Thursday, October 30, 2014

Back when Halloween meant pranks, not candy …

                           Inflatable Halloween decorations are very popular today.

OGDEN, Utah area residents didn’t have to buy candy for Halloween a century ago, as trick-or-treating was an undiscovered pastime back then. Instead, they had to guard their gates, wagons and livestock from the most common of pranks.
Yes, in 1907, such pranks ruled Halloween.
“Halloween observed in Ogden. Boys committed their usual pranks” was a Nov. 5, 1907 Standard-Examiner headline.
Just over a century ago, gates of any size or fashion that could be removed, were, and moved to the top of buildings, trees, or hung from telephone poles.
“In many places small delivery wagons and vehicles were placed upon the roofs of barns or sheds. An unusual sight was that of a cow tied to the pillar of a front porch,” the Standard reported of Halloween 107 years ago.
Another prank in Ogden included a dummy placed across the tracks on Washington Avenue (Boulevard). Pranksters watched as terrified drivers ran over it.
There was also a strict curfew of 8 p.m. for all children “of any age” on Halloween night. Any kids caught outside alone after that time could be taken to the police station.
There were some Halloween-oriented attractions at the movie theater and some private parties and gatherings at  local LDS Wards, though.
“A genuine Halloween spirit was observed by many of the merchants, who decorated their show windows with jack-o-lanterns, ghosts and other articles appropriate for the occasion,” the Standard reported.
Four years later, in 1911, some Ogden youth were caught by the police putting soap along the trolley tracks of the Ogden Rapid Transit Company. That was considered a serious offense, as it meant cars could lose control.
That year, it was reported that some parents dressed up their children as ghosts and goblins (thanks to white sheets) and let them parade around the neighborhood.
It was far worse in 1927. The Standard reported the year on Nov. 1 that “Halloween pranksters ‘did everything but commit murder,’” the police stated.
Windows were broken throughout town; train tracks were dangerously greased; porch furniture was stolen; street lights were lowered; rotten tomatoes were thrown; and paint on automobiles was ruined.
“Deputy (Weber) Sheriff Fred Tout, head up and chest out, headed up 28th Street, on foot. At Jefferson Avenue, he stumbled over a string across the sidewalk and fell to his knees, while boys and girls snickered and giggled.”
A gang of 50 youth at Five Points jeered, hooted and cursed at police, who tried to rout the vandals.
(Yet, it had been much worse in 1923 when rowdy boys had set fire to the Farr West School House and it almost burned down.)
-Widespread trick-or-treating door-to-door didn’t begin as a U.S. tradition until the late 1940s, following World War II.
That’s partially because the end of the war also meant a halt to sugar rationing.
In any event, Halloween is a lot tamer these days – and giving “treats” meant less “tricks” over time.

(-Originally published by Lynn Arave in the Ogden Standard-Examiner on Oct. 30-31, 2014.)

          "Trunk or treat" is a new Halloween trend today.

-NOTE: The author, Lynn Arave, is available to speak to groups, clubs, classes or other organizations about Utah history at no charge. He can be contacted by email at:  

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