Monday, October 31, 2011

Trick or Treat in the Old Days 
By Abraham Lincoln

Phillipsburg is on State Route 49 and there is one traffic light in town. For many years, the All Saint's Day decorations would include local farm produce (bales of straw, pumpkins, corn shucks, etc.) arranged in a circle, sometimes with a split rail fence. In the center, in the position of honor, would be somebody's privy, sitting there like a proud relic of times past.

There has been a policeman in town, and there are businesses on all four corners — not to mention traffic on State Route 49. Nobody ever got caught erecting this annual scene—like magic, something would appear next Halloween.

Back in those days, kids in all the towns didn't walk up to a house and ring a doorbell and say, “Trick or treat.”

They would cut notches in wooden sewing thread spools and tie a string around it like you were going to spin a top. Then with a pencil in the center, so it could spin, they would put the wooden spool close to someone's window and yank the string.

As the spoon spun, the wooden notches made a terrible racket as they struck the glass—the sound it makes is frightening. That was a typical prank before kids knocked on the front door for a treat. Older kids had tricks that us youngsters couldn’t do.

We all tried to push toilets over. Sometimes we could tip it over without falling in the pit where the worst smells came from. That was one giant puddle of poo you just didn’t want to step in.

The next morning when the family was anxious to use the toilet, somebody would have to set it all back upright on the foundation before it could be used.

Rubbing a beet or some other vegetable on sidewalks or on a front porch was bad—you cannot get the stain off—it must wear off. Most of the time it was done to people who didn't care what the kids did—they didn't give out treats.

Milbert Ressler told me that he once saw a cow on the roof of a barn that somebody had led up there during the night as a kind of Halloween prank. The cow made such a ruckus that farmers a mile away could hear it bellowing.

He also said cows were put in haymows and he had no idea how they got that job done either. Getting a cow to walk up steps made from bales of hay sounds almost impossible. If you have owned cows then you know what a task it must have been.

Those were serious pranks but nobody got terribly upset. Usually the guilty person came by and helped get the animals back down.

The most common treat was a popcorn ball. Nobody gave out candy as it was rationed during the War. So you got popcorn balls, apples, cookies (cookies were the best treats), or pennies; sometimes a nickel or dime.

Those who had money would give little kids a penny. Our town didn't have many children so half a roll of pennies would last all evening.

© 2006-2011 Abraham Lincoln - All rights reserved.


  1. Be honest Abe.....are you confessing?

  2. No, not me. When I got out of the Army and lived in Gordon, I hauled Roberta Sensenbaugh from Gordon and a man and his son from Phillipsburg to NCR where we worked. The Halloween display was always in the center of the crossing streets, one was State Route 49, when we got there. The next day it would be torn down. The people who lived there did not know who did it.


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