Mama Lisa's World
International Music & Culture
A place for poems, songs, rhymes and traditions from around the world for both kids and grown-ups to enjoy!

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I love to hear the different ways people spoke in the past. It’s similar to how I enjoy hearing different languages. You can imagine life in another time or place.

Quite a while back, Arlene Charest wrote me with some rhymes and sayings she remembered from growing up in the 1940’s. I felt these are important to try to preserve. Here are a couple, along with what Arlene had to say about the times…

I know so many rhymes and sayings from 1940 and during the war when we could roller skate down the center of a no longer busy street (no gas, no rubber, no young men), holding hands and singing, “Coming in on a wing on a prayer…”. We did a lot of ball bouncing:

One Two Three a Nation,
I observed my confirmation,
On the day of decoration,
One Two Three a Nation.

The other one was:

“A” my name is Arlene,
My husband’s name is Alfred,
We live in Albany
And we eat Apples
, and so on through the alphabet.

My grandmother had an old victrola with the wind up handle and, “It’s a long way to Tiperarie; it’s a long way to go; it’s a long way to Tiperarie, to the sweetest girl I know…” and of course, “There’ll be blue birds over the white cliffs of Dover” which everybody old knows. -Arlene

Arlene mentioned other sayings in an earlier email:

“Go up to your kind policeman; he’ll tell you just where to go.”

-From NYC school system, to keep children from getting frightened if they got lost, around 1940.

Also, my husband remembers his uncle singing a rhyme:

“Sitting on a curbstone chewing Pepsin gum….
Go on you big fat lobster, said the little bum.”

And that brings me to expressions like “Eh Gads and Saints Preserve Us and For Heaven’s Sake” – nobody, boy or girl ever swore that I can recall, but there were many funny exclamations like these.

There were wonderful rope jumping rhymes and I am trying to bring them back to mind – if I had a word or two, I know it would come. Maybe one of your readers knows part of a phrase and I could then remember.

Just tickling our memories. -Arlene

If anyone would like to share any rhymes or songs from the 1930’s and ’40’s to help Arlene remember, please feel free to comment below or email me.

Lisa

UPDATE: We found some of these songs below. You can find the lyrics to Go up to your kind policeman; he’ll tell you just where to go at the link with a recording by Tiny Tim.

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This artilce was posted on Wednesday, July 25th, 2007 at 4:43 pm and is filed under American Kids Songs, Ball Bouncing Rhymes, Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, English, Languages, Proverbs, Rhymes by Theme, Sayings, Sayings from the 1940's, USA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

53 Responses to “Old Sayings and Rhymes from the 1940’s”

  1. Martha Says:

    My grandfather was always saying to me when I would wish for things in the 1940’s as a grade schooler, “If wishes were fishes, we’d all have a fry.” He had all kinds of sayings like this, but I’ll have to put my thinking cap on to come up with more.

    Thanks for a wonderful website!

  2. Lisa Says:

    Thanks for sharing. That’s a great one!

    -Lisa

  3. Nelda Says:

    Looking for an old rhyme that goes “When God gave out hair I thought He said …… ” it was making fun of yourself or someone, sometime in the late forties and fifties.

  4. Debbie Harris Says:

    Would like to know if anyone knows of an old ryhme or poem that starts out Mary Marlar jumped in the fire
    The fire was so hot she jumped in the pot
    The pot was so hot she jumped in the crack

    I may have some of the sentences out of order and there are more sentences, but they elude me.

    My Grandmother used to say that to me long years ago.

    Anyone’s help would be greatly appreciated.

  5. Maggie Towne Says:

    How funny, I was looking for the lyrics to a song sung in childhood, and I think someone here knows it too!

    They must have put out a book of safety songs in the 1940’s, and it included a song that went something like this:

    Go up to that kind police man, the very first one you meet,
    and simply say, I’ve lost my way I cannot find my street

    but I know my name and address, and telephone number too…

    If anyone could help me fill in the blanks, that would be great…

    What I am really looking for, is the lyrics to the song about the oil burner:

    Outside, the weather is damp and cold, the wind has brought a storm
    ….
    But the oil burner purrs and purrs and purrs and the house is snug and warm.
    A click and very soon on it goes, though no one does a think….
    ….how I love to here it sing.

    Can anyone help me fill in the blanks on these songs??

  6. Lauren Says:

    My grandma used to sing me to sleep with an old song-

    ” I love you, a bushel and a peck,
    a bushel and a peck, and a hug around the neck,
    a hug around the neck and a barrel and a peep,
    barrel and a peep and I’m talkin in my sleep,
    about you…. about you….
    I love you, a bushel and a peck,
    you bet your pretty neck I do!”

  7. Frank Says:

    My Grandfather would always say, “People in Hell want Ice Water”

    And when I would say “Hey Grandpa! where are you going?” he would say “Pigs ass for a ham sandwich” LOL, That’s my Grandpa! God Bless him.

  8. Maggie Says:

    When my brother and I would say “I want….” my dad would tell us……
    “You might want horns but you will probably die butt-headed”

  9. Maggie Says:

    My dad was always whistling a tune as he worked and when I would try to whistle like he did my grandmother would say…

    ” Whistling girls, like crowing hens, will always come to some bad end.”

    (never have figured out what she thought was bad about whistling!”

  10. anne Says:

    my brother had a book when he was small in it was a rhyme hes just died age 61
    ball ball bouncy
    bingos in the bath
    bunnys eating lettuces
    up the garden path
    moucies in the larder
    gee gees rather lame
    ball ball bouncie
    lets have a game

    anyone know it !

  11. Gayle Says:

    My mom used to sing this “lullaby” to us and I sing it to my grandchildren:

    There was a little dutch boy who went into a store. He bought a pound of sausages and laid them on the floor. And then the little dutch boy whistled up a tune and all the little sausages danced around the room, boom boom. There was another verse, but I won’t add that here.

  12. Patt Awlex Says:

    Does anyone know the one about “…Musolini fell in the grease…” It was a fairly long jump rope rhyme. Thanks.

  13. susan lambert Says:

    yes i remember “ball ball boucey” so well. my mum taught it to me when i was small, i taught it to my boys and now they are teaching it to theirs but i’ve never seen it in print, which is why i’ve just googled it and found this site!

  14. Fonda Gorden Says:

    All of us kids use to tell each ;
    I’m the boss applesauce
    Don’t be wise bubble eyes
    I’ll cut you down to peanut size

    And Mom would get mad at us kids I mean we knew she was really mad when she’d say

    I brought you into this world I’ll take you out

    And when Dad was mad he would say randy, dolores, tom. then my name

  15. Sarah Hilton Says:

    I can relate to so many of these stories, sayings, etc. When we, as children use to ask my dad where he was going, he’d say, “I’m going to see a man about a horse”; or, “I’m going to open a keg of nails.” Once I asked him what the red and green flashing lights on an airplane in the night sky meant, and he told me it meant “Don’t chew bubble-gum.” I can’t look at a plane flying at night without thinking, “Don’t chew bubblegum!” My mom used the expression, “I’m going to yank you bald-headed” when she was mad at one of us kids, and she’d call us by our full names..like “Sarah Ellen!”. She also told us that we’d “drive a wooden woman crazy”. ………and the songs? We used to sit outside in Summer, watching the fireflies; we’d sing songs like She’ll Be Coming “Round the Mountain, Goodnight Irene, By the Light of the Silvery Moon, and Wait Until the Sunshines Nellie…..wonderful memories…..

  16. Sue Russell Says:

    I remember my dad singing “So long, Oolong, how long you gonna be gone? Now don’t stay too long, Oolong, hurry back home!” Where do you think he ever got that?! Also, starting out on a trip he would hurry us into the car with, “Let’s begin to commence to go.” He lived to be 6 days short of 94 and to the end always had a comment to make us laugh.

  17. Lisa Says:

    That’s neat! If you’d like to record it, I can post your recording here so we can hear the intonation!

    Mama Lisa

  18. Barbara McIntire Says:

    Anybody remember this song from perhaps 40’s or early 50’s.
    Bless my daddy, my dear dear daddy.
    He’s the nicest daddy in the world.
    When we have good weather, we go out in the sun.
    We play together and we have lots and lots of fun.
    He buys me popcorn and ice cream sodas.
    Then I fall asleep upon his knee.
    I love daddy.
    My dear dear daddy.
    And my daddy loves me…

    We had that on a 45rpm in the late 50’s. I thought it was sung by Patty Page but it’s not listed as one of her songs.
    Anybody?

  19. Paul Says:

    My grandfather used to say…it’s like wipin your butt on a wagon wheel, there’s no end to it!

  20. Brooke Says:

    Response to old lady mirlar.. I also heard this on an eppisode of Andy Griffith.. The old crazy mountain guy quoted it.. LOL

    Old Lady Mirlar She Jumped In the Fire (pronounced Far)
    The Far was so hot she jumped in the pot
    The Pot was so black she jumped in the crack
    The Crack was so high she jumped to the sky
    The Sky was so blue she jumped in a canoe
    The Canoe was so deep she fell in a creek
    The Creek was so Shallow (Pronounced Shaler)
    She went to the tower
    The Tower was so Rotten she fell in the cotton
    The cotton was so white she peeled a bark
    The Bark was so brown She went to Town
    The Town was so clean she found a bean
    The Bean was so red she combed her hair and wished her self dead..

    LOL I believe that is how it goes.. My grandmother taught me that when I was just a little girl. She passed away about 10 years ago and I never really had the chance to write all the wonderful things down she used to tell us. She was born in 1912 and grew up during the depression.. No TV gosh prob up until my mom was a teenager or older.. So that was their entertainment.

    Another one she used to tell us was
    You pull up to a church
    With a great big steaple
    Open the door and there are a heap ole people
    Some a wicker some a waker some the color of brown tobaker….(Pronounced with the Short a sound.. )
    What are they…
    Bees.. LOL Never make much sense..

  21. Brooke Says:

    Combed her head.. Not hair.. LOL sorry broke the rhyme scheme…

  22. Tiffany Smith Says:

    My grandfather used to sing I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck while carrying me for a walk. I would cling so tightly to him around his neck. He just passed away last week and seeing that poem is sooo comforting. I LOVE U DziaDzia

  23. Mary Says:

    My mom and dad always did sing alongs on long car rides, and we went every weekend to visit relatives so we sang a lot. One of my favorites my dad sang but nobody else ever heard of it, it goes;
    Outside the rain was fallen down, and I was feelin blue;
    Outside the wind was blown round, and she was lonesome 2, 3, 4, 5
    Outside we heard the crash, and she sighed;
    Though she knew it wasn’t right, still she let me stay the night;
    yeah she did, sure she did,
    Outside!

    We would all crack up laughing at that one, and it didn’t matter how many times we heard it, it always made us laugh.

  24. Chelsey Says:

    When I was doing the wrong thing, my Pop would say “Chelsey! You’re driving me up the wall!”

    Also, my Nan always said “For heavens sake” or “For goodness sake” when she was upset or mad about something.

    They brought me up with these songs:

    “How much is that doggy in the window. Run rabbit, run. Pick up your troubles in your old kit bag.”

    Hope these brought back a few memories.

  25. Arlene Says:

    Looking for sayings from WWII when happened onto this wonderful site. I remember my grandfather always responded to us kids asking where something was with the phrase, “Up in Lizzie’s room behind the meat ax!” I can still hear my youngest cousin at age 5 asking with VERY wide eyes where THAT was! My grandmother always said, “What in the sam hill!”
    Love the site and it made me laugh!

  26. Larry Fishbach Says:

    I came to this site to see if I could get a copy of the lyrics to the “Songs of Safety”. I didn’t feel like copying them from the recording as I was able to obtain an audio tape of the original 3 disc recording from the Library of Congress. They sold us a copy of the songs on audio tape with permission to make 1 copy only for my sister. Some of you may remember songs about iceskating, being lost,hot and cold water,Let the ball roll etc. Anyone interested can probably contact the Library and purchase their own copy.

  27. richard Says:

    does any one know of a rhyme that contains ‘muscles with charlies on their backs’

  28. Larry Fishbach Says:

    In response to Maggie Towne . My sister and I were able to locate the Songs of Safety in the Library of Congress. They made us two tape copies from the original records under the condition we would not make additional copies, I can’t remember the fee but it was on the order of $20. If you send me an e-mail at lfishbach@earthlink.net I will copy the lyrics for a few of them that you request. You could also contact them to make you copies.

  29. linda chambers Says:

    My grandmother’s favorite cuss words: “My stars!”

    She would not allow cards (of any kind) or dice in her home; they were the ‘tools of the devil’ and to play with them was to ‘invite the devil into your home’. Therefore we couldn’t play Old Maid, Go Fish or even Monopoly or Candyland at her house: to throw dice for any reason was ‘a form of gambling’.

    No one was ever allowed to work on Sundays. Even if it was something you liked to do; ‘it was still work and it was against the will of God.” It was especially bad form to go fishing on Sundays. (I suppose that was work, too.) And you could go to hell for having anything to do with liquor or beer, much less drink it, any day of the week. She would never allow tobacco in the house, nor did you want her to catch you dancing -even ‘play’ dancing.

    On the patriarchial side of the family they drank beer AND fished on Sundays, so we kids, prayed for them a lot, worried that they’d go to hell. They also danced occasionally and listened to the radio freely.

    Back at the farm, canning was a big deal: they canned soups, meats, tomatoes, beans, jellies, peppers, beans, peas, corn, grape juice, you name it; they canned it, new potatoes, apples, pears, figs, berries. Onions were stored under the porch where they wouldn’t go bad and would always be fresh.

    Song
    Where, oh where has my little dog gone?
    Oh where, oh where can he be?
    With his ears cut short and his tail cut long,
    Where, oh where can he be?

    To rowdy children:
    “You kids would worry the horns off a brass monkey.”
    (I suspect the word ‘horns’ was a substitute for another part of the anatomy.”)

    Song:
    Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah,
    Someone’s in the kitchen, I know-oh-oh-oh!
    Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah,
    Strummin’ on the old banjo.
    Chorus: Fee Fi, Fiddley-eye-oh,
    Fee Fi, Fiddley-eye-oh-oh
    Fee Fi, Fiddley-eye-oooh!
    Strummin’ on the old banjo!

  30. laurie Says:

    was wondering if anyone had heard of a little story or peom that starts like this:
    A chocolate bear and a chocolate mouse lived in a chocolate house…

    that’s all I can remember and my grandma used to recite it to me when I was very young..

    anyone know the rest or what it is from?

    thanks

  31. Bonnie Barton Says:

    I remember at the age of 5, having a record that played “Green for go, red for stop. Be your own little traffic cop. Don’t cross streets until you’ve seen the traffic lights turn to green”. I can’t remember the rest of it, and haven’t been able to locate the song online. I have 19 grandkids and 9 great grands I’d love to sing it to. If anyone knows the words to the safety song, I’d appreciate it more than you know.

    I remember so many others that I’ve sung to my babies. My favorite is “A, you’re adorable, B, you’re so beautiful, C, you’re a cutie full of charms….” . All my kids (especially the girls) just love it.

  32. Lee Says:

    “A Bushel and a Peck” is from “Guys and Dolls,” a lovely piece from the golden age of Broadway musicals. You may truly enjoy it, the movie’s got Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra.

  33. Jodi Oviedo Says:

    I have been trying to remember a song my Mom would sing to me and my sister in the early 60’s (I’m 52 now) that went,
    “Little miss one, going on two” and that’s all I know.
    I would love to know the origin and the rest of the lyrics.

  34. Lisa Says:

    Carol Woodier sent more of the Policeman song:

    Hi,
    Just saw this online and I know where it came from. I went to kindergarten in Brooklyn, PS 92 and there we were taught a song I could sing you. The words were:

    Remember your name and address
    And telephone number, too
    So if, someday, you lose your way
    You’ll know just what to do
    Walk up to that kind policeman
    The very first one you meet
    And simply say I’ve lost my way
    And cannot find my street
    (forgot some lines here, but it ends)
    …and he will be kind
    And help you to find
    The dear ones who wait for you.

    If anyone can share the full song, please let us know!

  35. Lisa Says:

    Patricia Duval wrote:

    The rhymes I remember from my childhood were sung as I played with an Indian Rubber ball I am now 70 yrs old One of them went like this My mother gave me fifty cents to see the elephant jump the fence. She jumped so high she reached the sky And never came back til the 4th of July. there is a long one I remember that was played by bouncing a ball against a wall and saying a long rhyme at the same time Patti

  36. dave Says:

    Great collection of songs and sayings! Brings back many great memories of my grandparents and great aunts and uncles. Most of them lived in NYC or Brooklyn at one point or another, so I remember this one, about “thirty purple birds” which appears elsewhere on the web (but not quite the way I remember it). You have to say it with an old Brooklyn accent!:

    Der was toity poiple boids sittin’ on a coib
    Boipin’ and choipin’ an’ eatin’ doity woims
    When along came Boit (Burt) and a skoit (skirt) named Goit (Gert)
    Who woiked in a shoit factory in Joisey.
    When Boit and de skoit named Goit
    Saw de toity poiple boids, sittin’ on de coib,
    Boipin’ and choipin’ an’ eatin’ doity woims,
    Boy was dey petoibed!

    I hope you can get it! Also, the reason I got to this site was that I was looking to see if anyone had posted an old song I remember my parents and grandparents singing, and Arlene has sent you part of it. The whole thing goes likes this:

    “A roving policeman spied a little bum,
    Sitting on a curb stone, chewing pepsi gum.
    Said the policeman, “Won’t you give me some?”
    “Not by your tin badge,” said the little bum-ditty-bum-bum
    Bum Bum!”

    I uploaded it to Youtube so you can hear the tune:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjTf79qspm4

  37. Lisa Says:

    That’s awesome Dave! Can you make a video of 30 purple birds too? I’ll post it! Cheers! Mama Lisa

  38. Jessica Says:

    I love this old sayings, even though i’m 19.

  39. Karen Says:

    I’m a writer and I’m trying to find the quote that says something like, “Don’t date someone you wouldn’t mate.” My mom always used to say that to me. I don’t think I have the exact quote. Can someone help me out?

  40. Sadler Says:

    @Sue Russell: The, “So long, Oolong” song is an old song that was originally sung by Frank Crumit. Later on, Fred Astaire did a version of it with Red Skelton. You can watch the two of them sing it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZkQmTszzN8&feature=related

    It’s a great glimpse into mid 20th century culture.

    Thanks,
    Sadler

  41. A poiple boid Says:

    Toity poiple boids, sittin’ on da coib, choipin, and boipin, and eatin doity woims,
    along came moit the sqoit(he woiks in a shoit factory in joisy) And when he saw those toity poiple boids, sittin’ on da coib, choipin, and boipin, and eatin doity woims, boy… was he distoibed!

  42. Coralee Says:

    To bed, to bed, said sleepy head.
    Terry a while said Joe.

    Anyone know the whole rhyme? An old man in the nursing home that I work at says it every evening when I put him to bed. He doesn’t remember any more though.. It would be nice to find it out and say it to him and see if he remembers once it is being said… Thanks :)

  43. Lisa Says:

    Hi Coralee,

    There are different versions of To Bed, To Bed that you can find at the link. The gist of it is:

    “Come, let’s to bed,”
    Says Sleepy-head;
    “Tarry a while,” says Slow.
    Sleepyhead, Slow and Greedy
    “Put on the pot,”
    Says the Greedy one,
    “Let’s sup before we go.”

    I hope this helps!

    Mama Lisa

  44. Ken Says:

    I remember a play on words about Chickasaw from when I was a small boy:

    My father went to Chickasaw
    To see the biggest saw you ever saw
    If I saw the saw that father saw
    I saw the biggest saw in Chickasaw

  45. Teri Sexton Says:

    Thanks Dave for “de twoity poiple boids”, my mom taught me that when I was a kid, still can see her saying it and laughing that little kid laugh and smile as if she was still a kid. (I’m 53 now and it just makes me smile)

  46. Melody Says:

    I am trying to find the words to a song my mom used to sing to us in the 50’s. All I can remember was it had the words beely um bumb bump, beely um bump bump here we go in daddy’s old car. It was the last thing my sister heard my mom sing as my sister lay in her hospital bed dying from the treatment of colon cancer. The doctors said that it was the treatment and not the cancer that killed her because she was just too petite. She even sang along a little. I would be enormously grateful. TIA

  47. Bannah Hanover Says:

    My Dad taught my daughter this. Something Gravy, English Navy, Stinkem, Stankem, Buck? I think there is more to this saying, but I can’t remember. Can anyone?

  48. Lisa Says:

    There are many versions of that rhyme. It’s a counting-out rhyme for choosing players in a game (like who goes first or who is “it”). Here are some versions I found:

    One-ery, u-ery, ickery, Ann,
    Fillison, follison, Nicholas John;
    Quevy, quavy, English navy,
    Stincktum, stancktum, buck!

    One-ery, u-ery, ickery, Ann,
    Fillisy, fallasy, Nicholas John,
    Quevy, quavy, English navy,
    Stringelum, strangelum, jolly co buck.

    Ery, iry, ickery, Ann,
    Fillisy, follosy, Nicholas John;
    Quevy, quavy, English navy,
    Stinkulum, stankulum, buck!

    Onery, ory, ickery, Ann,
    Filisan, folisan, Nicholas John.
    Quivy, quavy, English navy,
    Stinkelum, stankelum, buck!

  49. Jeane Linthicum Says:

    There was a short “little girl” poems that we recited as children. I can only remember one specific line from one “I don’t think I am cute, but who am I to argue with (???, can’t remember the specific # that goes here ). It goes on to list talents etc always ending with “but who am I to argue with ?” There were other little ditty type poems but this is the only one I can remember even part of. This was in the early 40’s . We lived in deep East Texas at the time. Anybody remember any of these? Please.

  50. Kathy Says:

    ok was looking for the right phrase for this saying along with my sister while she is recovering from surgery. It goes. As i was walking up the ? (cant remember what goes here) i looked out the hazel gazel spied bom backum in the world of wickum wackum called tom tackum to get bom backum out of the world of wickum wackun. Can anyone tell what I was going up.

  51. Ron Miller Says:

    My father used to sing at bedtime, “Go to bed and cover up your head with your old gray beard a shakin’.”

  52. Ron Miller Says:

    Saying I used to hear when I was growing up were, “Well, I’ll be John Brown,” “I’ll be a yellow dog,” and “I double-dog dare you!” I use all of these phrases in my novel, “Callie Kinser of Brush Creek”, out in Sept. I love these old sayings. I hope they never die.

  53. Rhonda Miller Says:

    Went to the river and couldn’t get across. Jumped on a gator cause I thought it was a horse. May have been more but I don’t remember.

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