Tag Archives: playground

North Dakotan German-Russian Childhood Folk Song – “Oh Playmate”

Transcribed Lyrics Sung by Informant

Oh playmate, come out and play with me

And bring your dollies three

Climb up my apple tree

Chuck down my rain barrel

Slide down my cellar door

And we’ll be jolly friends

Forever more

Say, Say, oh playmate

I cannot play with you

My dolly’s got the flu


Ain’t got no rain barrel

Ain’t got no cellar door

But we’ll be jolly friends

Forever more, more, more, more, more


Informant recalls that she learned this song from fellow classmates at recess during her elementary school years in North Dakota. She would sing this song with friends and classmates, and also alone, “if I were doing chores or whatever” she mused. “I don’t really know to interpret the song…it’s just a little jingle about friendship I guess…I think the melody’s the more important part of it.”

My Analysis

I agree with the informant that the melody is very strong and catchy, and probably the reason why the song’s remained a part of the German-Russian North Dakotan folklore. It reminds me a lot of songs I would sing on the playground as a kid, which I think speaks to the universality of childhood songs, even if the melodies and lyrical content are different across cultures.

“Step on a Crack…”

Background information: My brother is currently a sophomore in high school. He recalled some sayings and games he remembers playing when he was younger.

Brother: I think this is a, like, just a folklore saying? Or kinda a game. But we used to say “Step on a crack, break your back, step on a line, break your spine.” Something like that. So you can’t step on any cracks in the sidewalk or step on any of the lines on the sidewalk or on the roads either. Otherwise something bad might happen to you.

Me: How did you hear about this? Do you believe it yourself?

Brother: It’s just a kid thing that I remember hearing with my friends when we would walk around after school or during recess. It’s a saying and a kinda superstitious thing but then it can also become a game if you actually try not to step on anything. I think I probably took it seriously at one point, but not anymore.

This saying was interesting to me because I remember it differently in my own childhood, and many of my friend do too. I remember it as “Step on a crack, break your mama’s back.” However, my brother and I do have a somewhat large age gap between us, and maybe in that time the saying slowly changed, as many playground games do. I think this is something that a lot of children take seriously when they’re young, because of the threat of something bad occurring, and not only something bad, but something very specific. For another version of this saying, see https://journeys.dartmouth.edu/folklorearchive/spring-2020/southern-superstitions/step-on-a-crack-break-your-mommas-back/.

Miss Mary


The informant, Chase, is the brother of the interviewer. She grew up in Chicago, Illinois where he currently resides. 


Chase tells the interviewer about a childhood rhyme they would sing on the playground.


“So this rhyme you would sing to your friends on the playground. It was always funny as kids because the words sound like they are about to be swear words, but then they are not. So no adults could get you in trouble for saying them because you didn’t actually say them. I learned it from you [interviewer] who learned it from our older cousin, Jordan.

The rhyme goes like this: ‘Miss Mary had a steamboat, Her steamboat had a bell. Miss Mary went to heaven, Her steamboat went to… Hell-o operator, give me number nine. If you disconnect me, I’ll kick you in the… Behind the refrigerator, there was a piece of glass.

Miss Mary sat upon it, and broke her little… Ask me no more questions, tell me no more lies.

The cows are in the pasture, eating chocolate pies, pies, pies. Miss Mary went to London, Miss Mary went to France. A french man pulled down Miss Mary’s underpants, pants, pants.’

I told all of my friends who thought it was the funniest thing. We would sing it all the time on the playground.


This is a very funny rhyme for kids. It is interesting how vast children’s folklore is and how quickly it can travel. My cousin who taught this to me is from Kentucky. All it took was one visit for Thanksgiving, and suddenly a rhyme kids in Kentucky sing made it all the way to a playground in Chicago.

Overnight Resident in Campus Shack


“There was no way we were going to see what made the sound, we were way to scared.”

The informant went to an elementary school that had a wooden structure in the middle of the playground that held all of the playground equipment. The structure was a bit ominous looking, with a pointed roof and fencing over the windows when it was closed down. The kids would sign up for shift to man the shack, and it was their job to hand out things like balls or jump ropes when other kids would request them. At the end of the day, it was the child’s job to get everything back and put things where they should be. The shack was then closed by fences being pulled over the windows and the door being shut.

There was a rumor among the students that someone would break into the shack and live in it overnight. This was reinforced by their own reports of things being moved around by the next morning after closing it up. The person who supposedly lived in the shack was homeless and came and went when nobody was around. On one occasion, when the informant stayed late for daycare, he and his friends apparently heard a crash sound come from the shack, although they opted to not investigate.



According to the informant, the rumor of the man in the playground hut originated some time around when he was there, so it wasn’t terribly old. But it lasted through his entire time there and didn’t really lose believability among children, even into middle school. The instance of him hearing a noise come from it at night was, he admitted, likely just something falling over, but it was more than enough confirmation as a child for him.



The most interesting part of this story is the fact that the rumor didn’t fade as the children got older. Perhaps this can be attributed to the fact that the story itself isn’t so farfetched that middle schoolers would rule it out as impossible. Something like an axe murderer or magical being living in the shack would lose realism as children got older and rationalized things, but the possibility of someone sneaking onto campus and taking up temporary residence in an unlocked hut is there. It’s easy to say the stuff got moved around just naturally, or someone cleans up the shack at night from the school, but the fact that nothing in the story is “out of this world” makes it even more haunting to a certain extent.

Playground Lingo

Context: The informant is a 23-year-old white female from Florida who grew up with her parents and two older siblings. When the informant was in grade school, a common accusation between kids swinging on adjacent swings, when someone got too close to them, was, “You’re in my shower!”

Analysis: The informant says she remembers the phrase because “I thought it was a weird thing to say, i was like, okay, whatever you say…” This indicates that it was not a widespread saying but perhaps unique to a small area of schools or perhaps even just the one school that the informant attended.

It can be assumed that when someone had possession of a swing, they would be unwilling to give it up or to experience interference from other swingers. The connotation of a shower being a very individual, private space, therefore, transferred onto the swinger’s small area of free movement and they would understandably be indignant of someone invading their “private,” designated area.