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Out of Control Teenagers in Palo Alto....in 1950

Original post made by The Good Old Days?, Adobe-Meadows, on Jan 30, 2014

I just bought a copy of "An Illustrated History of Palo Alto" by Lewis Osborne, published in 1969. I found this passage (on pg. 80) about 1950 quite interesting:

"Hallowe'en that year was the wildest in local history. Some 300 teen-agers, half of them Stanford students and half from Palo Alto Senior High, fought with police on University Avenue. They bombarded store fronts with eggs and tomatoes, pelted pedestrians and automobiles with the same items as well as with spray from seltzer bottles. The street was strewn with broken glass, while fires burned in alley trash-bins. In residential areas, some houses were damaged by paint splashes or by water directed into living rooms with hoses connected outdoors. One large plate glass window was broken downtown. The Palo Alto Senior High School Student Board, ashamed of their fellow students' behavior, offered to pay for the broken window."


Can you imagine if something like this happened today? This forum would be bombarded with comments attributing the events to the influx of pushy Silicon Valley businesspeople into Palo Alto in recent years and to the immorality of teenagers spoiled by too much money and ruined by their absent, workaholic parents. Others might blame it on kids spending too much time on social media and video games. Inevitably, many would decry this vandalism as somehow the fault of mainland Chinese moving to Palo Alto. And of course, all the old timers would express their shock at how much morality has decayed since the good old days when they were young.

I don't think anything in recent memory compares to the 1950 Halloween shenanigans described here. Certainly the Paly-Gunn egg fight does not really seem so horrific compared to the full-on destruction and vandalism that happened 63 years ago.

In every generation, teenagers will get rowdy and do stupid things. Adults will shake their heads and say things have gotten so much worse--and they'll be wrong.

Comments (12)

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Posted by Wow
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 3, 2014 at 6:48 am

Wow, hard to believe that actually happened!


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 9:07 am

Thanks for the perspective, that is a great reminder.

Now would any old timers on Town Square (anonymously of course) like to comment on their memories of the event.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 3, 2014 at 9:18 am

Before my time. Even before "Rebel Without a Cause" or "The Wild One."


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Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 3, 2014 at 2:23 pm

We used to shoot bottlerockets down sidewalks to scare kids trick-or-treating, but that was clearly child's play.


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Posted by Immature brains
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 5, 2014 at 10:46 am

That mindless teenagers are destructive isn't news. Question is, how can that dumb behavior be channeled into constructive ways. They have no clue about the suffering they cause others.
The incompletely formed adolescent brain is nothing to celebrate.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 7, 2014 at 12:32 am

That is really interesting ... thanks for posting it.

It's a wonder how we have no connection or are so out of touch with the past. How could that be, what was on the minds of those kids. Where did most of these kids come from? What were they doing in 1950? That is just amazing. Don't you wonder what the social demographics were. Were these kids from some certain class or part of town? That's not really that far back, yet I suppose none of us have any idea what would this really be about.

Now ... think about to real history, 100 - 200 - 1000 years ago ... people lived in a complete different mind space than we do today. Perhaps there is such a thing as progress. Really amazing.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 7, 2014 at 12:34 am

> We used to shoot bottlerockets down sidewalks to scare kids trick-or-treating

What you are bragging about is really dangerous hooliganism. Pathetic.


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Posted by Shocked
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 7, 2014 at 9:26 am

Proof positive that streaking should be criminalized. It's all a slippery slope.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2014 at 9:40 am

I think the point of this post is that we were all teenagers once and got up to mischief of one sort or the other.

Not condoning what the teenagers did then, but I feel sure that the majority of them are now responsible adults in their 60s looking back on the highjinx of their youth with a mixture of amazement and nostalgia.

We do learn from our mistakes. Some of us did things we would be highly embarrassed to admit now. Some of us did things which were definitely illegal. But we grew up and partly as a result of some of this type of misdeeds, we have become responsible.

Teens definitely need some time to let off steam but hopefully not as bad as this. When we hear about teens misbehaving, we should just remember what we did at that age and that teen behavior hasn't changed much in the last 50 - 60 years.5bYzd


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 7, 2014 at 12:51 pm

> I think the point of this post is that we were all teenagers once and got up to mischief of one sort or the other.

Not all teenagers pull this kind of stuff, by a long shot. I sure never shot bottle rockets at any human targets, nor would it ever occur to me to do that, nor would I classify that as harmless fun, and nor would I say that anyone who grew up doing things like that regularly was normal (sorry use the bottle rocket analogy for that).

One of the problems we seem to have, albeit less now, is that some of these behaviors are tolerated. For example the egg wars. I think it's a real problem. The excuse that this is just "blowing off steam" cannot be taken seriously ... like you can attach a pressure gauge to a teen ager and say ... oh yeah, the steam pressure is too high on this one ... he needs to cause some mayhem, toss some eggs or shoot bottle rockets at some defenseless kids ... ah, for the good of the community, of course. How ridiculous.

"Steam" is just a figure of speech for people who cannot control themselves or their behavior and who lack the judgement to predict the consequences of their actions to others and themselves.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 7, 2014 at 12:52 pm

> just remember what we did at that age and that teen behavior hasn't changed much in the last 50 - 60 years.5bYzd

Huh ... I think that is the point of the article ... it has fairly drastically.


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Posted by Immature brains
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 7, 2014 at 3:24 pm

Totally agree:
Not all teenagers pull this kind of stuff, by a long shot. I sure never shot bottle rockets at any human targets, nor would it ever occur to me to do that, nor would I classify that as harmless fun, and nor would I say that anyone who grew up doing things like that regularly was normal.

Defining out-of-control boys as "normal" teenagers is self serving and not accurate. Girls are much less destructive and the majority of boys aren't violent either.


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