kids: Kids having unbridled trick or treat fun. Courtesy photo

Sunday is Halloween and many children in Santa Monica are understandably excited. However, I have a good friend, who shall remain nameless, who’s concerned because his kids hate trick or treating and would rather play video games or be on their phone. (I joked maybe it’d be different if there was a “Tic Toc Trick or Treat” or a “Zoom Halloween,” though he didn’t find that amusing.)

I have nothing but fond memories of trick or treating. (Actually that’s a slight overstatement because one night backfired so badly I worried I’d wind up in reform school.) Before I forget, this column is also an apology, albeit decades too late, to Barry who was younger than we were and wound up getting the blame. (But remarkably escaped trouble.)

First, some context. I grew up in a middle class neighborhood of well-kept tract homes near Pico and La Cienega. While gangs were unheard of some kids could be rowdy on Halloween to home owners who didn’t answer their door or told us to beat it. These kids were older than I was so I felt like a big shot they let me tag along.

The rowdiness could include spreading toilet paper in the trees and on the porches but that was tame to this particular evening. The older guys, who were 13 or so, conjured up a unique prank.

You see in those days most people didn’t pick up after their dogs. So the prank involved collecting lots of dog poop in a paper bag, placing it on the porch, lighting it on fire, ringing the door bell and running away.

The idea was to covertly watch the grouch answer the door and stomp the fire out, thus spreading the poop all over his shoes and porch. Knowing it was obviously wrong and, not wanting to get caught, when the others weren’t paying attention, I snuck back home.

However, two years later on Halloween, the older kids were now in high school and into cars and girls. My neighbor Dennis and I were in junior high, while Barry, was in elementary school. As I had been, he too was flattered that we let him tag along. Sure enough, after one crabby home owner chastised us for disturbing him, the dog poop prank came up for discussion.

The bottom line is we did but I’ll spare you and cut to the chase. Much to my horror… no one answered the door! As we stared in disbelief, I panicked. Fearing the fire could spread to the vines hanging all over the porch, I ran across the street and hurriedly stomped the fire out. (Of course I got poop all over my shoes but I was relieved that was all it was. Or so I hoped.)

Weeks later I had naively forgotten the incident, until one day, at Pasteur Jr. High, while in class, I was given a notice that the Boy’s Vice-Principal, the much feared Mr. Hawkins, wanted to see me. I was a good student and Hawkins generally only dealt with juvenile delinquent types and was known for his paddle which he used to unleash painful corporal punishment.

I nervously walked over to Mr. Hawkins office. As I looked in I saw Dennis, siting in the waiting area crying. Not a good sign. Dennis didn’t see me and I just kept walking. After about ten minutes I slowly walked back to Mr. Hawkins office. Dennis was gone but Mr. Hawkins was there and clearly not in a good mood.

He ordered me into his office, I assumed to administer his feared corporal punishment. In his office was a Fire Captain standing there in full uniform, including the big captain’s hat. (Which, frankly, seemed a little over the top.)

“Jack, do you know what the Captain is doing here?” Mr. Hawkins asked very sternly. I gulped. And I can’t believe it to this day, but, feigning innocence, I asked, “Is he giving out fire safety awards?”

As Mr. Hawkins and the Captain grilled me, of course I cracked but I did my best to make it sound like I had been a reluctant participant that night and essentially blamed Barry. When I got home after school the first thing I did was call Dennis and told him what happened. He was stunned. It turns out he had blamed Barry, too!

Apparently, because Barry was in elementary school out of Hawkins’ jurisdiction nothing more happened. That said, at age 12 I’d definitely had a genuine “scared straight” experience. In fact, until this column, I hadn’t thought about the dog poop prank in all these years.

As for my friend with the gamer kids, when he reads this, I have a hunch he won’t be so worried that his children aren’t into trick or treating.

Jack is at:, and