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Monday, 31 October 2011

Boo! and Poo

By Richard J. Klade of Gabby Geezer

It’s a good thing, but 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.

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, and "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 sadder, wiser and considerably more aromatic when he emerged.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Poor Smelly ,er um, Shorty didn't stand a chance from those tippers,did he?

I never heard of "Gate Night". Our best time was the night before Halloween called "Mischief Night" when we would soap car windows and throw toilet paper around the trees.

Now that I am old I have to wonder if I would fall for the tricks we used to pull on the oldsters in our neighborhood when I was a kid.

We would take a piece of white chalk and draw an envelope on the front step, then ring their doorbell. They would come to the door,look down and see the "letter" and spend about 5 minutes trying to pick it up.

All the while, we were hiding in the bushes laughing at their attempts.

Actually, I think they had the last laugh. At least they stayed dry. We were huddled in their giant bushes and, as I recall, it was always raining on Mischief Night and we were soaking wet and cold by the time we got home.

But, we had so much fun together. Better,I think than the kids today have,all alone at home texting insults to each other.

Enjoyed your story. Brought back many memories. The best story in our town was when someone, no one ever found out who they were, put a model A from the Ford dealership on top of the local high school roof. It welcomed back the morning after students. No one ever admitted to having a part in it. My grandfather told the story to my dad, then my dad shared it with many teenagers throughout the years. Do these Halloween stories grow better with age?
Michigan Grandma

We were bad, too. If we did the same today, we would be arrested as juvenile delinquents.

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