Context: Gathered from one of my roommates once he found out about my collection project.
Background: My roommate has never had a set religious background, and was always in something of a melting pot of faiths when he went to churches like the one described here.
Dialogue: So, I don’t know exactly how Unitarianism, like, started, but… At some point it was just this sort of culmination of, like, various Christian sects, like Episcopalian or Protestant or whatever was around Massachusetts going on. Just a bunch of them sort of, like, coalesced into one group that’s like… “You know what, Trinity or Unity, doesn’t matter! We all have spirit!”
Analysis: The intereseting thing about this piece of folklore to me is how much is blended together in a church like this. It’s not only a mixing of various religious sects, either: at one point, my roommate sang a song he was taught as a kid, about the “Seven Guiding Principles of Kindness.” He remembers only these lines:
One, each person is important
Two, be kind in all you do
The song, interestingly enough, is set to the tune of “Do-Re-Mi” fromthe mucial The Sound of Music. So we have a mashup of popular culture, religion, and folk belief, all in this single church.
The informant is a 20-year old college sophomore at University of Michigan majoring in industrial and systems engineering. She went to sleep-away camp for several years and was excited to share some of her fond memories of it with me. One such memory is “the Bagel Song.”
“Bagels, doo doo doo
Bagels, doo doo doo
Bagels on Mars, Bagels on Venus
I got bagels in my…..
Bagels, doo doo doo
Bagels, doo doo doo
Bagels on the pier, bagels on the dock
I got bagels on my….
Bagels, doo doo doo
Bagels, doo doo doo
(The next person makes up a stanza similar to the first two, with provocative lyrics that make the listener think of something dirty, but that ends in NOSE”
Interviewer: “Where did you learn the Bagel Song?”
Informant: “I remember my counselor one year teaching it to me and a few other campers. We thought it was totally hilarious. When I was a counselor a few years ago, I taught it to my campers too.”
Interviewer: “Where would you guys sing the song?”
Informant: “Oh gosh, all the time. Um, we would sing it when camp songs were song. Like at bonfires and before mealtimes when everyone was together waiting to eat. We would tease the cute male counselors with it too…”
Interviewer: “Did your counselor who taught you the song say where she learned it?”
Informant: “No. We never asked. But I do have a friend who went to an all-boys camp in Wisconsin who told me they had a variation of the song they would sing.
Interviewer: “Do you remember how the variation went?”
Informant: “Hmm. I think it was the same general principle. I think what was different was that the boys said “Bacon” instead of “bagel”? I’m not entirely sure though; it was a long time ago that I talked to my friend about it!”
I see the Bagel song as a humorous song dealing with taboos of sex and sexuality. The song is especially funny because it makes the listener the one with the “dirty mind”, not the singer, as it is the listener who thinks the singer is going to make an obscene reference.
Oring talks about Children’s folklore (I would consider “The Bagel Song” fitting into this category) a good deal in Folk Groups and Folklore Genres. Ideas of childhood have been purified for a long time in American society, and the oppressiveness of the controlled environment in which children reside in can partially explain their dealing with the sexuality taboo, along with other taboos.
My (hold note) mommy said if I’d be good she’d send me to the store,
she said she’d bake a chocolate cake if I would sweep the floor,
she said if I would make the bed and help her mind the phone,
she would send me out to get a chocolate ice cream cone.
And so I did
the things she said,
I even helped her make the bed.
Then I went out,
just me alone,
to get a chocolate ice cream cone.
Now (hold note) on my way a-comin’ home I stumbled on a stone,
and need I tell you that I dropped
my chocolate ice cream cone.
A little doggie came along and took a great big lick (slurping sound),
and then I hit that mean ole doggie with a little stick.
And he bit me
where I sat down
and he chased me all over town.
And now I’m lost,
can’t find my home,
it’s all because of a chocolate, chocolate, chocolate ice cream cone.
The informant was my father, a 49-year-old engineer who currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, but who grew up in the area surrounding Austin, Texas. The song is one that his mother used to sing to him and his siblings when they were little. The song was primarily sung right before bed, as well as occasionally on long road trips. The informant says his mother would sing it to the children almost every night, sometimes “perfunctorily,” sometimes smiling and adding “extra ‘chocolate, chocolate, chocolate’s’ on the end.” The informant sees it as a mix of a “bizarre lost kid fairy tale” and a “moral lesson for young kids growing up,” the lesson being, “don’t go out on your own or, you know, you might get lost and never find your way home again.”
This song was collected while I was home for Spring Break and performed in my living room. It was interesting to me because my father also used to sing it to me and my sister when we were children because, “when you’re a parent, you’re looking for, you know, the things to pass down and it was one of my favorite songs as a child.” The tune of the song makes it seem fun and harmless, but there is a dark undertone about the lyrics that I recognized, even when I was growing up. Looking at it now, I think it is less of a moral lesson, and more of a lesson to children about the random, horrible things that can happen to you when you are not expecting them. None of the events that take place are really the narrator’s fault (other than being chased by a dog after he hits it with a stick), and yet the narrator still ends up lost and alone. It is a dark reflection on everyday life hiding within a song for children, as is often the case with old songs and stories created for children.
The informant was my father, a 49-year-old engineer who currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, but who grew up in the area surrounding Austin, Texas. The song is one that his mother used to sing to him and his siblings when they were little. The informant says his mother had a beautiful singing voice and would either sing hymns or songs like this before the children would go to bed because she was always in charge of this activity. He says it is interesting to him because “it must have come from some popular pop music of some age” and he “almost suspect[s] that it’s a fragment, but it was passed down to us as a whole,” “almost a vignette.” He also heard it from his older sister as she was learning to sing it for her children. He performs it because it reminds him of his mother, but also because “it’s just, it’s the cutest concept of a song . . . you know, it’s a child’s concept of love combined with a child’s concept of mortality. Uh, you know, you left me, I’m gonna basically hold my breath and die if you don’t come back. You know, and eating a tadpole is going to kill you, you know, it’s just all, I just love the construction and the cuteness of it.” He sees it as a way of teaching children that breaking somebody’s heart is a big deal. He also admits that the whole thing is “a little twisted.”
This song was collected while I was home for Spring Break and performed in my living room. It was interesting to me because my father also used to sing it to me and my sister when we were children. It’s a song with a nice tune that seems harmless, but it has lyrics that are actually pretty dark. I remember it as being sad when I was much younger, but looking at it now it strikes me that the subject of the song is suicide, even if the narrator is not going to die from eating a tadpole. I think the song is mainly meant to be cute and entertaining, but I also agree somewhat with the informant’s assessment that the song is about teaching children the effect their actions and words can have on another person.
A version of this song was performed and released (“I Think I’ll Eat a Tadpole”) by Sue Thompson in 1966. Thompson’s version has the above version as its chorus and additional verses. While the chorus is recognizable as the informant’s version, many of the words have been changed and the overall tone of the song is different. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHnlZfJAHT0
Thompson, Sue. "I Think I'll Eat a Tadpole." The Country Side of Sue Thompson. Ridgeway Music, 1966. CD.
The informant was my father, a 49-year-old engineer who currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, but who grew up in the area surrounding Austin, Texas. His parents owned various pieces of rural Texas land, ending with a cattle ranch an hour outside of Austin. This is a song his father would sing to him and his siblings. This was not a “nighttime song,” because his job wasn’t to put them to bed. Often, his father would sing it “on the road, whilin’ time away driving to the ranch.” He says his father had forgotten most of it and was toying with it when they first started singing it together and “over the years, we had worked out what the entire song was.” The informant has no idea where it came from, but he says he tried to “consciously collect the songs” from his parents and wanted to “know the full version of every song that they sang to us.” He says his mother would listen to his father singing it and say “’Yeah that’s pretty much exactly the way it was, growing up.’ That this was sung as a joke, but that this was actually a real practice, that you’d have a full size bed in the house and two kids, or three or four kids, sleeping next to each other in the bed, and they weren’t actually long enough to fill up the bed so you’d lay another one cross-wise across the bottom of the bed . . . and, uh, you know, that was always the worst place to sleep. You know, in a cold, a drafty house, you didn’t want to be on the floor.” He likes that it feels like a joke, but that it is actually just a part of Southern culture.
This song was collected while I was home for Spring Break and performed in my living room. It was interesting to me because my father also used to sing it to me and my sister when we were children. I think it is meant to be an entertaining representation of something that happened occasionally in the South, although I don’t think it happened as recently as the informant thinks. On the other hand, his mother grew up in extreme poverty, so there is a chance that what she said about it was true. I think it was mainly composed for comic effect and represented an exaggerated version of something that happened among poor Southern families at one time.
In fact, this song has been performed by country singers since at least 1949. Little Jimmy Dickens released it as a single that year (“A-Sleeping at the Foot of the Bed”), although it was quite different from the song that was presented to me. In Dickens’s version there are two extra verses, the verses are in a different order, and many of the words are different. The song is recognizable, even though the tune has been somewhat changed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tkEotkyjHU
Dickens, James. "A-Sleeping at the Foot of the Bed." Raisin' the Dickens. Columbia Records, 1949. CD.
This short song/lullaby is performed to a child of the ages 0-3 years of age for no particular reason. When sung, the adult is usually hugging the child and swaying along to the beat of the song.
Yo vendo un costal de papas, ¿quien me lo quiere comprar? Lo vendo por diabluriento y porque me ha pagado mal.
I sell a bag of potatoes, who wants to buy it? I sell him for mischief and because he has paid me wrong.
Meaning of the Song
The child is being referred to as a bag of potatoes that the adult wants to sell because the child is always getting into trouble and doing wrong.
Analysis by the informant
The informant is unsure as to where she learned the song but she believes it was once a romance song but she changed the wording of a section of the song so it would be a childhood song instead. The informant does not remember singing it to her daughters but she does sing it now to her grandsons whom live with her and are of ages 2 and 4. Her youngest grandson sometimes sings along with her as she sings it to him. The informant performs the song as a playful form with her grandsons because she carries them and they sing it with her. It is a playful form in which she tells them how much of troublemakers they are but that she still loves them.
Analysis by the interviewer
I think this is a nice short song that is not exactly a lullaby but not a full song or proverb, just a short saying which has a lot of meaning to both the informant and the child. Seeing it in its original context, I believe that the children get the same meaning from the short song as the informant because the children are always smiling and in a good mood when it is being sung to them.