Trick or Treat – It’s the Social Media at the Door

“This is to the person or persons who put the nasty halloween artical in the waterville times i think you are a low life how dare you talk about children like that halloween is for all babys toddlers young kids and teens even adults enjoy halloween so who are you to put an age on it,sounds to me live a really warped life and you cant even tell who you are well i wouldnt let my grandkids go to your house ;your nasty mean,stuck up and have no right to even be around any children.’’ Sherry Rice

“Best editorial this week – check out the Waterville Times!’’ Diane Barnes Beach

“I think the stunt you pulled by printing what you did was offensive, judgemental, and ill willed. You should not be proud of printing something as cruel and disgusting as the column you printed. You should be ashamed! I hope your Halloween is as crappy as your column.’’ Sarah Penner

“I totally agree with this week’s editorial in the Times!!! Halloween isn't for teenagers to get candy and cause trouble. They should stay home. Elementary and younger are the ones who should be out with their parents.’’ Cindy Gallagher

Those are just a sample of some of the online responses appearing in the past few days in Waterville, N.Y.  They were aimed at a recent editorial in community weekly newspaper, the Waterville Times.  The paper’s editor and publisher, Pat Louise had reminded readers in her editorial that Halloween is for children, and that good manners are expected.  But her suggestion that trick-or-treaters and their parents behave politely and not be greedy turned into a social media bashing of both the paper and Louise.

As in every issue of the Central New York community weekly newspaper, Louise wrote the editorial that ran in the issue of Oct. 26. It was entitled ‘Halloween is for Kids’ and contained 10 points for parents and children to remember. These included: If you shave (facial or leg hair) you are too old to be trick or treating. Do not knock if the light is off before 7 p.m. That means we have run out of candy. There is no candy machine in the back. Out of candy means out of candy.

But the one that seems to have touched off a Facebook frenzy was the last one: Do say thank you. It will take you much less time to say that than to stand there and hear me bemoan the generation of children who have lost the ability for a simple please and thank you. And I may not look it, but I can snatch that candy right back as fast as you took it. You come to my house, you follow my rules.

Most of the 2,500 subscribers receive their Times in the mail on Wednesdays. By Wednesday night, Lisa Tilbe of Oriskany Falls, a village outside of Waterville, had scanned the editorial and posted it on her Facebook page to her 484 friends with the following comment: I can't believe someone could be s…o cruel as to write stuff like this. Halloween is supposed to be a fun holiday to be enjoyed by all not mean people like this. I am GLAD I don't live in Waterville. My children have manners and they do use them, I think its wrong for someone to start schooling parents on if their child doesn't use manners they will snatch candy back from them, what is wrong with people?

And that kicked off a slew of responses on Tilbe’s Facebook page, all agreeing with her in ever increasing profane and suggestive ideas as to what should be done with the person who wrote the article. Early on one of the posters said it likely was written by Louise, so the commentators were aware of the identity of the likely author and turned the comments more personal, including that she should now be known as the wicked witch of Waterville.

By the time Louise came to work Thursday morning, the number of people on Tilbe’s Facebook who responded to her comments had reached 50. One of Tilbe’s Facebook friends works at the Times and had access to the comments. (Louise has a Facebook page but is not friends with Tilbe or any of the people who commented, either on Facebook or in real life.)

Times employee Kristi Kosmoski showed Louise the comments. While at first the Times staff all had a good laugh over it, it was also baffling as to why people were so upset.

“When Kristi said did I want to read some negative comments on the editorial, I thought she had meant the one from the previous week,’’ Louise said. “That was about how the Waterville School District was right to think about allowing kids to attend school there from outside the district. I

figured people from the neighboring smaller districts would be upset.

“Kristi said no, it was the Halloween one. I said, I wrote how Halloween is for little kids. Who could argue with that.’’

Plenty of people, it turns out. By Thursday afternoon, comments on Tilbe’s original post had exceeded 100. Only one person, Jaime Rice, said anything that was less than 100 percent against the editorial. Rice, whose sister is Tilbe, had originally called the then unknown writer a number of profanities, saying if the writer took candy back from her child she would ‘turn into the Halloween psycho and f her up.’

However, when Rice learned it was Louise who wrote the article, she softened somewhat. ‘Trick or treating makes kids tired from all the walking they’re gonna get crabby a little and not say thank you every time. It seemed rude to me maybe some of us took it the wrong way?’

Louise, though, said she had no doubt as to why Rice had a bit of a reversal. “Also in that issue is a story on the Waterville football team’s playoff game, written by me. The lead is about the Waterville player who made a fantastic catch. That player was Rice’s son.

“I think she suddenly realized that uh oh, her son also plays basketball and has another year of football and perhaps ticking off the editor would not bode well for his future highlights in stories.’’

At the same time the Facebook furor took place on Tilbe’s page, people unaware of it were independently conducting a discussion on the Waterville Times Facebook page and their own pages in agreement with the editorial. People coming into the office also offered unsolicited support of the editorial. Most of the comments said how Halloween has become a night for teens to vandalize the communities and they agreed it should be for little kids.

“Great editorial,’’ Gerda Mortelette said. “I took it to work and people made copies of it. Everyone said this is right on target, that Halloween is out of control.’’

At that night’s annual community Halloween party at the elementary school, put on by the Waterville Rotary Club, Louise attended as a judge for the costume contest. A number of parents at the party – which was for children up to sixth grade – said they loved the editorial and wished it could be enforced to keep Halloween for little kids.

One mom, Jessica Poyer, told Louise that her daughter, now in kindergarten, was frightened last year when she saw a bunch of teens spraying each other with shaving cream. “She cried and we ended up going home after about 10 houses,’’  Poyer said. “These teens don’t remember when they were young and how much they looked forward to Halloween.’’

One father said after reading it, he gave his 15-year-old son two choices. “I told him you can go out with me and mom and your little brother and sister, or stay home and hand out candy,’’ Robert Piersma said. “I agreed with what you said. Keep it for little kids and not a night where the older ones cause harm.’’

This is not the first Halloween editorial Louise has written in her 10 years as publisher that speaks to the other activities that take place in the area on Halloween night. In the neighboring village of Oriskany Falls, the tradition is to set bonfires in the streets. Three years ago, one of the fires caught the wind and went out of control, burning a telephone pole. The volunteer fire department had trouble getting to the pole because of the burning boxes and wood in the streets.

In Waterville, teens follow the classic Halloween vandalism by throwing eggs at cars and storefronts, pelting each other and anything else with shaving cream and toilet paper and smashing pumpkins in the streets. As a deterrent for the temptation the two 6×8 foot windows in her office are to egg throwers, she has often handed out candy at her office. One year this came in handy when a junior high student got shaving cream in his eyes and needed medical attention.

But because the Halloween foot traffic for kids trick or treating is fairly light along Main Street, which has few residences, she has the last couple of years handed out candy at her house in the village. “I have a floppy polka dot clown hat and matching big bowtie and a rubber red nose that squeaks,’’ she said. “I set up the candy bowl, which lights up and makes spooky noises, where our sidewalk meets the main sidewalk so the kids don’t have to make the long trek up to the porch.’’


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