Author Archives: Sarah Tillery

The Canadian Toilet Joke

My Informant, a student filmmaker and a very funny person, was very eager to share his favorite jokes from his childhood. When asked about other folklore, he couldn’t remember games, riddles, or sayings, but jokes immediately popped into his head. I thought that this was an interesting character trait, what folklore stays with people. These jokes were important to my Informant because of where he heard them and who he then shared them with: he learned the jokes from his cousins, and then shared them with his friends at school and at camp. Jokes clearly were important to his memory because of how well they were received. He reflected that some of them may have been inappropriate, but due to his locations (the American Southwest and Northwest) it made sense that such jokes talking about neighboring states and countries would have been told.

Author: Do you remember um… Any jokes that you would tell, or rhymes that happened at A Camp?

Informant: Can I uhh…

Author: You can ask, yeah.

Informant: Can I ask…Well, I was just gonna say, uh, What like… Does it matter what age? Do you want real childhood or?

Author: No, it doesn’t matter at all!

Informant: Okay, So there’s a joke that I can tell, it’s not adulthood, I was definitely a kid, like my last years at A-Camp, but I’m pretty sure this is a joke I would have told at A-Camp.

Author: Okay.

Informant: It is the Canadian Toilet Joke. And I haven’t  told it in a long time, so I might get it wrong.

Author: [Laughs] Okay.

Informant: And it’s probably racist, if I think back on it, but we will see.

Author: Okay. [Laughs]

Informant: I’m gonna try to do all the racist accents that came with it, if I remember properly.

Author: [Laughs and makes a face] Okay, perfect.

Informant: I don’t remember what the first character was.

Author: Oh no.

Informant: There were three characters.

Author: Okay.

Informant: I think there was [counting on three fingers the Italian way, pink first] an American, a Mexican, and a Canadian.

Author: Okay.

Informant: [Pause, then whispers.] I can’t believe I can’t remember the Canadian Toilet Joke. [Laughs]

Author: Do you remember any other jokes? [Laughs]

Informant: No, no this is important. This is important. I need to try.

Author: Okay, why was it important, can I ask?

Informant: Just it was my favorite joke for like five years of my life. I think one of my cousins told me, but I might have told it to my cousin. I remember being at Montana, in my Grandmother’s kitchen, either telling this joke to them, or hearing it for the first time, I don’t remember.

Author: That’s awesome!

Informant: But I remember that. And I remember that I told all my friends, this was like, my performance. I’m sure I’ve probably told you at some point just to just to be like “This is a joke I used to tell all the time”

Author: I’m sure, yeah.

Informant: But. [Pause] I can’t remember how it goes. Something like. There was an American, a Mexican, and a Canadian and.. [Pause. Gestures] There was a toilet store.

Author: Okay.

Informant: And so… One day the American walks in to the Toilet Store and says. [Making Surfer Face by squinting eyes and leaning back] Yo, Dude… Like. I need a toilet. [Pauses. Stares. Mumbles to self about what comes next.]

Author: Okay.

Informant: And the guy’s like: Okay, have this… [Pause] Stone toilet. A toilet made of rock. Made of stone. And he says, Cool, it’s kinda heavy, let me get some help out. And then goes, goes with the toilet. And then a few hours later, the Mexican comes in and I don’t remember what toilet he purchases.

Author: [Laughter.]

Informant: Something like…. Have this… [Gestures] I don’t remember. I think it was like. Something that poked his butt. We’ll get to the punch line

Author: Okay Okay

Informant: I don’t remember what it was, something pokey I feel, so then he goes, there was the accent [waving away] like [Leans forward and does racist Mexican accent, which is scratchy and high] Ey, Mang, I need a toilet. [Back to Normal] Is How I would Say it and Um

Author: [Laughter] Okay.

Informant: He takes it and goes. And then the Canadian comes in and says [Canadian stereotype, North Dakotan kind of accent, friendly smile] Eh.

Author: [Bigs Laughs]

Informant: I need a toilet, Eh.

Author: [Laughs]

Informant: And he says, Sure, take this singing one, it’s on special today, actually. It’s a little expensive, but it sings to you, so it’s important. And. so he says: Wow, thank, Eh. And he takes the toilet and he goes home. Ummmm. About a week later [louder and with more energy] The American comes back in and he says: Dude, I need a new toilet. NO! I’m sorry, that’s wrong. He says: “Hey, can I use your bathroom?” And he says: Hey, you look familiar, didn’t I sell you a toilet like… [Checks nonexistent watch on wrist] A week ago? And he says [Breathy Surfer Voice] Yeah, but I live up in Washington and it gets really cold [fixes accent to match this information] up there so every time I sit down to poop, my butt gets stuck to the toilet! And he says, Wow, okay, go use the bathroom! And… The Mexican comes in and he says, [squinted eyes and stereotypical accent again] Ey, can I use your bathrrroom. And he says, Hey, you also bought a toilet from me recently, what happened? And again, I don’t know what the toilet was so [waves hand] but something like it poked him, or like he had thorns in his butthole… It was all gruesome.

Author: [Big laughs]

Informant: Something like that. Anyway, He goes to use the toilet and he leaves, and an hour or two later, The Canadian comes in and he says: Hey, may I please use your restroom, eh? And um. Uh. The guy says, okay, this is weird. I just sold you a toilet, I remember. The singing one right! Yeah, but every time I go to take a shit it started to sing “O, Canada” and I had to stand back up again!

Author: [Big Laughs and Sad Aws] That’s a good joke!

Informant: I didn’t say shit. As I was a child. I would have said crap. I would have said sat down to take a crap.

Author: As a child you would have said crap?

Informant: Yeah.

Hick’s Road Ghosts

The Informant and I were driving while she told me these stories about her home town, San Francisco, and her family’s cultural history as being Norwegian American, so there was not much that I could observe of her actions, as she was at the wheel and I was behind her in the back seat. But she was very passionate about these stories, and eager to share her history as both a San Francisco Native and her family’s Norwegian background. This particular story was a ghost story about a road called Hick’s Road, nearby where she lived at the Base of the Santa Cruz Mountains. It was a fun story for her to tell, as she remembered her friend trying to find these ghosts, and so had good memories of her friend’s account of his encounter with the ghost, though she herself has not encountered the ghosts. What was especially fun about the story was that it has to do with driving, and so being in a car at the time made myself, and the Other Party, very scared upon the Informant telling of it.

Informant: Okay so there’s an–I live right at the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains, so we have a lot of very desolated, dark areas um around the valley, aaaaand, we have this one road, called Hick’s Road, that goes right up to the summit. And it’s known for being very dark, very few streetlights and very few people. So someone, I’m not sure when, created the myth that there was a herd of cannablistic albinos

[Everyone Laughs]

Informant: Living in a CULT on Hick’s Road.

[Diverting Conversation Ensues]

Informant: ….Anyway, so there’s a lot of Ghost Stories about Hick’s Road, but that was number one. And it’s said that when you pass where it’s rumored to be, the…

Author: Right, uh-huh.

Informant: I dunno what you call it, the commune, I guess. Your car will stall, even if it’s an automatic. And it will start rolling down the hill.

Author: OH NO!

Informant: If you BREAK, you can put the parking break on and it will stop, and you get out of the car, you look at the back, of your uh, car, and it will have hand prints on the back.

Author and Other Party: NO. NO NO NO.

Informant and Other Party: [Laughs]

Author: That is too scary, I am never doing that!

Informant: My friend did it for senior year, she was doing a whole uh project on, you know, myths and urban legends in our area, and there was like two. There was the Winchester Mystery House and the Hick’s Road Albino Commune.

[Laughter all around]

The stories we tell about abandoned places are always fairly out of this world. I know in my own home town, we had an abandoned neighborhood that was said to be the home of militant incestuous Mormons who didn’t speak to anyone or leave their commune, despite no one actually living there. It is interesting who a community will choose to otherize by placing them in the frightening area of town. For my home town in Arizona, it was poor Mormons (of whom there is a decent population in Arizona), and for San Francisco, it was Albino people. I do not know the statistics of Albino residents in the area, but it seemed from my Informant’s story that someone long ago invented this story, and then it was told as folklore from then on. It is likely not based on any prejudice towards Albino people, rather that was simply the most outrageous thing the person so long ago could think of.

Santa Lucia Day

The Informant and I were driving while she told me these stories about her home town, San Francisco, and her family’s cultural history as being Norwegian American, so there was not much that I could observe of her actions, as she was at the wheel and I was behind her in the back seat. But she was very passionate about both stories, and eager to share her history as both a San Francisco Native and her family’s Norwegian background. This particular story, about the Santa Lucia Day festivities, was important to her because of her own memories of partaking in it, and how her family came together to help her prepare the meal that she was supposed to prepare on her own. She did not really like the festival part apart from cooking with her family, as she herself was not a good cook, and did not like being the center of attention.

Informant: I mean, we have. We all celebrate Santa Lucia Day.

Author: Tell me about that!

Informant: Santa Lucia Day is celebrated in a lot of European countries, and in Norway. Um. It’s to celebrate, you know, a Daughter’s Love for her Parents. So. Traditionally, the youngest daughter would get up really, really early in the morning before dawn, and make a big breakfast for her family, primarily her parents. Then traditionally, serve her parents breakfast in a white dress and a red sash, that’s how it is in our family, I don’t know if that’s how it is for everyone else. It’s been handed down from… [Trails off]

Author: And did you do this?

Informant: Um. I did it a couple times. But. Then they realized that I am not a good cook, so.

Author and Other Party: [Laughs]

Informant: They didn’t let me. And my sister would help me. My older sister and my twin brother would help.

Author: That’s nice!

Informant: The other thing was that traditionally it would be done with um. A Wreath of Candles. Around your head. But then they realized that’s a fire hazard so most of the people just use lights.

Author: Awesome!

Informant: Because.

Other Party: Oh wait, I’ve heard of that festival. It’s um.

Informant: Yeah! It’s very, very celebrated.

Other Party: Yeah, Arthur the Aardvark talks about that.

Author: Oh yeah! I remember that. [Laughs]

Other Party: In “Arthur’s Perfect Christmas.”

Informant: Yeah, it’s always celebrated on December 14th.

The “Arthur’s Perfect Christmas” song about Santa Lucia can be found here and the original CD can be found here.

 

How Do You Get an Elephant in the Refrigerator?

Informant is a University student from Canada, studying in the United States. When asked about what she remembered from camp, she was most excited to offer riddles, and had many to share. When asked why she was so excited, she said that it was because they were so prevalent in her childhood. These riddles were everywhere for her, and so it brings back more nostalgia than jokes or games for her.

And then the last one that I can think of is. How do you get an elephant in the refrigerator?

How do you get an elephant in the refrigerator?

You close the door.

[Laughs]

Well, okay, how do you get a giraffe in the refrigerator? [Pauses, gestures to me.] Can you like. Answer the question?

You uh. You open the door and put the giraffe in the refrigerator and close the door.

Ah. You open the door, take the elephant out, put the giraffe in and then close the door.

[Big laughs.]

This one was another favorite of the Informant, who really played up the delivery of this one. When asked why, she emphasized again that riddles were an important part of her childhood, and this one usually also got a big laugh. Alternatively, she also had a friend who was not very good at riddles, and so to tease her, the Informant would tell her riddles, and this one frustrated her friend the most due to its hidden simplicity.

A Black Dog on a Black Road

Informant is a University student from Canada, studying in the United States. When asked about what she remembered from camp, she was most excited to offer riddles, and had many to share. When asked why she was so excited, she said that it was because they were so prevalent in her childhood. These riddles were everywhere for her, and so it brings back more nostalgia than jokes or games for her.

What was the other one? Like.

Any jokes?

Jokes?

Yeah, like. Any jokes as a kid that made you laugh really hard.

[Visibly excited] Can they be like riddles?

Yeah, definitely.

Like riddles that we always told. [Pause, more excited as she remembers and smiles as she tells] Like did you have the one, where it was like, A Black Dog on a Black Road, um There were no lights on, the stars and the moon weren’t out, and a black car comes by without its lights on and it sees the dog and its moves, how do you know like, how did it see the dog?

Same Time: How do you see the dog?

[Super smiling and proud now] The answer is it was day time. [Shrugs as though it was nothing.]

[Laughs]

I dunno if. Do you know that one?

I may. Have heard that one, I don’t know. That’s a really good riddle though.

That one was literally like, everywhere when I was a kid.

This is interesting that riddles were more important to her childhood than games. I must confess, that I was never very into riddles as a child, and though I remember seeing books of riddles, they were not prevalent in my own childhood (though I moved around a lot). The fact that they were everywhere in the Informant’s says a lot about her, her friends, and the culture of her neighborhood in a Vancouver, Canada public school. Though what, I’m not sure, and I’m not sure if riddles are more prevalent in Canadian culture than they are in the United States’ culture.

North Dakotan, Coloradan, Montanan Spies Joke

My Informant, a student filmmaker and a very funny person, was very eager to share his favorite jokes from his childhood. When asked about other folklore, he couldn’t remember games, riddles, or sayings, but jokes immediately popped into his head. I thought that this was an interesting character trait, what folklore stays with people. These jokes were important to my Informant because of where he heard them and who he then shared them with: he learned the jokes from his cousins, and then shared them with his friends at school and at camp. Jokes clearly were important to his memory because of how well they were received. He reflected that some of them may have been inappropriate, but due to his locations (the American Southwest and Northwest) it made sense that such jokes talking about neighboring states and countries would have been told.

Informant: I told you an anecdote about the wrong joke! The Montana cousin thing was another joke!

Author: Okay, well tell me that joke!

Informant: I don’t remember that joke.

Author: Okay, well.

Informant: It’s a very similar structure. I think this structure. It was a very similar structure, and this was a much earlier joke, so I think this led the way to the Canadian Toilet Joke.

Author: Okay.

Informant: So there’s a…. North Dakotan, a Coloradan, I don’t know these words, but I think they’re right, and a Montanan.

Author: Okay.

Informant: Spies. All of them spies.

Author: Okay.

Informant: And they were captured by the enemy spies. And they were tied up to a tree and they were going to get murdered.

Author: [Fake gasp]

Informant: They were going to get assassinated.

Author: Oh no!

Informant: They were going to face a firing squad. And so. First. The. The Coloradan goes up. And and. They point the gun at him and they say: Any last words? And he points off in the distance and yells [mimicking the action] Avalanche! And they look and he runs.

Author: [Laugh]

Informant: And they say Darn! And so they tie up the Montanan. And they say: Alright, any last words? And the Montanan points and yells, Flood, and he runs away. So they tie up the North Dakotan, and they say: Alright, it’s our policy, otherwise, we wouldn’t, but any last words? And he says FIRE! And they shoot him.

Author: [Big Laughs]

Informant: [Shy Laughs]

Author: Did you ever do accents for that one at all?

Informant: Um. I don’t think I did.

Author: Okay, but other people did?

Informant: I could see my, my cousins having told me the joke having done like a [North Dakotan accent] a North Dakotan, but I don’t remember.

Author: Alright, I can imagine that got big laughs. Do people not like North Dakotans in Montana or?

Informant: My family’s from North Dakota, so.

Author: Oh okay, cool, so that got even bigger laughs I bet.

Informant: And I can tell you, it was never the same three states. It was always, like, upper, northern, western states, but it wasn’t always North Dakota, Montana, Colorado.

Author: Yeah ’cause that joke would work well for like. All of California.

Informant: Right, but I’m pretty sure North Dakota was usually the punchline when I told it. Cause I’m pretty sure that was the original one. But I might have changed that. Depending on company.

Ex-Patriot Jokes

Informant was the wife of a Naval Officer, and before then, a teacher working abroad, and so had been immersed in other cultures for much of her adult life. Even in her youth, growing up in Arizona, she had been involved in other cultures, but the one cultural bit of information that was uniquely her own, was her cultural group of Ex-Patriots while traveling. So she shared one Ex-Patriot joke she remembered from her time living and teaching in Bahrain.

Author: Do you remember any stories that you guys heard when you were um, first starting to live as ex patriots or like, when you first started moving to other countries did like, other people at the Navy base tell you like… Uh. Ways to cope, or things that you could do, like home remedies in case anything happened or…

Informant: The military always had a good support system.

Author: Were there any in jokes that you had with any other moms, or um?

Informant: No, I remember they had, when we, again this is the second time when we were back in Bahrain, they had jokes where “You know you’ve been in Bahrain too long if… [Pause for effect] You walk inside a building and put on a sweater.” [Light laughter.] Because it would be so hot outside and it would be freezing inside.

Author: Mmhmm.

Informant: And you know you’re in Bahrain too long if…. You know… If… [Secretive Glance and makes a face, then whispers.] That’s the only one I know!

Author: [Laughter] That’s okay!

 

Pleebs and Stairwells

Informant, was a Naval Officer for much of his life (though not any longer), and had gone to the Naval Academy. Though not open to telling me many stories about the Naval Academy Rituals as he thought they were too inappropriate to tell a young lady, he offered to explain a few.

When asked about why these traditions are done, he said this, and elaborated on another tradition:

Informant: Um. One it keeps the guy’s minds off of the fact that they might be homesick.

Author: Mmhmm.

Informant: It does, you know, they have to start to work together as a group. Not so much shouting but just um [Pause] that you can get in and push and go beyond your limits, you know? [pause] But yeah, everybody does it. Some things I thought were kinda silly like. Only Upperclassmen can use this particular stairwell, and I remember, going back there as a Company Officer, and  they were yelling at some Pleeb because he was using that Stairwell, and I says I said: “Why are you yelling at this guy for using this stairwell?” “We’re not supposed to.” “Well, for what reason?” “Because of tradition!” “Well, that’s a pretty short lived tradition [laughter] ’cause  just seven years ago, when I was here, they could!” Just goes to show you how traditions go sometimes.

Author: Right, right.

Informant: Traditions are an excuse for a weak mind.

I feel in looking back on this transcript, that it is interesting to note how when someone is no longer in the system of initiation rituals, such as graduated, or moved on from that group, they then look back on these traditions as silly. However, in the midst of these traditions, they are very important, even if they have changed from their inception to their current versions. Perhaps it is only when someone no longer feels like they belong to a group, that they can then critically analyze their group’s culture; or perhaps it is only when someone is no longer a part of that group, that they feel compelled to criticize the old group.

Chow Calls

Informant, was a Naval Officer for much of his life (though not any longer), and had gone to the Naval Academy. Though not open to telling me many stories about the Naval Academy Rituals as he thought they were too inappropriate to tell a young lady, he offered to explain a few.

Informant: And then uh. Then there were things called Chow Calls. So at the beginning of every meal, at the end of each hall way there’s a Pleeb and ten minutes before each of the meals, they get out and they go: [fake shouting] SIR, YOU NOW HAVE TEN MINUTES BEFORE NOON MEAL FORMATION, THE MENU FOR NOON MEAL IS, and they go down whatever that menu might be, and [sniff] then they go, [slightly quieter fake shouting] THE OFFICERS OF THE DAY ARE, THE OFFICER OF THE DAY IS, BOOM BOOM BOOM, and they list who the Officers of the Day are, [fake shouting, still slightly quieter] THE UNIFORM FOR NOON MEAL FORMATION IS, AND THE LOCATION FOR [stumble a little here] it so that they everybody knows where it is, and if you get something wrong or you stumble over it, you’ve got upperclassmen come shout at you: WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS WRONG, and then you might have to [pause] give that Chow Call, from the Rig, then it’s really hard. [Demonstrates and makes silly noises. Laughter.]

When asked about why these traditions are done:

Informant: Um. One it keeps the guy’s minds off of the fact that they might be homesick.

Author: Mmhmm.

Informant: It does, you know, they have to start working together as a group. Not so much shouting but just um [Pause] that you can get in and push and go beyond your limits, you know? But yeah, everybody does it.

Rigging It

Informant, was a Naval Officer for much of his life (though not any longer), and had gone to the Naval Academy. Though not open to telling me many stories about the Naval Academy Rituals as he thought they were too inappropriate to tell a young lady, he offered to explain a few.

Author: Tell me about

Informant: Bracing Up as a?

Author: Bracing Up!

Informant: Bracing up as a Pleeb at the United States Naval Academy?

Author: Yeah, yeah, tell me about that

Informant: It’s a requirement for

Author: And what does that entail and why would you do that?

Informant: It’s a requirement for Pleebs if they haven’t done what they were supposed to do like they didn’t memorize what they were supposed to memorize about nautical lore or uh uh they didn’t read the uh article in the newspaper that they were supposed to read and so that means that you have to take your chin and [demonstrates] suck it back into the neck [I laugh] and you tighten up your whole face [demonstrates] so that you don’t see your chin anymore it’s basically in line with your neck; your Adam’s apple, [Informant snorts; I laugh more]. You gotta hold it that way and then if they say RIG IT [pretend shouts it], you have to go like this [pushes face even farther into chin, with help of hands] and push it back in even further and then you just have to, you might have to walk around like that [I laugh more] or be up against the wall, or a bulk head. HIT A BULK HEAD AND RIG IT [pretends to shout it again, more laughter].

When asked about why these traditions are done:

Informant: Um. One it keeps the guy’s minds off of the fact that they might be homesick.

Author: Mmhmm.

Informant: It does, you know, they have to start working together as a group. Not so much shouting but just um [Pause] that you can get in and push and go beyond your limits, you know? But yeah, everybody does it.