Down by the Banks- Children’s game/song

Down by the banks of the Hanky-Panky

Where the bullfrog jumps from bank to bank-y

With the heeps, hops

Soda pops

Hey Mr. Willie and he went ker-plop

To play this game everyone sits in a circle and you hold our hands out to each side. You place your right hand on top of your (right-hand side) neighbor’s left and your left hand under your (left-hand side) neighbor’s right hand. The person who starts the game moves their right hand and slaps the right hand of the person to their left, while everyone sings the “Down by the Banks” song. The object of the game is to not be the last person to have their hand slapped when the song ends, so after your hand is slapped you want to slap the next person’s hand as quickly as possible. If you are the last one slapped then you’re out and you have to leave the circle. Then everyone else moves in and starts the game again until there are only two people left. The last two sing the song again, but instead of slapping each other’s hands they lock fingers and swing their arms back and forth at the end of the song the person who’s elbows are straight is the winner.

The informant said that she first played this game about a year ago when she was 8 and had first joined a Jr. Cheerleading camp at the local junior high school. She and the rest of her group learned it from their cheerleading instructor who she believes was an 8th grader. The informant thinks “Down by the Banks” is a waiting game, because “You usually play it when you are waiting for something. Like your turn to perform at a competition or something.” She says it’s fun to play and that “it helps calm you down so that you don’t get stage-fright”. As for the meaning of the song lyrics,  she is unsure. She doesn’t think they mean much of anything and that the lyrics are just fun to say because they are funny sounding and rhyme.

I also played this game as a little girl and I agree with my informant that it is a “waiting game”. Every time I played it as a child it was before some kind of performance or sports competition. The game is fun, silly, and fast-paced and can soothe nerves of a young girl troubled by stage-fright. My informant said that only the older elementary school girls play it 3rd-5th grade, she has never seen any 7th grade girls playing “Down by the Banks” together and only a few 6th grade girls. I believe this song has sexual overtones that the younger girls who are between the ages of 8 and 10 or 11 do not really understand yet, so the older girls in junior high might pass it down as a bit of a joke. The younger girls have fun playing and the older girls get some amusement from knowing that the younger girls don’t really know what their singing about. The song itself could be considered a kind of practical joke played on young girls who are just barely beginning puberty and are in a liminal stage between being a child and an adolescent.