October 28, 2009 at 7:33 am 6 comments

Trick-or-treat feels like an ancient American tradition. But like everything “ancient” in the U.S., it’s actually a pretty recent invention. In the 1950s, many adults were puzzled or even angered by the appearance of kids on the doorstep expecting a treat.

Today, if you don’t like trick-or-treat you can just turn out your porch light. But one of my favorite trick-or-treat stories is about a disgruntled High School principal who took matters into his own hands…literally.

It was Halloween in Brooklyn, 1952. Dr. Mason was having a hard night. Gangs of rowdy boys had been roaming the neighborhood, overturning trash cans and ringing door bells. Dr. Mason, an upstanding educator, was not amused by the high spirits of youth.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the street, little Richard Wanderman, age 10, asked his mother for permission to join some friends for a “trick-or-treat tour.” Mother agreed and suggested they start at Dr. Mason’s house. Dr. Mason being a school principal and all, Mrs. Wanderman was sure he’d give them something.

Richard rang Dr. Mason’s bell. Dr. Mason was not happy with their ungentlemanly demand for a treat. Instead of candy, he offered a five minute lecture on the evils of begging and why little boys should not run about demanding tribute and behaving like little gangsters.

Richard and crew were not so easily edified. Richard stepped up, put his fist in Dr. Mason’s face, and growled “Hand it over, or else!”

At which point, Dr. Mason did hand it over in a sense: a back of the hand to little Richard’s face.

For that Halloween, there were no treats. Instead, Richard got an ice-pack, and Dr. Mason got a charge of assault in the third degree and a court summons. In his defense, Dr. Mason noted: “I did not know it was a neighbor’s child.”

Source: “Trick-or-Treat Seeker Gets Neither: Mother Says Principal Slapped the Boy” New York Times 4 Nov. 1952; “Everyone Regrets Halloween Slap,” New York Times 11 Nov. 1952.

Entry filed under: Holidays. Tags: , , .

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Patti  |  October 29, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    I know it’s not funny, but it still made me laugh!

    • 2. CandyProfessor  |  October 29, 2009 at 9:23 pm

      Laugh away! It’s kind of like “The Honeymooners,” but strangely real…

      • 3. Leona  |  October 30, 2009 at 2:40 pm

        Impertinent little brat! I hate it when kids come up to the door with that sense of entitlement. And then I have to say…”what do you say? ” to which a forced, grunted thank you comes out. I mean, I love giving out candy to the kids, but there’s a woeful lack of appreciation that accompanies many trick-or-treaters.

        Okay, off my soap box now. Happy Halloweenie!

  • 4. 1951 Halloween Candy « Candy Professor  |  October 18, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    […] Trick-or-Slap […]

  • 5. Halloween Round Up « Candy Professor  |  October 26, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    […] Trick-or-Slap Not everyone was thrilled with the whole trick-or-treat game in the 1950s […]

  • 6. Micki Morrison  |  October 27, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    Saw a great story on the History of Halloween on the History Channel on cable last night. I’m sure it will be played again before Halloween. It gives more detail as to when and why trick-or-treating started.


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Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

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Candy in American Culture What is it about candy? Here you'll find the forgotten, the strange, the curious, the surprising. Our candy story, one post at a time.

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