1. Two people decide to form a game of London Bridge Is Falling Down (as opposed to, say, Mother, May I? or Red Rover, Red Rover) and appoint themselves as the leaders.
2. The two put their heads together privately and decide what each side will “be” but this information is not shared with the others. Typically, one side might be a golden apple and the other a silver pear, or one side might be a white stallion and the other a shimmering unicorn.
2. The two people form a bridge with their arms and everyone begins singing “London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down” and so forth, and everyone marches under (over?) the bridge. When the song reaches “my fair LADY!” the two leaders’ arms (that’s four arms in all, people) come down on the word LADY! and “capture” a person.
3. Whilst everyone else waits patiently, the two leaders take the captured prisoner off to one side, out of earshot of the others, and the prisoner is asked, “Would you rather be a golden apple or a silver pear?” or whatever (the possibilities are endless. In a 21st-century, politically correct version of this game, for example, the question might be, “Would you rather be kissed by Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie?”) .
4. When the prisoner has made his or her choice, it is revealed to him or her which team leader he or she has chosen and he or she lines up behind said team leader, putting his or her arms (his or her own arms, I mean) on the team leader’s waist.
5. The now-expanded “bridge” returns to the group.
6. Steps 2 through 5 are repeated until every marcher has become a prisoner and has decided whether to be a golden apple, a silver pear,
a white stallion, a shimmering unicorn, the object of Brad Pitt’s affections, or Angelina Jolie’s and has lined up on one side or the other.
7. Finally, a great tug-of-war game ensues between the two sides until one side loses or Miss Erma Nash, the principal, comes out from her office and stands at the schoolhouse door waving a white towel to indicate that recess is over and it’s time to return to class.
As a bonus on this trip down memory lane, I end this post by revealing the erroneous version of the song “School Days” we sang:
School days, school days,
Dear old golden rule days.
Readin’ and Writin’ and ’Rithmetic
Taught to the tune of a hickory stick.
You were my queen in calico,
I was your bashful, barefoot beau
When you rode on my sleigh
“I love you so,”
When we were a couple of kids.
Did you spot the error?
Yes, of course! Riding on a sleigh is what you do in “Jingle Bells.” We should have sung “When you wrote on my slate” but we didn’t know what slates were in my little corner of the world. We had tablets of lined paper that our mammas bought at Wynn & Cabaniss, Sell’s, or Curry’s grocery store.
Today’s kids, on the other hand, don’t know what a hickory stick is. It’s their loss. Or maybe ours.
Thus ends another fascinating glimpse into the dear, dead days
P.S. -- Today would have been my father’s 108th birthday. The photograph above is not of my father, but of Miss Erma Nash, our principal, who seemed 108 to us.
P.P.S. -- I received an e-mail from an old school friend, Fred Stone, class of 1959 (one year behind me) . He takes issue with my saying that Miss Erma waved a white towel to signal end of recess. He is almost certain it was her little white lace hankie. That would be more in character, I admit. I stand corrected.