Memories of Mischief
Twas the Night Before Halloween and All Through the Caldwells...
People of the Caldwells–prepare for the dreaded "Mischief Night" on Oct. 30!
Throughout the area, sales of eggs, shaving cream, soap and toilet paper have been exceeding normal levels. Houses, cars, and trees, pumpkins and people: beware!
Growing up, Mischief Night wasn't much of big deal on my block. While we Whitaker Boys (i.e., us kids living on the street and the adjacent Pine Tree Place) were certifiably mischievous, it was more comedy-driven, and all-year 'round at that!
One of my most vivid memories of Mischief Night is the time ...
The Cadillac Got Jacked
We had a nice, 1977 maroon (like merlot wine) Coup DeVille. Although the model was a beginning of a downsizing by GM, it was still a land yacht and cool as heck.
I'll never know what possessed the old man to take it work on Mischief Night night, but on October 30th 1978, he did just that. He arrived at around midnight–basically during vandalism prime time–and left it in a dark, unpaved parking lot near the bakery and depot. When Dad returned much later, the exterior of the vehicle was covered in so many eggs, the car was glazed. Shells stuck to the hood at spots of direct impact.
But that wasn't the worst of it. The splendid padded roof, which even had lights on the sides of it, I think it was called "Landau" style, had been knifed to shreds. Slitted throughout, it looked like a fish. Even as a kid, I remember thinking–why would someone do this kind of stuff? Property damage–especially with no punch line–wasn't my thing. To partake in any mischievous proceedings, I'd do it my way.
The following are some of my middle-school age Mischief Night memories, in chronological order.
Smashing Pumpkins: Not Just a Terrible '90s Band
In sixth grade, I hooked up with some of my classmates at Wilson School. There were six of us, but that didn't stop us from calling ourselves "The Savage Seven." The name was suggested by member Chuck Franke (I mention him as an addendum to my cable TV thing last time) who had a huge satellite dish on his lawn on Holderith Road in W.C. Talk about being ahead of the times! Or was it, conducting secret alien transmissions?
Anyway, on Mischief Night 1981 we happened to be in that vicinity, coincidentally near where Meredith D'Elia lived on Ellis Road (as well as her brother "Spock" - he really looked like him). We were smashing a few pumpkins here and there, nothing major. (Isn't it great how the carved ones cave right in?) Then, someone came out of the brook next to Meredith's house with a idea and a large piece of a tree.
Within a minute, we were all helping to drag this gigunda (note: that's not really a word) branch to the end of Ellis Road. When no cars were coming, we pushed it to the middle of the street and ran back to hide.
A couple of minutes later, a little Honda hatchback came around the bend from the south on Passaic, and ran over the branch. It dragged it for some distance, or possibly the branch dragged the car. As it bucked along, sparks were flying out from under the lil' put-put. It was so cool ... wait, do I mean cruel?
Shout ... Shout ... Shout!
The following year (in 7th grade), Sam Lin and I hit the bricks on Mischief Night (despite being thoroughly interrogated by my mother beforehand and assuring her we wouldn't get into trouble). We did the pumpkin thing, and even drew on some windows with soap–that wasn't that bad, right? It really wasn't . . . until I had to go all Satanic.
On the Wilson School blacktop–right on my former hallowed kickball grounds!–I drew an upside-down pentagram. It was the first and last one I'd draw, honestly. Motley Crue's Shout at The Devil had come out that week, and I had purchased one of the two copies Mr. Melody had stocked. The album cover featured the symbol, and it was simply on my mind. Afterward, it must have really spooked our school janitor, Mr. Stewart.
That's Egg-sactly What I'm Talking About
Who remembers the "Egg Wars"? Never before, or since 1985, has a Mischief Night youth event caused such a stir in the Caldwells. Kids in the junior high were all abuzz; alliances were formed, Angela Valentino was running around showing everyone an important news clipping: The Progress had written a story called "Prospective Egg Wars."
A location was chosen by I don't know who, but the shell-bustin' battle would take place in a neighborhood right between Caldwell and West Caldwell known as "The Cedars." Even if you weren't on a team, you could just show up, so J.R. Dattoli and I, armed with a handful of eggs, marched into the Cedars section of Cherry Lane off Westville Avenue.
As we continued heading east, we heard the sounds of kids running and shouting–it sounded like quite a melee. We crouched into a nearby bush. (Why is it that back then bushes had spacious interiors that could seemingly accommodate a full family?) We cocked, loaded and waited.
The Yolk's On Us
Then we heard footsteps. We exchanged a panicked glance in the refracted street light when we realized who it was. We then hauled blankety-blank out of there.
As we made our running, laughing, corduroy pants-rubbing eggs-it we could just see flashing lights and the terrifying figure of a police officer in the road.
The next day, we found out that the egg war never really hatched, as the police most egg-spertly patrolled The Cedars, cracking the case of warring egg tossers.
So there you have it–I suppose my Mischief Nights were sort of tame and lame. What were yours like? Let me know in the comments below.