Wednesday, April 7, 2010

One song leads to another


I found myself thinking about childhood songs last night. Music has always been a strong influence. When I was a child, nearly everyone in the family played an instrument (great-uncle Spencer was a Grand National Champion fiddler) and singing was a natural pastime. My public singing debut was a solo performance in our kindergarten graduation ceremony. I sang The Little White Duck. I can still sing it, complete with ominous tones when the little red snake comes along.

Grade school brought an opportunity to sing in a girl's group. All the girls were in 8th grade except me, a 2nd grader. I could hold my own with harmony but I suspect I was also in there for the Cute Factor, especially when we sang I Love Little Willy (I Do, Ma-Ma.) An early claim to fame: our group performed for J.F.K when he came through Portland campaigning for the presidency.

Humming I Love Little Willy sparked a memory of The Sunday School Bus. My parents would make sure that my brother and I were out on the corner every Sunday morning, waiting for the bus that took us to the 1st Baptist Church. We were the first stop on the route so we had our choice of seats. The bus cut a wide swath through the community of St. John and there wasn't an empty seat anywhere by the time the driver finally headed to the church.

The best part of the ride was coming home. Two wonderful men drove the bus, alternating Sundays. Both of them loved kids and it showed. They had sturdy rules about safety, of course. We had to remain in the seats, or else. They helped us stay in the seats by teaching us songs and singing them with us, silly songs, songs that sometimes took us to the edge. I'm still fond of Helen Had A Steamboat:

Helen had a steamboat,
The steamboat had a bell,
Helen went to Heaven and the
steamboat went to Helen had a steamboat, the steamboat had a bell...

Those were heady lyrics for a Baptist kid, because we almost said...you know...

My brother and I were always the last ones off the bus so we had a nice long ride, plenty of time to learn all those songs, the 3 and 4-part rounds, the classic campfire tunes, all of them. We sang Found A Peanut, and Be Kind To Your Web-Footed Friends, and The Worms Go In. We even sang (good Baptist children that we were) Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer On The Wall. We sang serious songs, too, songs such as Battle Hymn of the Republic. And then, sometimes, the drivers would teach us parody verses, mine eyes have seen the glory of the burning of the school...

It's no wonder I grew up with a goofy sense of musical humor.

There's a classic round, One Bottle of Pop, that I would dearly love to teach to some library staff to sing at Staff Day. I changed the words to reflect the library (One library card two library cards...) and ran it by Shannon. She gave it an enthusiastic review so I shall hunt for staff who would like to participate in some musical fun.

Overheard on Twitter: learned 2 things today from twitter 1) the new edition of Scrabble will allow use of proper nouns 2) lots of people think this is a bad idea

Next time: humorists old and new, if I can remember what I wanted to write regarding them. Stay tuned.

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