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Halloween 1940’s Style or Don’t Stand Downwind…

Story ID:8290
Written by:Charles Dishno (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Dillon Montana USA
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Another memorie from my youth...

Halloween 1940’s Style or Don’t Stand Downwind…
By Chuck Dishno

My how times have changed since I was a wee lad in the 1930’s and 40’s.

Commercialism had not entered into Halloween. Oh, sure you could go Woolworth’s or Newberry’s and buy a Halloween mask but it was usually just a black one that made you look like the Lone Ranger. None of these fancy costumes that cost a fortune and are patterned after the current cartoon or movie character. I will have to admit that some of the little kids look cute but I can’t see anyone wanting to dress your innocent child to look like Spider Man.

Of course, the excitement of going house-to-house and begging for treats still exists. I always hand out candy but I know that I am probably contributing to a sugar high or tooth decay.

Halloween is much safer now but I still remember the days when you secretly hoped there was no one home so you could carry out your threat of “trick-or-treat”. Usually that meant nothing more than soaping their front window but if they had an outhouse or a clothesline, which most every one did, they were fair game.

My hometown, Bly, Oregon, was unique in the fact that we still had wooden sidewalks; no paved streets and no street lights, in fact we didn’t even have street names or house numbers, just Post Office boxes. A little primitive, but with a population of about 400, that was all that was needed.

The night before Halloween was designated as clothesline night and a few of the older boys would traipse thru backyards and clip a line or two. I was never one of those guys but my Pop was always ready the next morning with a new wire. I only remember a couple of times that someone cut our clothesline, probably because my brother, Shad was bigger than most of the other boys and he knew he would get it if Pop found out.

Early evening on Halloween night was the time for the little kids to make their rounds with their booty bags and their bar of soap.

My brother, Shad was 12 years older than me so he was 16 or 17 when I recall his antics. Shad ran around with several buddies and they were always seen together. They would come out later on Halloween night after the small kids, like me had gone home to get their annual sugar high.

I remember going out the next morning and seeing a farm wagon from Basil Hall’s ranch on top of the school building, Apparently a couple of Basil’s boys, Hank and Jim were in on the prank. They would bring a large wagon in from the ranch, completely disassemble it and put it back together on top of the school. This happened several times that I can remember but was stopped when Basil found out it was his boys that procured the wagon from the ranch.

Another thing that one can be sure of was them pulling up all the wooden sidewalks along both sides of the street and pile them in the middle. This was no easy chore as they were made of 4x6 runners and 2x6 planks.

They were also very adept at tipping over outhouses and no one was singled out including my own privy. Their favorite though was the Gooch’s. Mr. Gooch was a cobbler had had 5 or 6 girls along with his wife. He had a large 5-hole outhouse that sat directly behind his house and cobbler shop. It was the prime target and every Halloween, over it would go on its face. Of course being good Bly boys, they always made sure there was no one inside at the time.

One Halloween, Mr. Gooch decided to get even with them and bolted a piece of clothesline wire to each side of the top in back. He then made a large loop with the wire behind the outhouse and buried just below the surface of the dirt. When the boys, and it took 4 or 5 of them, pushed it over the wire came out of the ground and scooped them all in the open pit. When Shad came home late that night, Mom was up and he told her what had happened. Mom got a big kick out of it and woke up Pop. Shad said he never got scooped in the hole but Pop had a different version. He said that for the next week it wasn’t advisable to stand downwind from Shad or the other boys. The prank sure had backfired on them and Mr. Gooch got his revenge, I’m sure much to the relief (no pun intended) to the 6 women in his family. Shad said they never tried the tipping again and I’m sure they didn’t as they all entered the military service soon after that.

Halloween is a lot safer now, but oh for those good old days when boys could be boys. Just to clarify, I never inherited those pranks, and was always a good kid, but the jury is still out on that.

My dear old brother, Shad, has gone to his reward in the sky now and I wonder if St. Peter gave him wide berth as he went thru those Pearly Gates. I just hope Mr. Gooch wasn’t on the other side ready to fling a cobblers hammer at his head.