a black-and-white image of five children. Three are standing and two are sitting around a carved pumpkin. Two are wearing eyepatches and one is dressed as a clown. The two seated are wearing part hats.
An example of some good, clean Halloween fun: a group of children dressed up for Halloween in 1958. Surely these sweet faces never got up to any mischief.


Trick (or treat)

Halloween is just around the corner, a season which Vernon has celebrated with tricks and treats for decades. In fact, especially between the 1920s and ‘40s, Vernon’s youth leaned more heavily towards the latter.

A Vernon News article from October of 1923 stated that “for the past two or three years, much wanton damage has been done throughout the city by mischievous lads on Halloween. Fences have been torn down, gardens looted and much needless work made for peace loving citizens … No one wishes to see the younger generation deprived of the fun that goes with Halloween but fun and deliberate damage are two different things. The first everyone enjoys but the second everyone denounces.”

It wasn’t just Vernon that was having trouble keeping the Halloween tricks at bay; another Vernon News article, this one from November of 1931, revealed that $500 worth of damage was done to a school in Oliver after a “gang of vandals” broke into the building and turned on the fire hoses. Arrests were expected to follow, as it was felt that this “willful damage … [was] beyond the pale of Halloween pranks.”

Strict Measures

In 1937, Vernon’s young revelers quickly experienced a change in atmosphere when, the morning after Halloween, a group of police officers showed up at their schools to interview individuals believed to have damaged properties the previous evening. Churches and other community groups began hosting a variety of events on the evening of Halloween, so that city’s youngsters could partake in some “good, clean fun,” and, in 1939, the newspaper warned those who engage in destructive behaviors to conduct themselves in a more appropriate manner so as to not have to learn this life lesson in “the police or juvenile courts.”

These strong measures seemed to have had an impact, because the Halloween of 1940 was considered a “quiet” season; that year the only incident of note was that reported by a number of downtown shopkeepers, who arrived at work the next morning to discover their windows covered in soap, which was difficult to remove but otherwise did not cause any lasting damage.   


In 1942, Vernon law enforcement cracked down even more to keep the antics to a minimum. Bonfires after dark were prohibited to eliminate the “usual gatherings of children dressed in ghostly attire in the vacant lots throughout the city.” They also restricted the sale of fireworks, and so “very few rockets were discharged into the sky.”

Unfortunately, the restrictions may have dampened spirits a little too far, as only a few groups of children went door-to-door for candy that year. However, wartime rationing also meant that there were less treats to be had, which also likely contributed to the low numbers of trick-or-treaters. Perhaps it is also the case that as the world as a whole was covered by the darkness of wartime, the youthful tricks of previous years lots some of their appeal, because the rate of property damage continued to decrease over subsequent Halloweens.  

This is not to say that Vernon’s past celebrations of this holiday have been all tricks; there have also been dances, costume parties, showings of scary movies, and of course, lots of treats to go around.


To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts!

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives