Nerd Factor: The Parking of the Cars

By Dr. Mike ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

Halloween Was Once So Dangerous That Some Cities Considered Banning It -  HISTORY
Vandalizing a tree.

When I was a kid, the day before Halloween was a time of intense preparation at my home. My mother ensured that we had plenty of candy to give out. We always had the costume picked out and ready to go. Decorations were up too. What preoccupied us as the day neared were the defensive measures needed to protect our home from pranks. I don’t think we had a term for it, but in my childhood nostalgia, I often think of this as “the parking of the cars.” 

Where I grew up, pranking and vandalism got largely detached from the holiday of Halloween itself. I suppose that was a pragmatic choice. In the Cape, Halloween itself was about gathering as much candy as possible in strategically and intricately planned runs through the community. Perhaps those expeditions took precedence. Or maybe there were too many eyes out on the street during Halloween itself. 

I learned when I left home that some parts of the country do not have this tradition at all. In other places it is known as “Devil’s Night” or “Mischief Night.” In some areas, this night can have terrible consequences. Destructive arsons were a terrifying feature of Devil’s Night in Detroit, for example.

In the Cape, the pyromaniac urge tended to be limited to attacks on newspaper boxes. We would sometimes wake to the strange chemical smell of burnt plastic in the neighborhood. The grayish white Baltimore Sun and red Capital newspaper boxes would be misshapen in a way that was a bit reminiscent of a Salvador Dali painting. 

We didn’t worry about our mailbox much. That thing was built like a cast iron skillet, immune to fireworks or cherry bombs. There was little one could do to protect a newspaper box though, vulnerable out there on the edge of the front yard. Although one night my father did hide out with a hose and spray some kids who tried to mess with the boxes. I think he really enjoyed that. 

Our front yard had many trees, too big to effectively entangle with toilet paper. Those trees also seemed to protect our house from a “teepee attack.” 

The main worry for us was, of course, eggs. Those sticky and damaging protein bombs could be easily whipped from the street at our door or vehicles. 

So it was that we would migrate the cars into the backyard. We had a fairly big backyard. It always seems larger in my memories, but we could put three vehicles way back there. The main obstacle was the above-ground pool in the middle of the backyard. 

I really enjoyed this time because it meant that I got to drive. As a little kid, I would sit in my father’s lap as he slowly brought the car forward, turning a big ole wheel that probably had no power-steering as best I could. I felt big in a way that only little kids can. 

When I got older, my father would sometimes let me put the cars back there myself. I took this quite seriously, thinking it was all some kind of proof that I would grow up to be a responsible driver. At the very least, I suppose not taking out the swimming pool was proof that I could miss large obstacles. 

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