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Halloween


In the late 1920's, if a parent's child got into almost any type of trouble at all, he was sent to the woodshed by the man of the house. On Halloween night the parents were more lenient but even then some of the kids got out of hand and were punished later when word got around the next day about the damage they had caused.

One of the things they would do would be to go down to San Pablo Avenue and grease the streetcar tracks for a couple of hundred feet. They would wait for the streetcar off the side of the road and when the car got close, they would run out and pull the trolley pole down cutting off the juice. The conductor would get out and put the trolley back on the wire and start to pull out. The wheels of the streetcar would just spin and the car would not move. Then the conductor would get his bucket of sand and small shovel and go along sprinkling it over the rail to obtain traction. It was very hard to get going again if there was a trailer, which was another attached car.

In those days when one purchased a new tire it was wrapped in a long narrow paper about three inches wide. This was wrapped overlapping each fold all the way around the tire and indicated the tire was new. The kids would wrap any old abandoned tire with toilet paper and put it out on the Avenue. The cars would come to a screeching halt, the driver would jump out, throw the tire in the back seat and pull out fast thinking he had found a new tire and that the owner would soon be back looking for it. One time two cars stopped and both drivers came to blows over who saw the tire first.

In those days there were lots of wagons laying around in the hay fields and abandoned. Some of the older boys would push the wagons to a low flat building or to the one story portion of the school. They would haul the wagon piece by piece to the roof of the building, reassemble the wagon and then leave.

It was not unusual to walk down the street and at various intersections to see an outhouse standing there, it having been removed from someone's nearby property. Imagine people going out back of their house to use the outbuilding and find it missing, with only the hole in the ground left. People nowadays don't know how convenient it is to have two bathrooms in their home.

Sometimes, fruit trees inside various properties were shaken so it would loosen the fruit causing some to drop on the ground, which the kids picked up.

Most of the children participating in this Halloween mischief knew their parents would hear about the trouble they caused and would be expecting the stick when the parents found out. If any great damage was caused, it would be up to the parents to pay for such damage, as it was expected of them. In those days the words "trick or treat" were unknown at Halloween time.

A majority of the younger children would go to a Halloween party and duck for apples in metal tubs. Others would ring someone's doorbell and run, or wrap a long string around an empty spool and put a large spike through the hole of the spool for a handle. They would put the spool against the window quickly pull the string causing the spool to spin making an awful noise inside the building, and then they would run. Usually in those days, Halloween was the only time most of the kids ever got into trouble with the neighbors

Copyright Mervin Belfils, October 1975
Copyright El Cerrito Historical Society, June 2006