Safety Songs for Kids from the 1940’s


Have you ever heard of Safety Songs?  If you grew up in New York in the 1940’s, like our correspondent Richard Stark, I bet you have.  In the New York City school system, teachers would teach them to kids.  Richard remembers growing up singing them.

The Safety Songs that Richard grew up with were written by Irving Caesar in 1937.  Caesar also wrote such hits as "Tea for Two" and "I’m just a Gigolo". 

Here’s what the Irving Caesar site stated about the songs:

…to teach children about the potential dangers of everything from crossing the street to playing with matches. Caesar claimed the idea had come to him as he gazed out the window of his office, watching children walk along the streets, blithely disregarding traffic and the warning shouts of their mothers…. New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia [in office from 1934 to 1945] distributed the songs in New York City public school classrooms.

Richard Stark said, "I think people who didn’t live in NY City in the 1940s and go to the city schools missed an important part of childhood by not learning the Safety Songs!"

I was already aware of a Safety Song called "Remember Your Name and Address" because many people have written to me asking about it. Richard sent me the lyrics to a few more of the Safety Songs including, "Let the Ball Roll", "A Boy Stood on the Railroad Tracks" and "When You Look Out the Window".

Here’s "Let the Ball Roll" to give you a sample of one of these songs…

Let the Ball Roll

Play ball, play ball
Everyone likes to play ball
Sometimes you catch it
And sometimes you miss,
But when you miss, remember this:
Let the ball roll, let the ball roll
No matter where it may go
Let the ball roll, let the ball roll
It has to stop sometime you know.
Sometimes a truck flattens the ball
And makes it look like an egg
Though you can get many a ball
You never can get a new leg.

We’re lucky to have a recording of Richard singing this song.  This is authentic New York!

You can listen to more Safety Songs at Kiddie Records Weekly.

Many thanks to Richard Stark for singing Let the Ball Roll and for sharing this little part of musical history with us!

Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Monday, July 25th, 2011 at 4:56 pm and is filed under Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, England, English, English Children's Songs, Irving Caesar, Languages, People, Recordings, Recordings of Songs, Safety Songs, Songs by Theme, USA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

25 Responses to “Safety Songs for Kids from the 1940’s”


    […] safety songs for kids from the 1940s – Mama Lisa Description : Have you ever heard of Safety Songs? If you grew up in New York in the 1940′s, like our correspondent Richard Stark, I bet you have. In the New. .. […]

  2. Marilyn Stefano Says:

    I just remembered this song today when I saw a friend cross the street in traffic, & had to sing it to her – & none of the other women knew the song, so I said I guessed it was a New York thing. So you can imagine my delight when I discovered the song on your website, & indeed, it is a New York thing. Weren’t we lucky to have Irving Caesar write these safety songs?

  3. Patricia Frederick Says:

    Not just New York … we learned those songs when I was in kindergarten in Massachusetts, 1948-’49 school year. I can still sing “The Boy Stood on the Railroad Track”, “Let the Ball Roll”, and part of “Remember Your Name and Address”. I saw a copy of “Sing a Song of Safety” at an antiques shop here in Massachusetts a couple of years ago, but they wanted more money for it than I thought I could justify spending on it.

  4. tallulah Says:

    I can’t tell you how thrilled i was to find this website…been looking for info on this safety song album for decades. I grew up in LaCrosse, WI where i attended Roosevelt elementary school from 1948-55. Our teachers played this album for us over and over for years. The messages are so embedded in my head that i can hardly look at a pin cushion without hearing “needles and pin, needles and pins, that’s where real trouble begins’ replaying. And my favorite ‘Let the Ball Roll’ (thanks so much for reprinting those lyric) with it’s graphic description of the consequences of careless street crossing was my favorite and undoubtedly is responsible for me entering adulthood with both legs intact.
    If you google “tiny tim my space” you can listen to him reprise “I Know My Name and Address”. Again thank you so much for this website.

  5. Judith Jagoda Says:

    I remember this song from first grade, singing in the auditorium.. I sang it to my children and grandchildren and now I sing it to the children I care for…It’s as fresh in my mind as it was in 1944 at PS38 in Queens,NY Thanks

  6. One Page Poetry Circle | abigailburnhambloom Says:

    […] taught her safety rhymes and songs when she began to walk to school with a friend. Her favorite was Let the Ball Roll (1937), written by Irving Caesar, who wrote the lyrics for Tea for Two. The poem reminded children […]

  7. Martha Hayden Says:

    I was so thrilled to find this website! I went to New York City public schools in the 1960s when I learned the song Let the Ball Roll and other safety songs. The memory of the songs has stayed with me all these years…just not all the words. I loved listening to the recording of Richard Stark! Now I want to teach the songs to my grandkids. Thanks!

  8. Joe Paquette Says:

    Thank you so much for this. I remember learning this song when I was in kindergarten (1956) in Canada. Occasionally, when I reminisce about the bygone years, I still find myself humming this tune. I wonder how many children were saved from bad accidents by having been taught this wonderfully simple song in school.

    I was just wondering, is there any way to get a copy of this mp3?

  9. louise Chandler Says:

    We had these safety songs in Cullman, Alabama. My favorite was Pins and Needles.

  10. Lynne Starkey Says:

    PS 96, South Ozone Park, Queens, NY – mid 1940’s –
    still remember most of the words, great teaching tools
    so glad to find this site and hear the songs again.

  11. Werner Knurr Says:

    I spent three years at Hamner Hall Kindergarten, in Montgomery, AL, 1938 – 40 because I could not speak English. I was born in Germany in 1936, and came to this country in 1938, two weeks before Kristallnacht. In those days there was no pre-school. I always wondered about” Let the Ball Roll”. Just couldn’t get it out of my head. And now I know. It makes me happy and brings back a lot of wonderful memories. Thank you.

  12. Tara Temprano Rossi Says:

    I am the Safety Town Coordinator for Hawthorne, NJ and wanted a coy of this song. Is there any way I could order it?

  13. Joanne Says:

    These safety songs were my favorites in the late 1940s.

  14. Vicki Smith Says:

    My dad was a lyricist- came in 2nd for Academy Award- White Christmas won that year- the song? “I Like NY in June (how about you?)”

    I’m sure he would have known Mr Caesar.

  15. Betty Says:

    Does anybody remember a song titled “Don’t Put Things in your Mouth”? The lyrics are not the ones sung by muppet-like critters on youtube today. It was something like this:
    Don’t put things in your mouth.
    Remember, little chum,
    Don’t put things in your mouth,
    Not even your own thumb.
    Your mouth was made for eating,
    And drinking milk, so good!
    And not for pins or needles,
    Or steel, or glass or wood,
    Sooooo, don’t put things in your mouth. .. .

  16. Bill Says:

    Definitely remember Don’t Put Things In Your Mouth. I had the record in the late ’40s or early ’50s. Wish I could find a copy to download .

  17. Lisa Says:

    You can listen to more Safety Songs by Frank Miller here.

  18. Julie Says:

    Does anyone remember:

    “Pins and needles, needles and pins,
    You must beware of these dangerous twins.
    Never put needles or pins to your lips,
    You will be sorry if one of them slips.”

    I can’t believe I remember these wonderful songs that were born in 1937, the same year I was born.

    “When you’re watching a parade, hold onto your mother’s hand.”

    “The policeman, the fireman, the postman too
    And the man who cleans the streets for you
    Every time that one appears, give him three loud rousing cheers.”

    Incredible songs that have most certainly stood the test of time!

  19. Art Says:

    When I was searching for the song that starts ‘Don’t put things in your mouth, not even your own thumb’…. I came to this site because it references this line. But when I came further into the site, I am not able to find the song.

    We actually had (as I recall) a recording of the song with a plastic see through surface that had a drawing beneath it, the details of which I do NOT recall.

    There is a family of 6 kids from 1944-1958 who would be forever happy if you could link them to this song from our childhoods.

  20. Betsy Glass Says:

    I remember many of the songs mentioned in previous comments.
    I have a question: Was there a song in this collection – or perhaps in another collection, or somewhere else that someone knows – about the generic “kind policeman” and that he is our friend. I can’t believe – I don’t want to believe – that the composer intended this song to be sung to and by white children only or to mean that policemen are kind to white people only or that only white children should trust the police! As we all know, the police have NOT always been friends to people of color, and it’s getting worse. Thanks for your help – I need the composer’s name, the date, and the lyrics….I’m planning to send them to all the police precincts in my county, to remind them of their role “TO PROTECT AND TO SERVE” EVERYONE. EVERYONE.

  21. Lisa Says:

    Betsy – Are you thinking of the song “Remember Your Name and Address“? (Click the link to see the lyrics!)

  22. Kyra Robinson Says:

    Yes, Betsy!
    That is the song you are talking about is “Remember Your Name and Address”.
    I was born in 1979 needless to say that I may have been an “oops baby” because both parents were born in North Philly in the late 30’s LOL!
    I have been looking for the correct lyrics to “Let the Ball Roll” for the last 20yrs. My mother use to sing all these songs to me and the only one that stuck in my head was “Remember Your Name and Address”
    I vaguely remembered the correct words to Let the Ball Roll I wasn’t sure if I made my own version or if they were true …I grew up on a small street in North Philadelphia and that song was very popular in my household. I also raised my children in that same house and sang the same song to them. Now I am teaching it to my grand-daughter!
    I have read all the other past comments and I just want to say…it is not just a NYC thing if I must say it is an EAST COAST thing. LOL!
    Thank you Mrs. Lisa for bringing those good ole’ memories back.

  23. Bobbie Stark Says:

    It is a long story that does not bear repeating, but I was searching for Frank Luther’s Songs of Safety and came across this blog site. Richard Stark, may he RIP, was my first cousin. How serendipitous to have found this. Thank you.

  24. Lisa Says:

    I’m so sorry to hear that Bobbie. Richard was so nice to share this with us. I think he touched a lot of people’s lives by helping them remember these songs from their childhood. May he RIP.

  25. Lisa Says:

    Michael Pitonza wrote:

    “I found your site while looking for a ‘kiddie’ song which I learned in school. I remember the song very clearly…from when I was 6 or 7. The song was called ‘Let The Ball Roll’. Today I actually found reference to that song. In fact, it was printed in full on a page at your site. The page was called ‘Safety Songs for Kids From The 40’s’. The entry was from July of 2011. Your site suggests that contributions are welcome…but as the web page is so old, I don’t know if the request for contributions is still valid. That said, I will submit a song anyway.

    This is the other one that I was looking for. It is also from when I was 6 or 7…in the 1st or 2nd grade…1956 thru 1958:

    ‘When You Ride the Bicycle’

    ‘When you ride the bicycle…watch out for the motor-cars.
    When you ride the bicycle…never take your hands off the handlebars.
    Pedal slowly to-and-fro…you’ll get where you want to go.
    Don’t do tricks you think you know…cause you saw them at the show.
    Keep cool as an icicle…when you ride the bicycle!'”

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