In the 30s the streets in our neighborhood were torn up for years as the WPA installed sewers and water mains – tipping over the WPA wooden outhouses was a standard part of Halloween. We didn’t soap up windows – we used parafin wax -much harder to clean off. Setting fire to leaves piled along the curb was also a pretty common stunt. And Hoffman’s shit-in-a-bag trick was not unknown to some of the most perverse of us ( I swear, I never did that one). Begging for candy was mostly done in our own neighborhood and in some of the richer streets, but the nasty tricks were reserved for neighborhoods across town where we didn’t know anybody.
I remember one particular time we were invited in for hot cider and donuts by some very nice people who kept urging us to stay a little longer. It turned out that they were just holding us ’till the cops arrived to closely question us and, as it turned out, called our parents – something we found out painfully when we arrived home later that halloween night.
The relationship between cops and the community was much closer and personal in those ancient days. The cops rarely took a kid in for anything – they just called his parents to do the correcting.