Tuesday, October 20, 2009

School Days, Ghoul Days

One of my best memories from elementary school in the ‘70s-‘80s was Halloween. Every year my public school hosted a fundraising Halloween carnival on the Saturday before the holiday, held on school grounds. Each grade or class sponsored a booth, game, or event. The kid whose dad had a big tractor ran a hay ride through the back field. One 5th grade class made a haunted house in their portable classroom where you had to stick your hands in bowls full of scary items: the bowl of eyeballs was made up of peeled grapes, the bowl of brains was actually a bowlful of cold spaghetti, and the vat of blood was just Elmer’s glue. But the power of suggestion was strong in the darkened room with spooky sounds playing on the crackly record player.

There was always a judged costume contest, so everyone showed up fully involved. Since this was back when children were still allowed to walk places unaccompanied by adults, you’d usually see several other kids walking down the street in costume toward the school with you.

The prizes for the costumes and the various games were simple, usually just candy or a cheap trinket. I once won an Erik Estrada “CHiPs” poster there. But we all loved this annual event as if it was the most exclusive black-tie event of the social season.

In music class during the week before Halloween we always cheered when the teacher brought out the film strip projector. Every year we spent that class watching a sing-along film that took traditional tunes and changed the lyrics to fit the holiday. My favorite one of all was to the tune of “There is a Tavern in the Town,” which was changed to “There is a Haunted House in Town.” Even at 37 I find myself singing this to myself every October. The lyrics as I remember them:

There is a Haunted House in town
(in the town)
Where all the creatures gather 'round
(gather 'round)
Where the cobwebs hangAnd the window shutters bang
And all the creatures gather 'round!

There is a Haunted House in town
(in the town)
Where all the walls are tumbling down
(tumbling down)
Don’t you trick or treat, or YOU’RE the one they’ll eat
When the moon shines on the Haunted House!

Oh the bats and cats and witches
Keep the skeletons in stitches
As they sip their spider cider in the Haun-ted House

They're there!
They're there!
They're really there!
(really there)
Watch out
Be Careful
And beware!
(oh bewaaaare)
Don't you trick or treat
Or you're the one they'll eat
When the moon shines on the Haunted House!


On a side note, I credit this film strip for solidifying in my brain the difference between there, their, and they’re. Those sneaky teachers always found a way to teach us even when we didn’t realize we were learning!

I absolutely loved my elementary school experience. I know that in many school districts music classes are being cut for lack of funding of the arts. It makes me sad to hear this because every learning experience at that age is beneficial. What seems simple and merely fun at the time can still teach concepts that last a lifetime.

I tip my witch’s hat to Rosewood Elementary. Every year I miss you but I thank you for so many memories.


  1. I think that went:
    There is a haunted house in town
    where all the creatures gather round
    where the cob webs hang and the window shutters bang
    when the moon shines on the haunted house

    1. I'm just happy someone knows what I'm talking about! So many of my classmates have lost this memory.