TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Do We Go Overboard for Halloween?

Re: Do We Go Overboard for Halloween?

John McHarry (
Fri, 04 Nov 2005 03:25:40 GMT

On Wed, 26 Oct 2005 12:02:33 -0700, hancock4 wrote:

> A society communications question:

> I've noticed that Halloween seems to have grown substantially in
> importance as a holiday. Years ago it was one night -- -kids went
> around and collected candy, maybe a few adults had a costume party.

> But in more recent years it seems to rival Christmas as a major
> holiday.

When I was a child in central IL in the 50s, early 60s, it seems it
was a childrens' affair, but it did last for several days. The town
claimed a population 4400, which has declined since, and a lot or kids
canvassed the entire town. I recall that a friend and I tipped over
the last two remaining outhouses in town. One collapsed, and the other
was demolished and removed by the owners. There was also a fair amount
of soaping and paraffining of windows, though not much other vandalism.
The general idea was to commit a prank, not wanton destruction.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: The worst thing I ever think I did as
a child on Halloween was go with some friends to the State-Lake Theatre
in downtown Chicago. We set off a couple of 'stink bombs' in the middle
the movie. My friends had some sort of acid (sulphuric perhaps) which
created very much a 'rotten egg' odor, then we got out of the theatre
before the stench had permeaeted the entire place. I recall they had
to evacuate the theatre and it was closed for a couple days while the
carpet was replaced where we had done it.

Other than that, our other favorite prank (good at Halloween or any
time of the year) was called 'stall the trolley bus.' Lawrence Avenue
(and many other east/west streets on the north side of Chicago had
trolley bus service provided by CTA. Unlike a streetcar, which uses an
overhead catenary pole and wire, but runs on actual rails (CTA had
lots of those also), a trolley bus used the catenary and overhead wire
but ran on rubber tires. We would gather at a relatively busy inter-
section, Lawrence and Western Avenues. The trolley would invariably
stop there to pick up or drop off riders. The object was to wait
behind the vehicle until just one or two seconds after the driver
started to pull away. Then one of my friends would run up behind the
trolley and yank down the catenary pole. Obviously, the trolley came to
a dead stop. But if we were 'lucky' the driver had just accelerated
enough to coast into the center of the street as he was stalling. This
had the effect of causing the north/south traffic on Western Avenue to
get stalled also. Timed just right, we could cause it to happen just
as Western got a green light to cause an even longer backup of cars.

Getting the trolley stuck in the middle of Western Avenue was our
goal. One day the Western Avenue streetcar was coming north, so _he_
got stalled as well. The trolley driver would get off the tolley with
an angry look around and muttering about 'the little bastards who did
this'. Around behind the trolley, trying to raise the catenary pole
back into place, all the while the stop/go light had changed twice
so now cars on Lawrence were trying to make it through the
intersection as well as the ones on Western Avenue, everyone laying on
their horns and getting nowhere fast. The trolley guy (apparently sort
of new) was having a very hard time getting the catenary to stay up,
and the Western Avenue streetcar guy came over to help him and show
him how to do it. Those guys -- CTA trolley and street car drivers --
could have cared less about the other traffic on both directions all
around them; they stood out there in the street talking about it all
the while the 'little bastards' had run off to hide, and watch in
secret, as they convulsed with laughter. They finally got the trolley
catenary re-established, all the while motorists in all directions
were creeping past them, honking and cussing them. After four or five
minutes, and as many cycles of the stop/go lights, and the passengers
on both the trolley and streetcar sitting inside nonchalantly reading
their newspapers, oblivious one would think to the commotions around
them on the street, trolley was reconnected, the driver got back
inside and pulled away, then the streetcar driver got back on his
vehicle and drove away. Another minute or two after that and the
intersection was back to 'normal'. That was our idea of Halloween
'fun'. Plus of course, soaping things and tossing rolls of toilet
paper around everywhere. PAT]

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