Homemade Toys & Pranks
From Jim Klein
The problem is, I can't remember the name of the homemade toy they used, so I will describe it and hope that someone can name it.
A knife is used to cut a sequence of teeth and notches around the rims of both ends of a large wooden spool of thread that has been used up. A stick is whittled to form a smooth dowel that fits into the hole of the spool with enough clearance to freely spin the spool. Then an arm's length of string is wound around the spool.
Pressing the spool with the dowel next to an outside window and then quickly pulling the string will cause a loud racket as the spinning teeth chatter against the window pane.
My grandfather said that he and 3 or 4 older boys would sneak out at night and quietly surround a house. Each would take a different window, and when the ringleader started his noisemaker all the others would simultaneously spin their's startling the people inside with noise coming from all directions. Of course the boys would then flee into the darkness and regroup to hit up the next house.
I don't know if this noisemaker was wide-spread among American youth at that time or if it was peculiar to Ger-Rus youngsters. Either way, I would like to know the name of this toy and anecdotes from others.
From David Easterday
Two nights before Halloween was "corn night." The pranksters would fill their pockets with dried, shelled corn and throw it at peoples windows to frighten or more likely annoy those inside. The next night was gravel night and they did the same thing with gravel or chat. Halloween night was also know as outhouse night on which they went around turning over outhouses which were not always empty. They did not "trick or treat" on Halloween. None of the above can be considered ethnic in character. However, on New Year Day the children in his family would go to the homes of their German-Russian relatives and neighbors and ask the parents or other elders of the household for their blessing which was always given.
Then they could perform a skit or sing a song and be rewarded with candy or other treats much like trick or treat is practiced in some localities today. I think that is a German tradition.
Nobody asked, but my grandfather's favorite comic strip is said to have been the Katzenjammer Kids.
Electronic mail message from Mary Ellen Lanigan Reisenauer, San Bruno, California
Mary Ellen Lanigan Reisenauer is the wife of Dr. Kenneth Robert Reisenauer, who is the son of George.