It was an area of Nanaimo that streetlights didn't yet reach: a stretch of road so dark that cars full of teenagers tested their bravery (or foolhardiness) by turning off the headlights and seeing how long they could last in the inky, tree-lined darkness. It was usually only a few seconds.
During Halloween driving down this stretch of Jingle Pot road dubbed "Shady Mile" was a thrilling pastime.
The flicker of carved jack-o-lanterns lined the roadside three-deep all the way from Shady Mile Market to the Jingle Pot substation.
It was something of a pumpkin resting place, a final jack-o-lantern farewell, left by the hundreds of locals who flocked there the day after Halloween to leave their offerings.
The tradition emerged in the neighbourhood rather organically decades ago, though no one seems certain about exactly when or why.
Today, however, things are different.
Closure of the local market two years ago and the Pepper Muffin Country Inn this month, as well as the construction of a new fire station in 2010, is testament to a rural community that is changing.
Years of developments have cut through the thick expanse of trees that gave the Mile its shady quality and contributed to an increase in traffic.
Some residents feel the development of subdivisions have diminished the spooky atmosphere of the area.
Others say that perhaps it's time for the tradition to find a new home, or just peter out.
The politics of development are complex, pitching those who favour heritage and tradition against those who tout the virtues of progress and growth. These days, only one thing is certain: nothing ever stays the same.
"It's not as spooky as it used to be," said resident Lorne Thayer of the area.
"Before, it seemed like the whole of Nanaimo would come out here and throw a pumpkin out. Now they don't. But it doesn't have the mystique it did, right?
"It's so open now."
Jill Scyrup, who has lived on Jingle Pot Road for 37 years, said she used to have to wait 30 minutes to get from the nearby substation to her driveway because there were so many cars in the area, dropping off pumpkins.
Scyrup also has fond memories of the Shady Mile Market, a seven-acre farm that boasted hay rides, a petting zoo, local produce and an annual pumpkin festival started by former owner Bill Earthy. Earthy, whose motto was "as local as we can get it," closed up shop in 2008, conceding the market simply didn't make enough money to survive.
"I really liked the people who ran it," said Scyrup. "You could phone at 5: 30 and say, 'Have you got any red peppers left? Well, I'm coming right now.' How many places can you do that?"
Ingrid Roos and her partner Jack purchased the market from Earthy and renamed it Benson Meadows Market. They opened in April 2009, only to shut it down again a year later. Roos is more concerned about the fact that the market site still boasts a 'for lease' sign than she is about the dwindling post-Halloween pumpkin tradition.
"Last year I nearly had an accident coming down that road, with all the rotting pumpkins. My car literally just skidded down," said Roos. "It really should be cleaned out because it gets dangerous. And messy."
Roos added that as a resident, she feels changes in the area are welcome.
"Yeah, there's a lot of development here. But it's turning into country living, which we really love."
Not all residents enjoy the retreat of the forest, however. Last fall, a petition was circulated and signed by 17 neighbours regarding the removal of trees on one Shady Mile property. While seeking an injunction from the B.C. Supreme Court on April 19, which was granted, the Regional District of Nanaimo cited complaints from residents that the logging was "destroying the ambiance of Shady Mile."
With new residents in the area comes an increase in traffic, which can also shift the ambiance of an area.
Scyrup estimates that local and through-traffic from people travelling to the north end has more than doubled in recent years.
Marlene McIntosh runs the Whitehouse on Long Lake bed and breakfast, and recently bought the Pepper Muffin Country Inn business, formerly located on Jingle Pot road.
"I don't live in the area, but it doesn't mean I don't love it and enjoy going there," said McIntosh, a resident of eight years. "It might take me an extra 15 or 20 minutes but I really feel like I've experienced something special."
McIntosh worries about the "magic" of the area getting lost, and thinks consideration should be taken with new developments in terms of how they work within the existing environment.
Where old traditions leave off, new ones take their place. The pumpkin festival, along with its enormous pumpkins and scores of jubilant children, has since moved to Beban Park, and the new fire hall is hosting a fireworks display in the area on Nov. 3.
"New traditions are coming in. But it was nice to see all the pumpkins out here," said Thayer.
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