Informant: I know how to start a lanyard– I was the girl everyone went to.
Collector (Me): Could you explain how to start a lanyard?
Informant: Okay. So it’s so simple you just get the two pieces of string and you lay them in like, a cross, like, so like the middles intersect, and then you more or less just do the normal lanyard pattern, like over the little cross where they intersect. And then when you pull it you’ve started the lanyard and you can just keep going.
Collector: That’s so inspirational.
Informant: (laughing) I was a hero at my summer camp.
My informant is one of my friends, a sophomore at USC. She went to summer camps when she was a child, and a popular craft activity there would be making box stitch lanyards out of colorful plastic strings. Usually most girls at the camp would know how to weave the strings together into a lanyard, but the difficult part was knowing how to start it. Another girl would be the one to start it. My informant, however, did know how to begin a lanyard, and as a result she was the one that other girls went to when they needed help working on lanyards at summer camp, and in the eyes of her peers, was seen as higher status.
This piece came up when my informant, another participant, and I were talking about the various activities we used to do during summer camps. We discussed jump rope games and songs, then moved onto crafts— specifically lanyards, and if anyone knew how they were started in the first place.
I liked this piece because it reminded me of my own memories of summer camp when I was a child and also struggled to start lanyards. I remember having to find someone who knew how to start them, but what struck me as I listened to my informant was that while I knew of people who could start lanyards, the instructions were always kept secret. In fact, the notion of secrets plays a significant role in children’s folklore. For children, who should be seen as their own cultural group (a repressed minority) when being studied, secrets are akin to obtaining status and power. Secrets solidify groups within the larger peer group of children, and withholding knowledge from others can elevate a child’s status in the hierarchy. This is seen through what my informant told me: by knowing how to start a lanyard, she was viewed with high esteem by the other girls at summer camp. She also mentioned the same status applied if you knew how to do a variation of the lanyard pattern, meaning that the skills of making lanyards were also valued in the peer group.