Friday, May 1, 2009

From the Introduction

Obviously, we can't pursue this project in a vacuum. We need to know more about this book. So here, I'll excerpt a bit from the book's preface:
This book is intended to meet a need in the social life and recreation field for an entertainment guidebook that actually plans the party. Most books of this type are merely a collection of games and stunts. One must search through them to find the games desired for any particular occasion. They require much work in the selection of material, or one must be content with a miscellaneous collection of games and stunts that are in no way related.

The parties in this book are planned around a central theme or idea, and this idea is carried throughout the evening. Most of the parties are so full that many of the games and stunts will have to be eliminated. This is done so that the social leader will have a large number of events from which to choose and may pass over those he does not wish to use. The writer is willing to guarantee that if all plans are carried out as suggested, any party in this book will furnish entertainment for two full hours. The games and stunts are arranged so that an active game is followed by a mental or quiet game. Guests at a party will very soon become bored with too many consecutive mental or active games. By interspersing them this can be overcome.

The parties are planned so that they will fit into the different seasons and months of the year. Beginning at the first of the book, the first four parties are thought to be suitable for January, the next four for February, and so throughout the book. Outdoor parties such as the Gipsy Party and Aquatic Party are planned for the summer months.
Whew. Sofar, of course, this sounds pretty conventional. A bit boring, actually. It does sound like a book that would appeal to the conservative, those worried about entertaining without wanting to offend even inadvertently. But there's more. The next two paragraphs really epitomize a rather interesting 1930s ethos -- the desire to make money at everything one does. Observe:

One will find many ideas for pay parties. Among these are: Selling the Calendar, the Circulating Pig, King Neptune's Carnival, Measuring Party, Cootie Party, Fifty Party, Hart Dice, Box Supper and Cake Walk, Street Carnival, Vanishing Party, and Minstrel Show.

The Minstrel Show, given in the concluding chapter, has been used sucessfully a number of times. Three times it has been put on by a local civic club and netted in excess of one thousand dollars at each performance. Three times parts of it have been use at Young People's Conferences as an evening's entertainment for the whole group.

Yes, minstrel shows. This is not a politically correct book and does not come from a politically correct time, as judged by this portion of the book's cover illustration. But in reading the preface, it's clear that this book is meant to present familiar material, material that will not make party attendees feel uncomfortable -- a phenomenon Sinclair Lewis would have been vary familiar with, as he satirized it through the absolute conformity of his character George Babbitt and through the character of Carol Kenicott, who fought against such "comfort" and eventually succumbed to it out of despair. The book does dare introduce new ideas, but not without another American ideal: Thorough testing and vetting for "practical value."

I should mention I do not intend this blog to be a place to mock. Rather, this will be a place to ponder the world of 1930 and make comparisons between the 1930s and today. I believe we'll find many of the attitudes remain prevalent, even among those who believe themselves to be moving into edgier material. Read on:
Many of the games used in this book are quite well known. Very likely you will find most of your favorites, with variations or in a different setting. The many new games and entertainment ideas have come from the actual experience of the author in teaching among Young People's Conferences and other work among Church and civic groups. All new material has been thoroughly tested after very careful selection for its practical value.
Tis introduction also begs the question, who is Arthur M. Depew? Luckily, his book obliges:
The author of this book, Mr. Arthur Depet, is the pastor of the First Christian Church of West Palm Beach, Florida. He is a successful pastor in planning social life programs with his own church young people. He has also had a wide experience in planning good times for civic organizations. During the past four or five years he has taught the course on Social Life and Recreation in the summer Young People's Conference at Daytona Beach, Florida. In this capacity he has had unique opportunity to enlist the active co-operation of a host of young people, and to evaluate their reactions to the program materials contained in this volume, as well as to appriase their skill in the leadership of these social life activities.
Yes, from simpler times.

So, let's have some fun. Next week, the first party: The Watch Party.

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