Halloween was a rowdy affair in the 1930s: Kids set fires, tipped over outhouses, threw rocks at cops, demanded repeal of the ruinous Smoot-Hawley tariff, etc.

Years ago I wrote about the Depression-era Halloween and got an angry letter: Why are you giving people ideas? Good point. Your average miscreant reads that, turns to his confederates and says, "This scribe here has some capital ideas for mayhem. Who's in?"

On the off chance my influential powers are still intact, let me say: Don't riot tomorrow. As long as I'm throwing my weight around, here are some other suggestions for the festivities:

If you don't have candy, just don't answer the door. Better nothing than, say, a Lucky Charm marshmallow taped to a nickel.

Least favorite treat this year: Pleasant Valley Organic Blu-berry Chews with Exploding Dye Pack.

The best candy is "Fun Size" bars, whose dimensions are calibrated to induce amusement. The larger bars are known in the industry as "Overwhelming Quantity of Amusement Size," and can harm small kids unable to metabolize that amount of Fun.

Go with brand-name merchandise; if you choose some "retro" candy like Pecan Rudies or Clove Bangers or something else from the '20s, kids will be confused, because they have no ad campaign to provide context: I don't know what eating this candy says about me! Don't put them through that.

Kids: Say thank you. I know it's embarrassing and it's kinda weird to be standing there as the lady is making a big deal like she never saw a pirate, and oh man, she has NECCO wafers -- but say thank you anyway, lest you be an ungrateful wretch.

Parents, be warned: This might be the first year your presence is not required. At first you're at the door with your adorable 3-year-old, then you're banished to the sidewalk, then asked to hang back half a block -- and then you watch them scamper off into the hungry dark with friends.

Halloween is scary, but not for the reasons kids think.

jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858