When baby boomers were the age to enjoy Halloween, in the 50’s and 60’s, we knew how to celebrate the holiday. It was all fun and games, and destruction of property was unheard of.
Halloween in our little town was all about rearranging the town. We spent the first few hours of the evening erecting a house on Main Street. The highway patrol and county sheriff didn’t care as long as we didn’t block the street or highway.
There were always railroad ties at the depot and we would carry them the 2 blocks down the street and lay out the outline of the house in front of the school. Then we would get smaller boards if we could, or if we couldn’t we’d use more railroad ties to mark out the inner walls of the house.
Once this was complete, we would head out in all directions on the hunt for furniture for the house. Of course in a town of that size we knew exactly what house had each item we needed. Each group of kids went after particular items and it didn’t take long to have it all down on Main Street.
We would carry any lawn furniture and old appliances we could get our hands on to the make shift house. The farthest point from the school in town was only about 6-8 blocks so it wasn’t much trouble for teenagers to get these things moved.
My dad was the manager of the local Co-Op at the time and there was always lots of old used tires stacked behind the building, and of course the boys always managed to bring them down to Main Street. They sold appliances also, and that is where we could find some of those items for the house.
Dad didn’t care what we took from the back of the building as long as the railroad track was not blocked or any of the main streets. I think he secretly wished that he could join us in this endeavor. There was never a bigger prankster than my dad and he never really grew up.
The large merry go round in the park ended up in front of the school every year. Then the grain auger from the elevator ended up on top of the two story high school. I always wondered how the guys got it up there. But every year there it would be, looking down at the grade school play ground like a giant praying mantis.
One year we arrived at school the day after Halloween and there on the west end of the grade school sitting on the raised roof above the basement was a red Crosley. The boys had carried it to the school and put it on the low roof.
Once the house on Main Street was erected and even though we were teenagers, our evening turned to the fun of trick or treating. By the time we were ready to trick or treat all the small children were home for the night.
We’d take our sacks and hit most of the houses in town. In the 60’s you didn’t have to worry about what people gave you, and if they gave you popcorn balls or home made cookies that was a real treat.
One group of boys had it down to a science, they’d split up and a few would ring the bell at the front door and a few would go to the back door. When they got their candy they would trade places, double dipping taken to the max.
Now that we were on a sugar high and had our second wind, it was on to soaping the windows of every business and lots of the homes. Most of the people didn’t care if we soaped their windows. The next day they would collect on the spook insurance the senior class had sold them earlier in the month.
I believe the spook insurance was $5.00 for a business and $2.00 for a house. Very few refused the seniors, and were happy to pay the money, because they knew they would need it. The money from the spook insurance went towards the senior trip.
If a business did not buy insurance, they were one of the first on the hit list for soaping their windows and we did more on their windows than those that bought the insurance. Then the next day they had to clean their own windows. The next year they usually bought spook insurance.
The day after Halloween, if it was a school day, was a vacation day for the senior class. They had the job of putting everything that had appeared on Main Street back where it belonged. Then they had to wash all the windows that were soaped.
I think it was almost as much fun to put all the stuff back as it was to move it all down town, and it gave the seniors a day out of class when the rest of us were sitting in school. Most of us wished we could help them and get out of class too.
Then about 1970, the county sheriff decided the kids would not be allowed to have their fun on Halloween like we did in the 60’s. And instead of just moving things around and having fun soaping windows they started tearing things up.
The police should have left things the old way because it was much easier to let them have their fun and then let the seniors clean it up. Sometimes the old ways are the best, but I guess you can’t go back to the good old days once they are gone.
I can still see our little town the morning after Halloween, with the makeshift house on Main Street in front of the school. When you looked at it you knew where every stick of furniture came from and the fun we had moving it down there.
The people and business owners of our hometown didn’t care that we borrowed their lawn furniture and items sitting behind the stores. They knew it would magically appear in their yards or behind the business and their windows would be sparkling clean again the day after the baby boomer Halloween. To contact Sandy: firstname.lastname@example.org
photo credit Greg Gjerdingen