Remember Halloween? The homes that dropped sweets into our open and eager (paper) bags? The elastic string that held the flimsy Mickey Mouse or Goofy or Sleeping Beauty masks to our sweaty faces? For the rural among us, the eighth- or quarter-mile hike between houses, rewarded not with prepackaged bits of candy bars, but with candy apples, chocolate chip cookies, old maid-less popcorn balls, candy corn in baggies (no zip-locks), candy cigarettes, Chiclets, Necco Wafers, Bazooka Bubble Gum, and – glory of glories – whole candy bars, Snickers and Baby Ruth and Three Musketeers?
Remember the gags? The water balloons? The tipped outhouses? The eggings? Ding dong ditch? (OK, one tipped outhouse, and it no longer “in service.”)
Remember the friends who did outlandish things–like the guy who climbed the radio tower at the high school, and then unfurled a homemade sheet/flag that looked like this:
And the two guys who outdid him, by climbing a 100-foot mast light tower at the football stadium and affixing a giant “KOOP – LEISTNER” banner to the backside of the array? They are heroes to me.
Or the three guys who broke into the French and German classroom, removed a fluorescent light cover, painted the cover and returned it, so that come next Monday the teacher entered the classroom and saw something like this:
The past included both tricks and treats. The tricks have increasingly disappeared. They have become crimes: Vandalism, destruction of private property, B&E, and so on. Had the perpetrators been caught then, the sanctions would have been light: a scolding, an apology, the restoration of damages, or something like this:
The price of good, sort-of-innocent fun is higher these days. I have no doubt that now those acts of frivolity would result in fines and maybe a few nights (or more) in the hoosegow. I mean, prison. Gone are the clink, pokey, slammer, lockup, coop. We are serious now.
What happened? The usual suspects. The revolution of the ’60s (sexual and otherwise) destroyed mores, ending the need for teens to sublimate their energy in other more and less risky behavior. Progressive policies led to the breakdown of mediating institutions, which understood the difference between good fun and thuggish behavior. At the same time, by treating individuals not as individuals but as representatives of a social class, those policies eroded the communities that knew how to deal with their own. The increasing litigiousness of society forced authorities to cover their you-know-whats, and treat Jimmy the impish teen the same as Jimmy the loutish bully.
So, no more tricks. I mourn their loss. Fortunately, we have cell phones and video games. Our misguided youth can find outlets for fun there, some healthier, some not so much. Plus, they aren’t out on the streets. We can all breathe a sigh of relief.
But when our daughter, during homecoming week, stepped out of our house and joined some classmates to TP a few trees, and stick forks in a few lawns, and write a few words about another class in sidewalk chalk outside their homes, I was proud and humbled at the same time. Maybe we raised her right after all.
Just don’t tell her that.
By the way, I disavow any personal knowledge of any and all of the other acts in this post.Published in