The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #110753 Message #2501752
Posted By: GUEST,FransDotir
25-Nov-08 - 10:09 PM
Thread Name: kids' game: I'm goin' down town to smoke my pipe
Subject: RE: 'I'm goin' down town to smoke my pipe,
Saturday, April 6, 1996 5:50 pm (To the Storytell Listserve)
How delightful to find someone else who grew up playing my favorite game.
For you and anyone else who's interested, here's the rest of
what I remember about it.
It took at least 5 or 6 kids to play and mostly it was a game that girls
liked, though occasionally we could get a younger boy to participate if
there wasn't anybody to play catch with.
We usually played it at our house, a late 1930s brick bungalow
with a low cement front porch. We lived on the corner, which gave us plenty
of sidewalk. One of the older kids - nine or ten - would be the mother and
another would be the witch. Those two roles had a lot of ritualized speaking
parts which the little kids couldn't always remember. Before the game began
the witch would choose a category of food, such as "pies" and then she'd go
up on the porch and wait for the counting out ritual to proceed.
The rest of the children would sit on the step at the end of the walk and the
mother would count them out, chanting the refrain we've mentioned before:
I'm going downtown to smoke my pipe
And I won't be back 'til Saturday night.
I'll whip you black and I'll whip you blue,
Especially you, my daughter Sue.
As soon as she had pointed to "Sue", the mother would casually saunter around
the corner walk making a big show of smoking an imaginary pipe, while the
witch would come down and take "Sue" up on the porch, meanwhile whispering to
her the name of a particular pie (blueberry, apple, lemon, etc.) which "Sue"
was supposed to remember for the second part of the game.
When the mother returned from her stroll around the corner, she would ask,
"Where's daughter Sue?" The other children would reply in unison that the
witch had come to get her. Then the mother would repeat the rhyme and count
out another "daughter Sue". This part of the game continued until all the
children were up on the porch.
When the mother returned to find all the children gone, she'd make a great
fuss, lamenting loudly for her lost children. Eventually, she would go up to
the porch and pretend to knock on the witch's front door. Another ritual
dialogue would ensue:
Mother: Have you seen my children?
Witch: Yes, they were here, and I gave them a piece of bread and butter and
sent them down to Slippery street.
The mother would thank the witch, then walk out to the front sidewalk and
pretend she was on Slippery street, slipping and and sliding all over the
sidewalk. This part of the game would be repeated several times with the
mother returning to the witch to report, "I went down to Slippery street but
they weren't there." The witch replied, "They came back and I gave them
another slide of bread and butter and sent them down to Noisy street."
When the mother had looked for her children on Noisy street, Prickly street
and any other street the witch could think of to have her act out the name
of, the game would move into a new phase, another and rather bizarre dialogue
between the mother and witch.
Mother: May I come in?
Witch: No, your shoes are dirty.
Mother: I'll take off my shoes.
Witch: Your feet 'll stink. (to great hiliarity of the group)
Mother: I'll cut off my feet.
Witch: No, you'll get blood all over my beautiful carpet.
Mother: I'll put on golden slippers.
Witch: (giving in reluctantly) All right, you can come in.
Meanwhile, the children stood in a row on the porch with their hands
stretched out, palms up. The mother would pretend to look around the room
curiously and eventually let her eyes fall on the children. "Oh, what a
beautiful piano!" she would say , then go over and pretend to be playing the
moutstretched hands of the children. When she touched their hands, the
children would respond, "Mama, Mama!" The mother would turn to the witchd
and say, "That sounds like the voices of my children?"
However, the witch would deny it and the mother would not press the issue.
Eventually, ( and I may have forgotten some detail here), the mother would
invite herself to dinner, overcoming any of the witch's objections.
That's when the game would move out onto the sidewalk again and turn into
what Bronner calls "Pies." The mother would stand behind a designated line
with the children and begin to guess the names of pies or whatever category
of food the witch was seving for dinner. When she called out a particular
pie, say "Lemon," whichever child had been given that name would race the
mother to the big elm tree next to the street. This part of the game went on
until each child had raced the mother to the tree and the game was over - a
sort of anti-climax.
We kept ourselves busy for 45 minutes to an hour with this game and I found
it very satisfying with its elements of storytelling, slapstick and role
playing. Other games we played were Hide and Seek (of course), Tag, Giant
Steps or Mother, May I? and a game called Whale, which involved jumping off
the porch. I thought that one was dumb, but my sister, two years younger,