When I was a teenager in Stamford Connecticut, every Halloween we played a very exciting and rough game with the police. It was a secret game, completely hidden from the parents of Stamford. As rough as it was, the Halloween Game had rules. The most important rule was “don’t tell”. The police would not tell our parents what we were doing and we would not tell our parents what the police were doing.
The objective of the teenagers was to vandalize as much property as possible on Halloween. Within limits, of course. We did not smash windows or set anything on fire. However, we did steal street signs, fill mail boxes with shaving cream, throw toilet paper in trees and egg everything in sight.
Now days, if a kid does that, the police will pick them up and possibly even arrest them. But that was not the way the game was played in the old days. When I was a boy, Halloween was a time for the police to have a little fun too. When I was a teenager, the Stamford police were all men who had seen extensive combat in World War II. Roaming bands of teenagers with eggs and shaving cream did not exactly frighten them.
The cops patrolled in cars and looked for large groups of teenagers on Halloween. Especially kids who were way too old to be out trick-or-treating or were not wearing any Halloween costumes.
The police car would come to a screeching halt and the teenagers would scatter. Most were fast enough to get away from the cops, but a few slow pokes always got caught. The police would search them for eggs, and if any were found, the kids got an “egg shampoo”. That is, the copys would smash the eggs one by one on the teenager’s heads. I had that happen to me only once, but the disgusting feeling of three egg yokes dripping down my face is something I will never forget.
If a kid was a real problem and got caught more than once in the same night, then the police would take the teenager on a “long ride.” That happened once to Tommy Bower. He got put in the back of the patrol car and the cops drove him 5 miles or more from where he lived. Then they just left him there. He was too busy walking home the rest of the night to spend any time vandalizing anything. Despite the long walk, he later admitted that it was “really cool” riding in the back of the patrol car.
When we look at the problems between the police and young people today, it is hard to explain the way the relationship was in those days. The cops took it for granted that kids sometimes did stupid and even destructive things and they did not get angry about it. Being wild once and a while was accepted as a normal part of growing up.
As teenagers, we accepted that the cops liked to have a little fun too, and if the game got too rough then it was our own fault for deciding to play it in the first place. Looking back of course, I now realize that it was a much more peaceful and innocent time. The Halloweens of old had no guns or gangs or drugs or mace or tasers. Teenagers and police were all a lot safer back then.
As Halloween approaches I remember the taste of free Hersey bars and even the dreaded Bit-O-Honey. However, what I remember most is the feel of three smashed eggs in my hair as a police car drove way with the two cops laughing hysterically.