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Revisiting a Halloween classic

October 29, 2015
By Joyce Schenk , Westfield Republican

Dear readers, this timely tribute to Halloween was published 26 years ago, the first year Moseyin' Along appeared. Take a trip back to childhood with me.

Ghosts and goblins and spooky stirrings in the's a deliciously scary time of year for kids. At least that's the way it was during my trick-or-treating years.

In those days, there were no movies like Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street to terrify youngsters with vivid pictures of gore and violence. Instead, the kids in our neighborhood prepared for the haunting holiday with an evening of ghost stories and tall tales a few days before Halloween.

The stories were told in great detail by some of the older members of our neighborhood group, those who had reached the advanced age of 12.

As scary as the story times were, they were a non-threatening way to taste fright without being overwhelmed by it.

Near the end of October, it was a tradition for the neighborhood kids to gather after supper on my family's broad porch for a ghost story marathon..

The porch was furnished with a comfortable assortment of lawn chairs, gliders and a porch swing. The swing was the agreed-upon seat of honor for the storytellers

Throughout the evening, Mom kept our big orange-enameled popcorn bowl filled with warm butter-drenched popcorn. The irresistible fragrance served as a kid-magnet, drawing all the youngsters to the event.

The scarier the stories, the faster the popcorn was munched. And, as the evening wore on, the smaller kids drew closer together, watching the storyteller in wide-eyed fascination.

The speakers' voices dropped to a dramatic whisper as tales were told of tombstones and skeletons, gypsy curses and haunted houses.

When evening darkened into night, the younger ones would leave in pairs to walk to their nearby homes. None wanted to travel down the dimly lit street alone after one of these sessions of spooky tales.

Finally, my sister, brother and I were left with the older, braver members of the group. Digging into the orange bowl for the last of the popcorn, we'd listen to the scariest of the story collection.

The one that always sent me scurrying inside was a tale about a ghost who became enraged at some foolish mortal. The spirit bellowed (demonstrated convincingly by 12-year-old Charlie)."Sloooowly I turn! Step by step I come for YOU.!

I could never bring myself to stay on the porch long enough to find out what that threatening spook did when he reached his hapless prey.

All this was, of course, a prelude to one of the favorite celebrations of our childhood years, Halloween.

In our neighborhood, the witching night never disappointed us. We'd gather under the streetlight in groups, then make the rounds for trick-or-treating.

At each stop there would be grandmas and grandpas or moms and dads or childless couples eager to greet us. All of these caring adults, who knew us so well, gave award-winning performances of guessing our identities in spite of our disguises. To the delight of every kid, each grownup made a fuss over the costumes we'd so carefully created (in those days, none were bought).

Then with laughter all around, the adults would hand out goodies that had become their traditional Halloween treats.

We knew we'd get popcorn balls from Mrs. Young. Mrs. Hannigan always had candied apples. And, at the end of the block, Mr. and Mrs. Owens had cups of fresh cider, the perfect refreshment for thirsty goblins.

In those long ago days, for each of us growing up along Carleton Street, this was a memorable time. The ghost stories, the excitement of choosing the right disguise, the fun of "fooling" the adults in our worldall of it made the month of October and its final celebration of Halloween, an unforgettable part of a happy childhood.



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