Trick or Treat

The term “trick or treat” did not come into common usage in the United States until sometime after World War II.  As a young boy growing up in the 1930s, however, I remember that Halloween tricks (without treats) were not uncommon. Young boys would roam the neighborhoods, often dressed in outlandish costumes, and do all sorts of mischief.  In rural areas there were sometimes cruel depredations against graveyards.  Gravestones would be overturned, and others might be defaced with paint.  The roaming young vandals were not often that malicious, but two or three hellions could do much damage.

Another favorite target of the more serious mischief makers was the outhouse.  It took some effort by the young tricksters, but on the day after Halloween a few country residents would arise to find their privies overturned.

One such victim suspected that his own sons might be guilty of the offense.  He questioned them closely.  Finally, one of the boys spoke up.

“Father, I cannot tell a lie.  I did it.”

His father grabbed a razor strop from the wall, took his son’s arm, and started for the barn.

“But, Dad,” protested the boy.  “I was just reading the story about George Washington and the cherry tree.  When George admitted that he cut it down, his father congratulated him for telling the truth, and he forgave him.,”

“Yes,” said his father, “but George Washington’s father wasn’t in the cherry tree.”

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