Mischief Night (circa 1940's)

by Charles McGrath

As we all know Mischief Night is the night before Halloween. In the 1940's we would go out after dark in large numbers and cause mischief.

A common and expected prank was to soap store windows. Soap was precious during WWII. At that time I believe it was rationed. As an option I remember using clear wax. Wax was used by our mothers to seal home preserves. The problem with wax was that the store owner had great difficulty removing it the next day. Unlike soap it wasn't soluble in warm water and its removal was very difficult.

Ringing door bells and hiding from the person who came to answer the bell was a very common trick.

Throwing eggs at moving buses and cars was also very common. Sometimes the driver would jump out of the car and the prankster would have to run for his life. Once a raw egg dried it was very difficult to remove it from a metal surface.

To divert this energy and mischievousness the store owners invited the local schools to decorate their windows. The week before Halloween many students were sent to designated store windows to paint Halloween scenes. It served a two fold purpose in that it provided seasonal beauty and discouraged graffiti.

In later years the paintings were no longer needed to discourage graffiti. Unsafe streets replaced that minor problem.

Does anyone remember the painted store windows in your neighborhood?

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