbells and screaming "TRICK OR TREAT!" when someone answered, he would be completely baffled. "Trick OR Treat?" Back in his proper time there was no "OR" about it. Halloween was a time when "mysterious creatures" roamed the dark streets and alleys of my small hometown in Southeastern Kansas with nothing BUT "tricks" on their minds.

This was a time when laundry soap was sold in large bars and the grocers who sold that soap did a land office business in the days preceding Halloween. In a supreme twist of irony a lot of that soap ended up as smears across the plate glass windows of theirs and their fellow merchants along "Main Street." It was a minor vandalism that created no large problem. A bucket of water, a sponge and a squeegee readily got rid of the scrawling graffiti. It did until some dastardly devious kid discovered that paraffin could also be bought in bars. A storefront window that had been liberally besmirched with paraffin was a time-consuming problem requiring the use of solvents and razor blade scrapers. Only the most mischievous of the "spirits" who roamed the town on Halloween night resorted to paraffin. Most of us settled for soap.

In the residential parts of town miscreants slipped as silently as possible through the dark doing an entirely different kind of mischief. The homeowner who left flower pots adorning their front porches or front yard often found them in the yard or on the front porch of a house some distance away. Porch swings also were fair game. In fact, almost anything that could be picked up and taken somewhere else suffered that fate.  The days following Halloween were like a scavenger hunt for homeowners as they hunted down their missing property.

There were a few homes on the outskirts of our little town that didn’t have indoor toilets. Those little huts with a half moon cut into the door that took the place of that facility were fair targets for mischief. Although not common, it wasn’t unusual to see a few of those structures tipped over when the sun rose the morning after "All Hallows" night. It was rumored that certain homeowners who had the little house out back actually stayed awake and stood guard over their property with a shotgun loaded with rock salt rather than lead shot. Those houses were seldom bothered. There were a few occasions when the unruly "ghosts" encountered homeowners who felt differently about the mischief being wrought upon their property. Almost any boy who was involved in the Halloween mischief had at least one adventure of being chased off the property by an irate homeowner.

As the late 1940’s faded into the `50’s things began to change. Although no one knows exactly where and when the phrase "trick or treat" was coined, the custom had been firmly established in American popular culture by 1951, when trick-or-treating was depicted in the Peanuts comic strip. In 1952, Disney produced a cartoon called "Trick or Treat" featuring Donald Duck and his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie.

And it seems now, due to the dangers inherent in going to strange houses and prowling the streets in the dark, another metamorphosis is taking place. The "trick" has been replaced by "trunk" in many places, especially when churches organize a Halloween festivity for their young ones. Now instead of going door to door they are kept safely in a parking lot where they go from car to car begging treats.

The young boy from the 1940’s has become a historical footnote. Homeowners no longer fear the night. Storekeepers find their plate glass windows pristine the morning after. Has something worthwhile been lost? That is another "half full, half empty" question you may answer for yourself.

Grant and Virginia Moore
From Cabo Verde To Coraopolis


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