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As I scan the countryside and store aisles this time of year, I notice more and more that Halloween is morphing into a holiday more for adults than for kids. When I was a kid in the 1950’s, Halloween was a KID time! As a matter of fact, that’s when “trick or treat” actually included TRICKS! In those days, all the “tricks” we did were harmless pranks and not the destructive stuff kids do now in the name of Halloween. We usually executed a “trick” on certain people we didn’t like even in spite of the fact that they did give us a “treat”.


When communities do have “Trick of Treat”, they usually limit it to the hours BEFORE dark! As kids, our “Trick or Treat” times were ALWAYs after dark! Somehow, to me, having “Trick of Treat” before dark just doesn’t seem appropriate. When we were kids, we certainly did more than our share of “tricks”…


One of our basic Halloween, tricks were soaping windows. You don’t see kids doing this anymore. This was just the thing to really make ourselves nuisances to homeowners. We usually just made big circles with the soap on the windows, but one year when Zorro was popular on TV, a lot of windows also had a big “Z” emblazoned on them. Occasionally, if we came across the house of someone we didn’t like, we would soap their screens! Soap is very difficult to remove from screens and they would have soap marks in them throughout most of the year. One year we decided to soap the school windows. The next day at school Tim, Tom B., Gary H., and I were called to the principle’s office and confronted by Roy Garland aka “Bobo” about it. We couldn’t figure out how in the world he found out we did it. He finally said to us, “You didn’t see Bob Summerville pull up to the school with his patrol car lights off did you?” Well, at least he told us how he knew it was us, which was little consolation as we were made to wash all the soap marks off all the school windows! Apparently, the sole police officer in Berlin Heights took a special interest in us that Halloween and was keeping a clandestine eye on us. Gee, I just can’t imagine why he would target only us for that????? J


One of the Halloween night traditions in Berlin Heights was to sneak into the Congregational Church and ring the church bell. Oddly enough, we never got caught doing this, but an older kid, Bill W. did when he tried it and Bob Summerville incarcerated him in the jail for a little while to teach him a lesson. Of course, for a long time afterward, Bill was called “Jailbird”.  One rumor that went around every Halloween was that they put a green dye on the church bell rope so they could tell who sneaked in to ring the bell. We didn’t see any on Bill’s hands the next day so we never confirmed the rumor. Some of us figured he just washed his hands afterward.  On the other hand, we never found any on our hands afterward either. Someone then suggested that it was an invisible green dye that showed up only under a “black light” like one they used at the “Note” (the local dance hall at Ruggles Beach). Another Halloween night Berlin Heights tradition was to tip over the outhouse in Riverside Cemetery. We did this every year. One year we rolled it down the deep ravine. After that, they never bothered to put it back up since it was pretty well smashed after that tumble.


One year, some of the older kids who could drive stole the old artillery piece at the American Legion Post and put it in front of the schoolyard aimed at Bobo’s office! We all got a kick out of seeing that the next day at school! Since then, it has been anchored to a cement pad, which is fortunate because now as a member of the American Legion Post in Berlin Heights, I probably would have been one of the members that would have gotten stuck with hauling it back!


Tim, Tom B., Gary H., and I had some special “tricks” we played on Halloween night.  One of our favorites was to push someone’s doorbell button, then stick a wooden toothpick into the side of the button and break it off. This resulted in the doorbell continually ringing since the button was stuck on the “in” position. One year Gary H. found a bunch of flour piled at the end of the school athletic field. We got a paper bag and filled it with flour. That Halloween night as we ran past kids out “trick or treating”; we threw flour all over them.


At one place, we got a real surprise one Halloween night. We went to our 7th grade teacher’s, Mr. Cranston’s house, and started to raise havoc. In a short time, Mr. Cranston came out of the house snapping a giant bullwhip at us! Needless to say, that caused us to scatter in a real hurry! That wasn’t the only time we were caught raising havoc that night. After this, we went to Paul Heckleman’s house and quietly scattered all the bales of straw he had lined up around the foundation of his house to keep the coming winter cold out of the basement. While we were quietly, (we thought) putting the bales all around his yard, Paul came out and said, “See you tomorrow boys”! This meant that we were expected to come back the next day when it was light and put all the scattered straw bales back. We did too! One of the things we did all year round as well as on Halloween nights was to go “Night Hawking”. Tom B. first introduced this to us and it consisted of ringing someone’s doorbell, then immediately running away. When the doorbell or knock was answered, no one was there of course! I remember us only doing this once per house. Now that I think back, it would have really been even more fun yet to do it several times per evening at the same house! We may have done this in some instances, but I don’t recall if we did. One of our favorite things to do those nights and other nights as well, was to kick apart big piles of raked leaves. Sometimes we even set them on fire. One of my favorite smells from childhood is burning leaves. This was a very common Autumn smell until the environmental whackos started running amok!

One place that received the most of our “tricks” was Mrs. Kuhl’s aka “The Dutchess”. The main reason for this was that she was the village “meany” and oddball (not just me!) Whenever kids would “trick or treat” at her place, she often would just put a handful of shelled corn (not candy corn) in our bags. An old guy by the name of Norton Korac lived with her and was very odd. He was the “village weirdo” (again, not just me!) He was the brunt of our tricks not only on Halloween, but all year round. One Halloween, when he answered the door, we threw several handfuls of flour on him, which made him look like a ghost! He was too dumbfounded to react!


By the time we finally went home after a night of Halloween mischief, one could see the trail of carnage we caused winding all through town. We looked back and were pleased that we had yet another successful Halloween night!