Thursday, February 28, 2013

Alligator Purse

Besides the singing circle games on the 1930s playground, we also jumped rope. That did require equipment – a long length of clothesline -- and the big girl who owned one got to be pretty bossy.  She chose the big girl to turn the other end, started the chants and chose the first jumper.  The routine I remember best went something like this:
I had a little BROTHER and his name was JIM
I put him in the BATHTUB, to LEARN him how to SWIM,
He DRANK all the WATER,  he ATE all the SOAP,
He DIED that NIGHT with a BUBBLE in his THROAT.  (What do you suppose Freud would have made of that?)  Then the girl playing Jim, already skipping inside the rope, was joined by daring others, all intent on not tripping the moving ropes --
IN came the DOCTOR, IN came the NURSE
and the line that still haunts me –
IN came the LADY with the ALLIGATOR PURSE
--after which OUT went the DOCTOR and the others one by one, ending with a triumphant
Out goes..Y..O..U!

Some of the challenges for the girl skipping inside the rope are listed in another chant—
TEDdy bear, TEDdy bear, turn aROUND,
TEDdy bear, TEDdy bear, touch the GROUND 
A lot more skill was needed for an advanced version known as Double Dutch, which I’m amazed to learn survives to this day in some places as a varsity sport.  We didn’t get to try that often, because it required two long clotheslines, which were turned in opposite directions.  But a few of the verses linger –
Oh dutch, double dutch, Mother’s got a baby,
Oh joy, it’s a boy, Daddy’s nearly crazy,
Wrap him up in tissue paper…” 
I'm afraid I don't remember what happened to him after that.
So what I want to know is, were those still out there when you were in school?  Are your daughters, grand-daughters playing jumprope today?  Do they even know what a clothesline is?




  1. They were!
    Alternate version "He drank up all the water,/ he ate up all the soap,/ he tried to eat the bathtub,/ but it wouldn't go down his throat."
    I never saw the lasses at Crispus Attucks jumping rope, but then, recess had been eliminated in favor of preparation for high-stakes testing.

  2. (1) Happy birthday--a day or two ago, I believe?

    (2) Yes, we were still jumping rope in the early 1960s (not that I was very good at it, being born clumsy, but I jumped gamely anyway). Your "little brother" and "alligator purse" rhymes are novelties to me, but here's one I remember--relevant in regard to Queen Beatrix's recent abdication:

    I'm a little Dutch girl, dressed in blue,
    Here are some things I used to do:
    Salute to the Captain, curtsy to the Queen,
    Stand on the deck of a submarine!

  3. Wrap him up in tissue paper, send him down the elevator,
    Out goes Y. O. U. !

  4. Did you know that the "lady with the alligator purse" is none other than Susan B. Anthony? I learned that last year when my daughter was doing a school history project.

  5. I did know that Susan B. Anthony always carried an alligator purse -- never thought to connect that with the playground rhyme...

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