Sunday, April 18, 2010

Here at the End of All Things

I’ve pondered this entry for a while now. Thought about recapping my favorite Cokesbury Party Blog moments. Holding a contest to see which book to roast here next. But, like Plankton from SpongeBob Square Pants, I’m facing reality:

I am small.

The blog will take a hiatus after this post. I may indeed find a new book to skewer, but whether it’s continued as part of the Cokesbury Party Blog or not, I have no idea. That would require some retooling. But I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Here’s another bridge: Nobody comes here. Nobody cares. In nearly a year of busting my brains out on this blog, not a single comment.

But I’m not bitter.

I had fun.

So here at the end of all things, let me end, finally, with this:

Week Fifty: Bill Cosby

Ultimately, no.

I will not write about Cokesbury’s Minstrel Show here. Frankly, it’s embarrassing. The jokes are lame, first of all. Here’s a sample:

End Man No. 1: Mr. Interlocutor, you know Mr. Wise sure owes me some congratulations.
Interlocutor: Owes you some congratulations for what?
End: The other day I heard two boys arguing about him. They sure was arguing.
Interlocutor: What were they saying about him?
End: They said Mr. Wise wasn’t fit to live with a hog.
Interlocutor: What did you say?
End: I took up for him; I said he was.

Hyuck hyuck hyuck.
Then there was this one:

End No. 3 (addresses End No. 4): I’ll bet I can fix you so you will be just like one of Mr. Woolworth’s five-and-dime stores.
End No. 4: What you talkin’ about, Nigger? I’ll bet you can’t.
End No. 3 (lays a dime one the stage): Stand on that dime, Nigger. Now there you is. You is just like one of Mr. Woolworth’s stores.
End No. 4: What you talkin’ about? Why is I like one of Mr. Woolworth’s stores?
End No. 3: Nothing over ten cents.

It doesn’t get any better. In fact, it gets a lot worse.

So, no party. I’m sorry. I’m sure Cokesbury intended to have the book end on a high note. Changes – for the good – in entertainment and attitude make it not so today.

Maybe ending with this would be better:

Saturday, April 17, 2010

About that Minstrel Show . . .

Before we launch into Cokesbury’s final party, the Minstrel Show, pause and ask yourself. Do you want to be associated with the likes of this:

I’m not sure I do. On the one hand, talking about minstrel shows in general may be taken as offensive by African Americans, and for good reason. It’s true as Wikipedia says, “Minstrel shows lampooned black people in mostly disparaging ways: as ignorant, lazy, buffoonish, superstitious, joyous, and musical.” Blackface continued long after minstrel shows fell out of fashion, most notably in film and in “Amos ‘n’ Andy,” one of the most popular radio shows of the first half of the 20th century. The show – and I’ve listened to plenty of them – was pretty degrading and, as evidenced by protests against the show, not universally liked.

Now I couch this next phrase carefully: Degrading if you recall these are white men performing in black face, or degrading if you believe the stereotypes. Amos 'n' Andy are no more buffoonish, superstitious, lazy or musical than, say, Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton of The Honeymooners, who got up to some pretty stupid lower-class antics as well, as I recall.

So that brings in the other hand, shying away from such subjects limits our ability to discuss race openly. If we’re to understand the hurt, we, as a nation, ought to understand the reason behind the hurt. Or result in failing to point out to the oversensitive that in entertainment as in life, stupidity, cupidity, racism and buffoonery knows no racial boundary.

And on that ubiquitous third hand, there’s also stuff like this:

So is “Hee-Haw” a covert way of white liberal guilt getting back at all those who think minstrelsy is so entertaining? After all – and I watched “Hee-Haw” a lot as a kid – the show makes white folks look ignorant, lazy, buffoonish, superstitious, joyous, and musical. I don’t know the answer to that.

I do know Cokesbury’s introduction to the party isn’t promising:

A good way to have a delightful evening of fun and at the same time make some money is to put on a Minstrel Show. A Minstrel Show is a typically American type of entertainment, and to most people thoroughly enjoyable.
I’m not sure I want to have the Cokesbury Party Blog conclude on this note. If anyone out there in Blogland is reading, let me know what you think.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bonus Party: The Vanishing Party

So, you want to raise some money. Cokesbury’s down with that; they’ve got plenty of ways and reasons to raise money as well. That’s why they’ve come up with the vanishing Party, which is best described as a multi-level marketing firm that sells tea and “social contacts,” whatever those may be.

Here’s the gist:

Let’s suppose that a group of women in a church, society, or club desires to raise $250. They decide to give a Vanishing Party. Five women meet for an afternoon tea, each of them bringing a donation of 25 cents. This will amount to $1.25. Each of these women decide s to give a tea on each Wednesday for the next four Wednesdays to which they will each be willing to contribute 25 cents. The next Wednesday afternoon there would be five women, each entertaining four other women. This would be twenty-five women each contributing 25 cents.
And so on and so forth until the group’s goal of $250 is made and the tea parties “vanish,” or long before that when the women figure it’ll just be cheaper and easier to fork over enough cash to make the Vanishing Parties vanish for good.

Or throw the parties and insist the attendees wear silly hats. Then sing these songs as they jabber:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Week Forty-Eight: Street Carnival


Oh, what a joyful word to kids’ ears. Carnival. Cotton candy and scary carnies. The lure of winning a horridly ugly stuffed dog by throwing balls or tossing rings. The thrill of getting lost followed by the inexplicable joy of being found again. And a chance to watch Dad go ballistic when he has to pay $3.50 each when you and your two brothers want hot dogs.

Cokesbury, too, is in a carnival spirit. Behold:
A good way to make money for any worthy enterprise is to have a Street Carnival.
Yeah, making money again. I wasn’t aware that carnivals existed for any other purpose than paying for additional tattoos or having yet another excuse to avoid going to the dentist. But Cokesbury seems to think you can make money by hosting one, preferably indoors so you can filter out the riff-raff, especially when your advert for the carnival is so damned compelling:

Christian Endeavor Street Carnival
Friday Evening, October 10.
A lot of fun for all.
Admission, 25 cents.

Or, alternately:

Big Street Carnival
Tuesday night at eight o’clock.
Come one, come all.
Under the auspices of the Conference Club
Admission, 15 cents.

Kinda reminds me of this:

Wow. “Stimulant properties of the coca plant.” Yeah, before they changed the formula, Coca-Cola was basically liquid cocaine. But since it was a “Syrup*And*Extract,” that took the curse off it.

Anyway, back to the publicity. I love this gem:
The newspapers should have two or three stories about it.
Wow, they were pushovers for a good carnival story back then, were they? Of course, this is back when people actually did read newspapers. And back when folks like George Babbitt could manipulate a reporter at will. Such as:
When the Sunday School campaign was finished, Babbitt suggested to Kenneth Escott, "Say, how about doing a little boosting for Doc Drew personally?"

Escott grinned. "You trust the doc to do a little boosting for himself, Mr. Babbitt! There's hardly a week goes by without his ringing up the paper to say if we'll chase a reporter up to his Study, he'll let us in on the story about the swell sermon he's going to preach on the wickedness of short skirts, or the authorship of the Pentateuch. Don't you worry about him. There's just one better publicity-grabber in town, and that's this Dora Gibson Tucker that runs the Child Welfare and the Americanization League, and the only reason she's got Drew beaten is because she has got SOME brains!"

"Well, now Kenneth, I don't think you ought to talk that way about the doctor. A preacher has to watch his interests, hasn't he? You remember that in the Bible about—about being diligent in the Lord's business, or something?"

"All right, I'll get something in if you want me to, Mr. Babbitt, but I'll have to wait till the managing editor is out of town, and then blackjack the city editor."

Thus it came to pass that in the Sunday Advocate-Times, under a picture of Dr. Drew at his earnestest, with eyes alert, jaw as granite, and rustic lock flamboyant, appeared an inscription—a wood-pulp tablet conferring twenty-four hours' immortality:

The Rev. Dr. John Jennison Drew, M.A., pastor of the beautiful Chatham Road Presbyterian Church in lovely Floral Heights, is a wizard soul-winner. He holds the local record for conversions. During his shepherdhood an average of almost a hundred sin-weary persons per year have declared their resolve to lead a new life and have found a harbor of refuge and peace.

Everything zips at the Chatham Road Church. The subsidiary organizations are keyed to the top-notch of efficiency. Dr. Drew is especially keen on good congregational singing. Bright cheerful hymns are used at every meeting, and the special Sing Services attract lovers of music and professionals from all parts of the city.

On the popular lecture platform as well as in the pulpit Dr. Drew is a renowned word-painter, and during the course of the year he receives literally scores of invitations to speak at varied functions both here and elsewhere.
Yeah, your modern-day newspaper reporters love stuff like that. Call them. Several times. See how many times you’ll be completely ignored.

No matter. Your guests will be battering down your street carnival doors, two bits in hand, waiting for admission so they can see the attractions you’re going to nickel-and-dime them for. Better get going. Here are a few suggestions:
Museum. Have one booth arranged as a museum. A charge of admission of 5 or 10 cents should be made. Some of the following may be placed in the museum:
September Morn (a card bearing the date September 1, 5 am)
The light of the World (a box of matches)
A collection of marble (just some marbles)
Some things out of King Tut’s tomb (anything that has never been in King Tut’s tomb)
The Home of Burns (use a smoothing iron)
Portrait of Penn (a picture of a writing pen)
The Watch on the Rhine (a watch on an orange peel)
A twelve-carat ring (make this with a dozen carrots, placed in a circle)
The One-Eyed Monster (a sewing needle)
For Men Only. The booth for men only should be an attraction for the ladies. But it may be required that when women are admitted they have to go in pairs or be accompanied by a gentleman friend. The booth merely contains articles used exclusively by men. A razor, men’s trousers, leather belt, socks, tie, etc.

For Women Only. The men should be admitted only in pairs or with a lady. The booth contains articles used exclusively by women such as a dress, hose, high-heeled shoes, lip stick, corset, etc. A small admission should be charged.
Here, it’s not clear whether Cokesbury expects men to be the only sex willing to see what’s for women only, or if women are too smart to pay to see the crap their husbands or boyfriends leave lying all over the house or apartment. Either way, just try charging only for the Women’s Tent and see how well that goes over with your feminist friends.

There are more booths, however. Let’s continue:
Wild Animals and Birds. Select people with names of animals and birds for this booth, such as Mr. Fox, Miss Lyon, Mrs. Wolf, etc. Other names that are common are Hare, Bear, Beaver, Crabb. Names of birds are Crow, Drake, Sparrow, Hawk, and Martin. If it is not possible to get people with these names, pictures of people in the city with such names may be used and the names written under the picture.

It will add to the interest at this booth if there is someone on the inside, either with a musical instrument such as a trombone, or some apparatus contrived for that purpose, making noises to represent the roar of wild animals and the squawking of birds.
I tried to think, do I know anyone named after an animal? I know a Martin. I know a little dwarf-imp-girl named after a poison gas (I don’t know why; don’t ask). Maybe this would work where you live.

To continue:
Food Booths. Quite a good deal may be realized from the sale of candy, ice-cream cones, sandwiches, coffee, and cake. If this is donated, all money received will be profit.
To go with the food booth, Cokesbury suggests:
The Green Pig that Eats Human Food. Place a mirror in the bottom of a box about a foot square. Over this box have a large green light bulb and a yellow bulb on a double socket. Charge 5 cents admission to see this show. The person looks in the box and sees his reflection in the green mirror.
If that’s not enough of a money-maker, try this one:
Mystery Fish Pond. Use an ordinary fishing pole and attach for a hook a spring clothespin or other spring snap. Arrange a curtain in such a way that the hook may be thrown over. This may be done over a partition. The customer snaps a dime for bait onto the hook and throws it over. The one in charge on the other side takes the dime and fastens a package onto the snap. Some of these articles may be of value as bait for other customers, but most of them must be valueless to assume a good profit.
Sounds like a great way to clean out lint traps, garbage pails, sink traps and other rubbish bins for the valueless junk. For the rest, just give them their dime back.

This next one, I might actually do, because in a way it reminds me of the elementary school I attended. The fire escape from the second floor WAS A FREAKING SLIDE. WAHOOO! Never got to use it, and it was removed the year I actually got to attend class on the second floor:
A Trip to Mars. The customers are blindfolded and led into the entrance of the road to Mars. Along the route they are rocked and turned in chairs, swung in swings, made to climb out of a narrow window, pass through a narrow passage, climb a ladder, and come down a slide. This slide may be arranged from a window. Care should be taken to arrange such a trip so that it will not be dangerous.
As far as I’m concerned, come do it at Lincoln Elementary School. I’m sure some janitor still has that fire escape slide stashed somewhere.

Speaking of dangerous carnival attractions, why not build your own Ferris Wheel?
The Ferris Wheel. At a church carnival I saw the Ferris wheel which I shall describe. It was strongly constructed with upright posts extending about ten feet from the ground. On either side two pieces of timber two by six inches were crossed and brace together. A hole was bored through the intersection of these timbers, and they were arrange so that they would revolve on the two-inch pipe placed on the upright posts. These two by sizes should be sixteen feet long. At each of the four ends of the timbers seats are hung on three-fourth-inch pipes to that they will revolve. The wheel must be strongly constructed. It is operated by three or four boys, and particularly for the amusement of children. If strongly constructed, grown-ups may patronize it also.
If it were me, I’d stick with the mission to Mars. Remember, describing a home-made Ferris Wheel is a lot different than building such a wheel. Maybe you ought to wait for Popular Mechanics to come out with a set of plans.

Or just do it this way:

Be sure to play some appropriate 1930s music. Like this:

Next you need a sop to throw to the folks who are getting tired of digging into their pockets every time they wander up to a booth. Enter the Free Show:
Usually in every city there is someone who does acrobatic stunts, or tumbling stunts, or someone who performs on the horizontal bar, or trapeze, or plays a violin in some unusual way. Use any of such acts that can be secured for the free show.
Call Ned Flanders. He’s got that stupid sexy butt thing going:

And that’s it, folks. Show’s over, except for this newspaper article as reproduced by Cokesbury, describing such a fair, one which evidently went a long way in fostering improved race relations in the Greater Palm Beach, Florida, area:
It was Whoopee Night last night in the vicinity of the Northwood Church, when the great Whoopee Carnival being staged by the young people of the church was open to the public for the fist run. A huge crowd was there. Everybody was in gay spirits and took in everything that was offered, both in the way of entertainment and refreshments. The carnival runs again tonight. Besides the Main Show, which was a splendid program beginning at eight o’clock, there were two trapeze performers and side shows, including a ten-year-old negro boy weighing 450 pounds, fortune telling, a green pig, a reducing lady, a freak palm reading, and fish pond. Then the Ferris Wheel attracted old folks and young alike, while the watermelon booth, were you could get a slice for a nickel and all you could eat for a dime, the ice-cream stand, the hot dog counter, and so and so on, were busy places every minute of the evening.
Yes, my journalist friends, that is all one paragraph. Remember this the next time you criticize the Internet for being a vapid cesspool of poor journalistic endeavor.

And, frankly, speaking as a fat person, I've never understood why fat people are considered freaks or funny. As noted earlier on this blog, I never cared for the "Our Gang" character Chubbsy-Wubbsy, or the infinite other fatty derivatives out there meant to draw humor. I file fat kids in the same category I file monkeys -- and that is in the very narrow category of things that are considered amusing but really aren't, before you get any radical ideas. And having a fat negro kid? Yeah, Florida, really improving on the race relations thing, right?

So on that note, we leave the carnival and its freaks behind. Tune in next week when the party will vanish. Literally.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Cokesbury Successor?

For the past few months, I've been looking feverishly for a successor to the Cokesbury Party Book; a book worthy of continuing the fun at the Cokesbury Party Blog.

I may have found it. It's been on my bookshelf for years, and concerns, in part, this guy:

This is the illustrious Louis Untermeyer, fourteenth poet laureate of the Library of Congress, translator of Cyrano de Bergerac and compiler of humor. I'm going to have to do some more reading and research, but my feelings are optimistic. Copyright might be the biggest issue. I'll have to explore that a bit more.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

What Is it With the Sandwiches, Really?

Regular readers of the Cokesbury Party Blog know that Cokesbury has a thing with sandwiches. For quite a while, I figured it was either a Florida thing, a Methodist thing or simply a Cokesbury thing. Then I read "When Worlds Collide," a seminal science fiction book published a year after the Cokesbury Party Book, and realized that this sandwich fetish transcends Floridianism, Methodism and Cokesburyism. Here's a report on that:

Ah, the simplicity and ubiquity of the humble sandwich.

From lonely Arthur Dent, great sandwich maker and carver of Perfectly Normal Beasts on Lumella, to the famished Bilbo Baggins, longing not for bits of meat toasted on sticks but for a loaf and butter, the human longing for a sandwich knows no earthly nor metaphorical bounds.

Thus it is fitting that the intrepid voyagers in Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer’s “When Worlds Collide” should share sandwiches, wrapped in waxed paper, as they voyage from the destroyed earth to their new home on Bronson Beta in this classic 1930s Science Fiction novel.

I capitalize science fiction because this was the era of true sci fi, unaided by technology and fueled only by the promise of technology to come and the human imagination. Thus, the vision of sandwiches unaffected by gravity:

Their habit of relying upon the attractive force of the Earth resulted in an increasing number of mishaps, some of them amusing and some of them painful. After what seemed like eons of time someone asked Tony for more food. Tony himself could not remember whether he was going to serve the fifth meal or the sixth, but he sprang to his feet with earnest willingness – promptly shot clear to the ceiling, against which he bumped his head. He fell back to the floor with a jar and rose laughing. The ceiling was also padded, so that he had not hurt himself.

The sandwiches were wrapped in wax paper, and when some one on the edge of the crowd asked that his sandwich be tossed, Tony flipped it toward him, only to see it pass high over the mans’ head and entirely out of reach, and strike against the opposite wall. The man himself stretched to catch the wrapped sandwich, and sat down again rubbing his arm, saying that he had almost throng his shoulder out of joint.
What a joyful cacophony of images: Ordinary human being experiencing weightlessness for the first time, and sharing that weightlessness not with paste glopped onto a tray and scraped out with a spoon, but with sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper. Maybe the authors appreciated the familiarity, the portability of the sandwich, recognizing that here is sustenance that can be manufactured in bulk using simple ingredients, ingredients that can be cooked beforehand and thus not require fancy, open-flamed preparation on a great space ship. Or maybe they just like sandwiches. Either way, bravo, gentlemen.

The rest of the book, too, is most excellent, with the ubiquitous love story only getting in the way marginally. Politically-correct folk will notice the treatment of the main character’s valet, referred to in innocent passing as a “Jap” and identified as “inscrutable.” He does not, however, supply the sandwiches, but the coffee, so perhaps that can be forgiven.

I think the Fourth Earl of Sandwich would be pleased that his namesake food item is a mainstay in science fiction.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Oh, those Sweet, Sweet Delusions . . .

So, you want to stage a carnival. If you're anything like me, you have these delusions. It'll be great, this thing I create. Just like a Silly Symphony.

Then reality sets in:

Well, maybe with Cokesbury along, you'll have a better chance of getting your carnival off the ground. See you at the Street Carnival this weekend.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Week Forty-Seven: Box Supper and Cake Walk Party

I’ll confess: This may be one of those instances where the preliminary post to the actual party post is longer.

There’s not much to this party. Here goes:

1) Make Money ® the Cokesbury way.

2) Get plenty of girls to make the lunches.

3) Get plenty of boys to buy (and presumably eat) the lunches. (“There are usually several young women in every organization who do not ordinarily have an escort, and should there be a large number of these prepare boxes and there be no one to buy them, it would e embarrassing,” Cokesbury says.)

4) Auction off the boxes, either without knowing who made them or by knowing who made them. Wrap the boxes attractively, so they’ll go for top dollar.

5) Assign five or six girls to bake cakes for the cakewalk. Sell tickets for fifteen cents each.

End this way: “The auction, the eating, and the cakewalks will consume the evening, and no other games will be necessary.”

It’s over. No long post to read this weekend. Just gear up for next week’s extravaganza, the Street Carnival. Woo-hoo.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cakewalks; or Walking on Eggshells

If ever you thought the dance routines of today were odd, take a gander at this:

I don’t explain them. I just find them on YouTube. But this is, they tell me, a cake walk. In musical form. Not the nasty cake walk that has a history in the suppression of African-American peoples. Yeah, that same carnival game you play with your kids? Probably racist. May as well sit down, turn around, pick a bale of cotton as you’re walking. Right? Or is it racist? Maybe not. But you PC folks out there, better be careful, just in case. Next time yhou’re invited to a cakewalk, don’t go. Stay home. Close your curtains. Do not let anyone in the house, or they’ll bring un-PC thoughtcrime in.

Or you could just get over your hang-ups and enjoy the rest of this post. Believe me, when we get to the Minstrel Show in a couple of weeks, those hang-ups of yours will get considerable airing.

I knew this, but then again, I never knew: Scott Joplin wrote a Cake Walk. Swipesy, to be precise:

Even Debussy got into the act:

And it denigrated into this:

Boring as hell. The only problem with taking my kids to cake walks is that they win them and then we have sugared-up kids bouncing off the walls, even when they're outside.

Just think, kids: Something you think is cool and hip and groovy today will, someday, be as boring as a kiddie cakewalk. It’ll happen to you! Just be sure you’re wearing an onion on your belt at the time . . .

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Week Forty-Six: The Kid Party

First off, the invitation:

Backward, turn backward
O Time in your flight,
And let’s be kids again
Next Friday night.
We’ll all meet at Jones’,
On Twenty-First Street,
Dressed up like kiddies
From heads to feet.
Backward, turn backward,
O Time in your flight,
And meet me at Jones’
Next Friday night.

If the first lines of Cokesbury’s invitation to its Kids Party sound familiar, congratulations. You’re as literate as Cokesbury expects. The lines come from (of course you knew it) Elizabeth Akers Allen’s poem "Rock Me to Sleep," a most sentimental poem about wanting to revert to childhood in order to be relieved of the burden of adulthood. It’s a nice one, if you don’t have a heart of stone.

For those who have a soft heart, read the poem, then watch this:

Gustave Flaubert isn’t the only one capable of making one “apitoyer, faire pleurer les ames sensibles, en etant une moi-meme.” His tale "A Simple Heart" will rip yours on out, if you've got one.

But Cokesbury’s aim is not to make you cry, unless they’re tears of laughter. So, on to the party. Here’s the first game:

Bean Bag Scramble. Bean bags are places on the floor as the group stands in a circle. There should be one less bean bags than players. Lively music should be played, and all should march around in a circle until the music stops. When the music stops all scramble for the bean bags. The player who fails to get a bag is out. The bags are again placed in the center, but one is taken away. Again they scramble, and the one who fails to get one is dropped. If it is desirous to speed up this game more than one bag may be removed at a time. Finally there will be only two with one bag. Give a prize to the one who gets the last bag.
Be sure to have plenty of Band-Aids and pressure bandages on hand, and knowing someone who can set a broken nose using two pencils and a sturdy fellow to stop the victim from squirming might also be appropriate.

I almost forgot! The costumes!

Any kind of children’s clothes or imitation of them would be suitable. Short dresses or rompers would be suitable for girls, such as rompers as those worn at Girl Scout camps. Another suggestion for girls would be to dress as babies, with some kind of improvised baby dress. Also they might dress like a schoolgirl with ribbons in the hair. Suggestions for boys would be short trousers, overalls, and barefooted.

BTW: Be careful how you Google “rompers” these days. Apparently, they’ve become a hot item, outside the world of babies’ “onesies,” especially in the world of Victoria’s Secret. Now, where’s my bottle of eye bleach?

On to the next game. It probably sounds familiar because you played the same thing at Christmas. Oh well, if it works one, it'll work again, right?

The Doll Shop. One guest is shopkeeper and another the customer. The purpose of the game is to divide the party into two groups and at the same time provide a lot of action and fun for all. All of the guests are dolls and may be brought out and displayed at the will of the shopkeeper. All must be displayed before the game ends. The customer tells the shopkeeper that he wants to buy some dolls, but that he does not want silly dolls that grin all the time. He wants sober dolls. The shopkeeper argues that it is the mark of good breeding for a doll to smile. The object is for the shopkeeper to make the person who is being displayed as a doll to smile. If he succeeds, that person will remain on his side. If he cannot be made to smile in about thirty seconds, the customer gets him. The shopkeeper may go through all kinds of antics to make the player smile, such as making him or her to say Mamma and Papa or tickling the doll under the chin or saying crazy things about them. If the shopkeeper has a strong imagination and a sense of humor, this can be made extremely funny.
And why divide the group? For the bone-breaking tug-of-war, of course. Remember, you’ve got a First Aid kit and nose setter on call. Tug away.

When all have been displayed and the groups divided, have a tug of war. This may be done by the shopkeeper and the customer joining hands and all the dolls catching each other around the waist or by the shoulders and trying to pull the other group across a line.

To follow is a series of Children’s Games, including Drop the Handkerchief, Walking to Jerusalem (which is what they called musical chairs before Madelin Murray O'Hair got a hold of it), Farmer in the Dell, Last Couple Out, and this gem: The Cat and the Mouse:
The players all form a circle with exception of two. One of these is the cat and the other the rat. The rat is inside the circle and the cat outside. The cat meows and starts to chase the rat. The players are to aid the rat and try to prevent the cat from catching the rat. They raise their arms for the rat to go through and bar the passage of the cat with them. When the rat is caught he chooses one from the circle to become the cat, and takes his place, while the one who was the cat becomes the rat.
For the most anachronistic game of the evening, try this:

Balloon Race. Get some barrel hoops for goals. Strings should be tied to the balloons and small sand bags fastened to the strings so that the balloons will not be entirely blown away. Each player is provided with a fan, and with the fan he must by fanning the balloon make it go through the goal. Of course this game may be played with a large number of players, and the more the better.
Whenever a game description starts with “Get some barrel hoops” you know you’re going to have a fun time. Of course, in this day and age, we’d use hula hoops. Unless, of course, you’ve got the barrel hoops, or know someone who does.

One final game (and a final opportunity for your designated Nose-Setter):

Candy Scramble. Place bags of candy, lollipops, and small boxes of candy in the center of the floor. The players stand around in a circle and at the signal scramble for the candy. They proceed to eat the candy they get.
If you ask me, the “kiddie” attitude displayed in this game is even more of an effrontery to kiddom than “Chubbsy-Ubbsy” here.

And that’s it. Serve the leftovers from the last game as refreshments, or break out some ice cream and cones, popcorn balls, and animal cookies. Or, if you trust your friends, allow them to pop their own corn or toast marshmallows.

That's it. Next week, a rather staid and moribund Box Supper and Cake Walk. Hope to see you there. With that kind of sales pitch, who'd miss it?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Get Ready for the Kid Party

My advice: Watch this clip about twenty times or so until that catchy song is embedded in your lobes. Then quickly try to find a costume like what they're wearing. You'll be the toast of the party. Or chased and beaten with your own lolly, because everyone has that damn song stuck in their heads.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Week Forty Five: Thanksgiving Party

I should warn you that I have a Black Belt when it comes to Thanksgiving writing. You’re talking, after all, to the third-place winner in the 1996 Collegiate Associated Press contest in editorial writing. That doesn’t sound nearly as exciting as the Buckeye News Hawk Award, but I tout this award as much as Uncle Rico touts that game coach shoulda put him in because they would have won state.

Here’s the invitation to this turkey of a party:

To our Thanksgiving Party
We want to invite you,
The things that we’ve planned
We’re sure will delight you.
Turkeys and Red Men
Pilgrim Fathers and Football,
Will help to amuse you,
Making sport for us all.

First of all, rhyming “you” with “you” is a stroke of pure genius. And speaking of strokes, you know the progressives in your crowd are just going to love that line about the Red Men.
As far as decorations go, darn tootin’ crepe paper is involved, along with other elements that “typify the harvest season” such as fruit, vegetables, autumn leaves, plus turkeys, pictures of the Pilgrim fathers or Indian pictures. They’re not clear, but I advise against using live turkeys as decorations. They’re rather cranky birds. Given the season, that’s understandable.

Now, consider this for a moment: What kind of Thanksgiving story do you anticipate will be first out of the box from Cokesbury. Consider the source: conservative Methodists from 1930s Palm Beach, Florida. Already a picture is forming in your mind. Probably something like this:

Here’s what Cokesbury has to say:
Story of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving to god for blessings received had its beginning with the ancient Jews. They left their homes and dwelt for a week in booths made from the branches of palm, olive, or myrtle trees. The Greeks had a Thanksgiving day called by the Feast of Demeter. The Romans observed a day in honor of Ceres, the fabled goddess of corn fields and gardens. In Old England the Harvest Home festival was observed at the full of the September moon. It was as popular a celebration as Christmas in England, and Queen Elizabeth ordered that there should be no servile labor performed on this day.
Oh, I love to see progressive wharrgarbl stopped mid-garble. Though the hard-cores will still find something wrong with this.

Yes, they go on to talk about Governor Bradford, Massasoit, and the venerable Thanksgiving Turkey. But just as part of the whole. It would do progressives well to give conservatives a little credit once and a while.

And while you’re giving credit, it’s time for a dramatic reading, "The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers," by Felecia Dorothea Hemans:

The breaking waves dashed high
On a stern and rock-bound coast,
And the woods against a stormy sky
Their giant branches tossed;

And the heavy night hung dark,
The hills and waters o'er,
When a band of exiles moored their bark
On the wild New England shore.

Not as the conqueror comes,
They, the true-hearted came;
Not with the roll of the stirring drums,
And the trumpet that sings of fame;

Not as the flying come,
In silence and in fear;
They shook the depths of the desert gloom
With their hymns of lofty cheer.

Amidst the storm they sang,
And the stars heard, and the sea;
And the sounding aisles of the dim woods rang
To the anthem of the free.
The ocean eagle soared
From his nest by the white wave's foam;
And the rocking pines of the forest roared--
This was their welcome home.

There were men with hoary hair
Amidst the pilgrim band:
Why had they come to wither there,
Away from their childhood's land?

There was woman's fearless eye,
Lit by her deep love's truth;
There was manhood's brow, serenely high,
And the fiery heart of youth.

What sought they thus afar?
Bright jewels of the mine?
The wealth of seas, the spoils of war?
They sought a faith's pure shrine!

Ay, call it holy ground,
The soil where first they trod;
They have left unstained what there they found --
Freedom to worship God.

[Pulls up soapbox] Wharrgarbl away, progressives. No use telling you that, hey, the Puritans did come to the Americas looking for freedom. Were they perfect? No. Were they being persecuted? Yes. So they had to go somewhere else. Do they believe they were led by God? Sure did. Do you have to believe so? No. Do you have to respect that others still maintain that belief? Damn right you do. There is no more hypocritical person on the face of the earth than a progressive who will allow for the good in everyone else on the planet to be accepted as gospel and holy; all but the good the conservatives believe. [Puts away soapbox]

If that’s too dramatic, just let this roll. Same idea gets across. Just be prepared for augmented progressive whaaargarbl.

(For additional amusement, read the YouTube comments on this one. Canadians must still be feeling the sting of their preliminary Olympics loss to the team from the United States.)

Breathe, folks. Breathe. And get ready for Follow the Leader:

Each player is given a sheet of paper and a pencil and some colored crayons. The leader then asks them to prepare for a drawing lesson. The leader begins marking on his paper and tells the guests he is drawing a picture of the “Landing of the Pilgrims,” and as he draws he describes the “Mayflower,” which they are to try to draw from his description. The leader should give the students plenty of time to draw and not rush the scene. He should then describe Plymouth Rock. Some description of the scenery along the coast, the shape of the harbor, and the Indians may be given. Give a prize to the one who draws the best picture.
Then there’s this:
Eggshell Football. Cover a table with white paper and mark off a football field. Goals may be made by driving nails down on each end of the field. Prick a small hole in an egg and empty its contents. There should be two or three eggshells in reserve in case one or more are broken. These eggshells may be painted like a football if desired.

A referee is chosen, and he places the ball in the center of the field. There should be about three players from each end of the table and one on each side of the table from both teams. When the gall goes out of bounds the referee picks it up and places it down near the place where it went off. Players do not start to blow until the whistle is blown, or they may be penalized for being offside. A goal will count six. Change every two minutes and put in six new players. There should be a lot of rooting at this game, and it will be found to be very interesting and lively.
That’s a roundabout way to explain how to play the game, but I think you get the general idea. It makes more sense than any explanation I’ve heard of the rules for real football. And guys, make sure to have someone videotaping your wife’s or girlfriend’s face when you drive those nail goals into her nice wooden table.

And lest you think you’ll get out of this party without at least one more slap at the Red Man, here you go:

Indian Drum Race. Line up in two lines facing each other. Keep the same division as for the other competitive games. One side may be called the Indians and the other the Pilgrims. One person is blindfolded and beats a drum. A dishpan may be substituted, although a trap drum is better. One of the players is given a tin can like a baking powder can, with rocks in it so that it will rattle. As long as the drummer keeps beating, the rattle passes back and forth. The line caught with it when the drum stops loses, while the other side wins five points. When the drum starts again the rattle moves on. Continue the game not longer than five or ten minutes. A piano may be substituted for the drum.
Just don’t hurt the piano. You don’t want to upset Miss Leverlily.

And that’s it. Serve your guests pumpkin pie and coffee, or plum pudding with hot chocolate. An alternative is to go all Charlie Brown on them, or actually dip into your rusty wallet and buy an entire Thanksgiving dinner for them. But then you wouldn’t have time for the Indian Drum Race. Better stick with pie and coffee.

We’re coming to the end, folks. Next week, try a Kid Party, complete with costumes. Please, no diapers and bowed legs.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Thanksgiving, Addams Family Style

It’s time once again at the Cokesbury Party Blog to play Laugh at the Conservatives. Aiding and abetting us in this round is none other than Charles Addams’ The Addams Family, to wit, the Thanksgiving Play scene from Addams Family Values:

This is, of course, only a mild LATC, and actually plays well with many conservatives because it’s also a send-up of rich East Coast snobs. So it works both ways.

It also works to serve as an introduction to this weekend’s Thanksgiving Party, but mostly as an advertisement on the kind of party Cokesbury doesn’t want you to throw. Especially all that talk about highballs. Prohibition, you know.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Yesterday's post brought fans of the Cokesbury Party Blog, among other things, a Bloom County comic strip featuring Steve Dallas' tacky Sunday suit.

My brain, long ago, catalogued Opus' reaction to his suit ("Perfect! El barfo!") as an item worth remembering, so whenever I encountered tacky clothing, El Barfo immediately came to mind. I even briefly conteplated a novel with El Barfo as the unlikliest of superheroes.

So I knew I wanted to use the comic for the Tacky Party post. But I couldn't find it. My kids have glommed onto my comic books, rendering them into piles of unreadable pulp within months by wearing them out. So I'd been searching for that particular strip for about two weeks before I found it, in a most serendipitous way.

First, I had the strip linked to a court case in which assistant Opus wanted Steve to look his best. Leafed through my books looking for Dallas, Steve, court cases of. Found plenty, but couldn't find the strip. My brain latched onto the El barfo, could not recall anything else.

Then it came to me in a flash. Tess Turbo! He was going to star in a Tess Turbo video! So I Googled Tess Turbo. Nothing, until I got into "Penguin Dreams and Stranger Things" on Wikipedia. Then there the storyline was. Then I saw a link a few levels down -- Tess Turbo at GoComics! I went there. Lo and behold, the previous strip was the one I wanted.

So, to those who condemn the Internet for replacing our memories, I say phooey. The Internet is a resposity for memory, but it takes a good old-fashioned organic brain to be able to sort out the mess and find what is wanted. Even something as ridiculous as a 30-year-old comic strip. Take that, Socrates.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Week Forty-Four: Tacky Party

“Occasionally,” Cokesbury starts out its spiel on its Tacky Party, “we enjoy making ourselves ludicrous. So, let’s all come to the party in the queerest garb we can find and see who is the tackiest one present.”

It’s like they envisioned our present-day Internet decorum by 68 years.

Oh, wouldn’t they be shocked today.

So here’s your invitation:

A Tacky Party we’re having on Friday night,
And we want you to be there.
Dress up so tacky that you’ll be a sight,
And an evening of fun with us share.

Cokesbury, of course, won’t get as tackily dressed as Wesley Snipes nor Pat Swayze. This is 1932, remember, so the tackiness will be on, shall we say, a Pentecostal level:
The guests should be told in advance that a prize will be given to the “tackiest” person present. It would be well to give one for the women and one for the men. If desired, the prize list could be extended, and in addition to giving prizes for the whole tacky ensemble, separate prizes could be awarded for the tackiest hat, dress, or suit. Any sort of clothing may be worn, just so it is not the present mode of dress. In the days of long skirts, short skirts will seem tacky indeed. The girls could use all sorts of color combinations, with mismated shoes and hose. The old-fashioned clothes of our mothers’ day, some of which nearly every family has stored away, would furnish ideal costumes for the affair. The boys could carry out the same ideas in choosing their costumes. Coats, trousers, tied, shirts, and vets of former grandeur would again come into their won. A tacky effect may be created by a clash of colors, such as a man wearing dark trousers, white coat, and red necktie.
Just go to Steve Dallas' closet:

Games suggested for this party are inexplicably lame. I had to get to Item No. 7 on their list to find one even halfway decent (what you’re missing are the traditional mixers in which you’re forced to get to know someone else at the party than who you came with).
Buzz. The players are all seated in a circle for this game. The leader explains that they are going to count off and each time a guest has a number in it that has a seven or multiple of seven, must say “Buzz” instead. Players who fail to do this are required to sit on the floor in the center of the circle. The counting should go just as fast as possible.
Whoo! Really stretch your friends’ number-recognition skills. That always spells par-tee to me. Next up, calculus:

(Speaking of tacky, that hair net is just wonderful.)

Just in case you don’t want to come across as a total nerd, try this most excellent word game. That’ll assuage the English majors you’ve invited, at least.
One Word Suggests Another. The players are seated in a circle. The leader explains the game and suggests a word. Each player must then think of a word and keep that word in mind which the last work suggested to him. They call out the words as they go. For example, suppose the leader says “post-office.” To the next player, this may suggest “letter.” “Letter” to the next player may suggest “lover.” “Lover may suggest “girl,” “girl” “powder puff,” “powder puff” “powder,” “powder” “gun,” “gun” “war,” “war” “soldier,” “soldier” “Red Cross Nurse,” etc. when these suggested words have gone around the circle, start back and unravel. The last player tells the word that suggested his, and so on around the circle.
Confused yet? I think Bob Wylie is too (forward to 4:02).

Remind your friends that they’re just free associating freely, and they’ll get along with this game just fine.

So you’ve confused your friends with numbers and words. Now it’s time to mess with their physical and temporal placement:
Where Am I? One person is asked to leave the room. In his absence, the group decides where he is and what he is doing. For instance, he might be “in the gymnasium taking setting-up exercises.” He must guess on his return where he is and what he is doing by asking questions that can be answered only by “yes” and “no.”
And that’s it, aside from the apple cider and cake Cokesbury recommends for refreshments. Or get a completely wild hair and substitute hot chocolate and marshmallows for the apple cider. Remember, this is your Tacky Party. Get as tacky as you want. Maybe substitute Yoo-Hoo! Or tomato juice! Or Homer Simpson’s favorite, Royal Crown Cola! Let your imagination go wild!

But not too wild. You’ve got to save some energy for next week’s fling, the Thanksgiving Party. Call Massasoit and all the other folks and tell ‘em to come hungry. Well, puckish. Really, iron-stomached, because Cokesbury’s recommending plum pudding.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tacky, Tacky

So, why is it whenever I hear the word “tacky” I’m always reminded of this musical?

There are certainly tackier things out there, to be sure: Most of the young up-and-coming stars and starlets in Hollywood, the entirety of the cities of Los Angeles, Seattle, and Vancouver, B.C., Canada (sorry, Canadians. I’ve been to that city and never have I encountered a more soulless place in my entire life).

Oh yeah. It’s because of this:

More tacky stuff next weekend at Cokesbury’s Tacky Party. Hope to see you there.

Monday, March 8, 2010

One Hundred Posts

For those of you familiar with my writing style, it should come as no surprise that I've been able to stretch out a 52-party book into more than 100 posts -- this is Post 101, by the way. Yes, I do tend to babble. But that's why the Internet is such a healthy outlet. It lets me babble and prattle and then, when it comes to my "serious" writing projects, I've got a lot of the bad writing out of my system. Not all the bad writing, mind you. But some. Enough, I hope, to make a difference.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Week Forty-Three: Cootie Party

Dolores does NOT approve

I have to wonder what would happen if you tried this kind of trick today:
While we are suggesting this party for an Armistice Day Party, it has no connection with Armistice Day with the exception of the familiarity of the solider with the military louse.
So it’s kind of like having a Vietnam War-themed party centered around napalm. Or a Gulf War party themed on spider holes. I kinda think somebody today, in our umbrage-filled society, would see something kinda wrong this this.

But Cokesbury tries to take the curse off it with its follow-up paragraph:

This party is suitable for any occasion. The game of “Cootie” is one of the most hilarious and exciting games ever invented.

Wait until the inventors of Pac-Man hear this blasphemy.

Yes, we are playing Cootie. But before you dig through your kids’ toys or head to the Goodwill for one of those plastic fantastic Cootie games, consider this: This is pre-Hasbro Cootie. This is practically pre-plastic Cootie. This is Cootie done by drawing bits of the bug with pencil and paper, viz:

Cootie was indeed around, in one form or another, before plastic. That’s kind of hard to fathom in this day and age, when even our cars are made mostly of plastic. Why, I remember my dad’s old 1948 Ford truck. Metal dash. Metal pedals. Metal ceiling. The only plastic there was the speaker grille for the old radio and for some of the buttons and knobs. It was so metally when you hit a bump and bashed your head on the ceiling, you knew it.

But back to the party. This is kind of like the progressive hearts party, in which competitors keep score and advance to the lead table as their scoring allows. There’s also a provisio for those whose friends may have failed the Cokesbury Dice Screening Test. And yes, more gum-wood is involved:
We wanted to use this game for a young people’s conference group and felt that there might be some criticism in the use of dice, so we went to the mill and had blocks sawed from gum wood three-quarters of an inch square. We had these painted black and lettered in white.
Such far-off, innocent and dice-free times, when one could wander down to the city mill and have blocks of wood made to order at little expense. Nowadays, nobody has a mill except in towns where if you’re wimpy enough to want dice substitutes you’re likely to walk out of the mill with snake eyes where the sun don’t shine.

But back to the party, and to the superfluous quote that allows me to use the whistle tag for this entry:
When the leader’s whistle blows, one person at each table takes the dice or lettered cubes and throws.
I’m sure, if this is a mixed dice-versus-lettered cubes crowd, you won’t want to mix the two. Dice-throwers and cube-throwers at the same table are liable to come to blows.

Of course you want your guests to concentrate on getting a Cootie so all your guests can tabulate their scores thusly:
As soon as someone completes his “cootie” he yells “Cootie,” and the game stops. The game will be so hilarious that it will be necessary for the leader to blow the whistle to stop the game. As soon as a “cootie” is completed, all count up their score for that number and write it in the number. For example, if “cootie” was completed when another player only had a “body,” that player would get “one.” If he ahd a body and a head and one eye and one leg, his score would be four. See the score card and study the marked card until this point is clear.
So I’ll repeat the image:

I do apologize for the smudged margin. Fragile book and cheap scanner.

Here's a blank card for those who might actually want to play the game:

Drill it into your heads. DO NOT GET THE SCORING WRONG, or the Rev. Bruce Gannaway of West Palm Beach Fla., will come to get you. (More on him later.) Also, “use” a lot of quotation “marks” at random in order to emphasize your complete misunderstanding of “their” use.

And I have to ask: Am I the only one who hears Mr. Burns saying “and for the second to last team to complete the race, we have an hilarious World’s Worst Employee trophy” whenever I hear or read the word hilarious?

Play twelve rounds of cootie. Then serve refreshments of doughnuts and coffee. Neglecting, of course, to realize that some of your guests might find doughnuts and coffee more objectionable than playing with (whisper) dice.

Now on to the Rev. Bruce Gannaway:
We do not know the origin of this game of “cootie,” but it was given to us by the Rev. Bruce Gannaway, of West Palm Beach, Fla., pastor of the Sarah Wagg Memorial Methodist Church. He tells us that he learned the game in Atlanta while a student of Emory. Reverend Mr. Gannaway wrote out for us a description of the game, which we are suggesting for this party.
Lest ye be concerned, Cootie is not the Rev. Bruce Gannaway’s only legacy:
The Reverend and Mrs. Bruce F. Gannaway and Miss Grace Gannaway Scholarship was established in 1989 by The Reverend Bruce F. Gannaway, Class of 1925, and Mrs. Gannaway. The scholarship is to be awarded, when fully funded, to upper class students who intend to become Christian ministers and is also open to students who plan to pursue lay careers in the church. The scholarship honors the donors and The Reverend Gannaway's sister, Grace Gannaway.
That’s it, until next week, and boy does Cokesbury have a good ‘un: A Tacky Party – a costume extravaganza – in which you’re to make yourself look ludicrous. If you’ve hung on at the Cokesbury Party Blog this long, that shouldn’t be hard.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Week Forty-Two: Birthday Party

Solomon Grundy was born on Monday
In the long, long ago.
Someone else was born on Tuesday,
Perhaps ‘twas you, we do not know.
But come to our Birthday Party
Next Thursday night at eight,
And we will celebrate your birthday,
No matter what the day or date.

So we begin this party with the tale of a man alive only a week; famed in nursery rhyme, and now film. But that last name sounds familiar. Makes me wonder if he’s related to this guy. Not quite. But for a flipped consonant . . .

As far as decorations go, Cokesbury leaves it up to you to decorate per the whims of the host and hostess and the season in which the party is held. But, to conform to Cokesbury norms, make sure you have a lot of crepe paper.

Then there’s the matter of gifts. Cokesbury is very specific that the gifts – or gift, if the group is buying one together for the honoree (or honorees, as the case may be) – be distributed before the refreshments, and passed about the group along with the card from the person who offered the gift, so all can coo and brag and get jealous and perhaps start a brawl because at the last communal birthday party, the only gifts passed around were cupcake wrappers filled with nuts. Just in general, be on the lookout for any tension buildup in the room. Like this:

And if you invite Milton, make sure he gets cake first. The poor man deserves it.

Now, we all know most of the fun at a birthday party comes in the games. And we also know from childhood (and young adulthood) that the games should be as traumatic as possible in order to build long-lasting memories. I still have vivid memories, for example, from the 8th birthday party I attended for Sue Lynn Plazier, where I was too timid to pop a balloon by sitting on it in order to discover the prize or fortune or whatever it was written on the slip of paper inside the balloon. Sue’s Mom eventually had to pop the balloon for me, with me standing in a corner with my face to the wall, holding my ears against the noise of the imminent explosion. Then there’s the debilitating injury I suffered – and still suffer from – during a game of “Do You Love Your Neighbor,” when, as a 260-pound individual I knocked knees with another weighty soul as we bolted across the room.

Fortunately, Cokesbury’s game elements are much more staid, calm and less fraught with risk than the birthday activities of my youth. For instance:

Obstacle Race. The game is very suitable for a large group, as only for our five on each team are to take part while the others are spectators. The company should be divided into two or more groups and a team selected from each group. If the party is large, have four groups, Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. A number of obstacles have been arranged on different sides of the room, and the teams line up on their side and wait for the blowing of the leader’s whistle. When the whistle blows, they are to run to obstacle number one and do as directed by the sign on it. These may be arranged in any way, and the cleverness of the one who lays out the course is largely depended upon. The following obstacles are suggested:

1) On a table have a paper and one pencil. Each one of the four must write his name, address, and the month of his birth. They may have this instruction in advance, or a sign may tell them what to do at each obstacle.

2) Remove tie and replace it. Other suggestions are: Take off your coat, turn it wrong side outward, and put it back on.

3) Get down on all fours and run like a rabbit to a goal. The second must not start until the first has reached the goal.

4) Eat three crackers (one eating at a time) and whistle, at which time another begins.

5) Hop to next goal on right foot, holding the left foot in right hand. One must reach the goal before the other starts.

6) A folding chair is here. Each one is required to unfold it and sit in it and then fold it back up. Then the next one does it, until all have finished.

7) Run to the next goal, taking three steps forward and two back. This is done one at a time and no mincing of back steps is allowed.

8) Have a suitcase full of old clothes, and better and funnier, women’s clothes. Each one must put on these clothes, run around the chair or table three times, and then take them off and give them to the next.

9) Provide paper bags, about four for each player. They must inflate and pop these, one player doing this at a time.

10) Walk to the goal, advancing only the length of the foot at each step. This is done by placing the heel against the toe at each step. This must be done one at a time, and when the last one gets in, his side is finished.
You know, maybe this will end in violence. I participated in a similar party game while living in France. I and another participant were blinded, then led to a room filled with shoes. We had to find as many matched pairs as we could. I quickly decided that I could win the game not by finding matches on my own, but by stealing matches from the other player. Violence, as Cokesbury would probably say, resulted.

Now that your guests are biffed, gouged, panting and nursing fingers pinched in the folding chair, onto the next game, which encourages them – even the clumsy ones – to play with fire. Inside your house.

Birthday Candle Race. The different groups line up for a relay race; and if there are four groups, they face four tables on which has been placed lighted candles. The players, one at a time, must run to the candles with a candle in their hand which has been given them. They are to light their candle from the lighted candle and race back to the head of the line. Then they must extinguish their candle and give it to the next one in line. If the candle goes out before they get back, they must go back to the table and relight it. When one has run, then he must take his place at the back of the line.
(Go to about 4:19 of this clip for some classic Tim Conway/Don Knotts candle shenanigans.)

One more brief game mention, one that pulls us out of Cokesbury Land and into reality. One game suggests having guest, assigned numbered cards, make up dates the host shouts out. It’s staggering to remember that in 1932, many of these events are not history, but nearly current affairs. Viz:

1906 – Earthquake in San Francisco
1912 – Sinking of the Titanic
1914 – Beginning of the World War
1917 – America enters World War
1918 – End of World War
1927 – Lindbergh’s flight to Paris

Yes, the World War. It was not World War I. Just the World War, in that bygone, innocent era when the war was fought to end all wars.

There are more games, of course, but this suffices for now, because it’s refreshment time:
For the observance of the birthdays of a large group, serve individual cakes with a candle on each cake. Ice cream should be served with the cake, or punch, chocolate, or coffee should be substituted. If an individual birthday is being celebrated, by all means use the proverbial birthday cake, with candles for each year of age. The honoree should cut the cake for each guest present.
Bon app├ętit.

And next week, something extra-special for the observance of Armistice Day, Nov. 11: A Cootie Party. It is not quite, but almost, what you think it is.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Happy Birthday!

Who better – well, aside from Guy Lombardo or Tom Jones – to sing a Happy Birthday song at your Cokesbury Birthday Party than Weird Al Yankovic?

It would be fun to get him live, of course. But since you're using this party as an excuse to celebrate everyone's birthday at once, you know you can't afford him.

May as well sing this song while you're at it. Cover all the bases, see.

You know, harking back to a previous post, i have to wonder if Jerry Colonna contributed to the Alice in Wonderland ride at Disneyland. Part of me hopes so. Whether it's true or not, I'll never look at that ride as boring again.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Coffee Achievers

In addition to ice cream and sandwiches, one of the more popular Cokesbury Party foodstuffs is the ubiquitous cuppa joe. That got me thinking of this:

So next time you think you're hip sipping a cup of mud, just remember: Hip is extremely relative.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Week Forty-One: Progressive Hearts Party

We like to make a big deal this day and age about viral marketing. We’re so savvy, so tuned in to the way the Plastic Fantastic Madison Avenue Scene plies us with messages to buy buy buy, we just ignore them. Or not. But when someone comes up with a clever way to advertise, such as posting little digital ad boxes all over Boston and thus inciting fears of terrorist activity, we applaud such efforts. And buy buy buy.
End result: Madison Avenue or viral, it’s all the same.

So it’s no surprise that in announcing its Progressive Hearts Party (no, this is not another political movement) that Cokesbury should seek – and win – permission from Parker Brothers, of Salem, Massachusetts, to use and promote its six-pack of Hearts Dice in its party description.

Parker Brothers of Salem, Massachusetts. That sounds awfully quaint these days. A mom-and-pop (or at least a trio of brothers) game shop. Wow. How times change.

So here’s the game, a la Cokesbury:

Heart Dice is played with six cubes on which are written on the six sides of each the letters in the word “Hearts.” These are thrown all at one throw by each player, and the player is only allowed to throw once, after which he must pass the dice to the player on his left. When four play at a table, the players across from each other are partners for that game, and when one of them scores, both can mark the score and it counts for both. However, as one changes partners after each game, each must keep hiss core separately. So the game proceeds, each throwing the dice one time, until one couple gets a hundred, at which time they yell “Game,” whereupon all stop and count up their score for that game. Then all winner at each table, that is, those who had the highest score, progress to the next table, except the winners at the head table, who keep their places while the losers go to the foot table.

Worried you can’t find Hearts dice? (You should be, because I couldn’t). Buy some Boggle games and steal the proper dice out of them. Or just use regular dice (once again, screening your dice-shunning friends) and have fun.

Or just go with some other hard-to-find retro Parker brothers game. Like this:

Scoring is done thusly. (I’d reproduce Cokesbury’s scoring, but it’s the same as referenced on this web page. Besides, it’s less for you to have to read. On this page. Ha ha.)

And that’s about it. You play Heart Dice until you’re sick of it, or until one or more of the following happen:

Prizes. Prizes should be given, a first and second, to the two players making the highest scores.

Simple enough. And:

Refreshments. Have a bonbon dish filled with heart-shaped candy at each place. Get ice cream in heart mold and serve with cake at conclusion of play.

Once again, Cokesbury at the end of the party drops all pretence of articles and begins speaking in this odd patois. Can’t be helped.

Anyway, get ready to have big fun at Cokesbury’s next extravaganza: The Birthday Party, in which you get to celebrate all of your friends’ and acquaintances’ birthdays at once, once again proving what a cheap bastard you really are.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Turn on Your Heartlight

Watching this kinda hurts in the way. The feathered hair. the layered sweaters. So '80s. So very '80s. But it's a good prelude to next week's Progessive Heart's Party. Get your guests all warmed up inside.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ten Parties Left

It's been a long, odd year here at the Cokesburty Party Blog. Well, almost. But toward the end of May is when we'll celebrate together the passing of a year and, very likely the passing of this blog. I'm running out of parties from the Cokesbury Party Book.

I know, I know. It's a shame. Why couldn't this book be twice as long? Well, maybe it's a good thing it's not. But I'm sure I can find another book to skewer for another year. I've already got a few candidates waiting on the bookshelf, including a girls' camping book my wife inherited from her grandmother. I believe it was published at about the same time as the Cokesbury Party Book, so it ought to be good for something.

Will I rename the blog if I move on to a different book? I don't know. I've spent literally tens of hours over the past year building the Cokesbury Party Blog brand, familiar now to dozens of the most discerning readers on the World Wide Web, especially you folks from Belgium and Florida. I have no idea why the Belgians keep coming. Gasparilla might be why I get many hits from Florida.

So stay tuned. Something magical may happen when that last party goes up. Then again, maybe not. But I've had fun. That's what counts.

You know, this kind of reminds me of listening to the student-run radio station at the University of Idaho when I was there working on the paper. One evening while a few of us were working late, we had the radio tuned to good ol' KUOI. The DJs were holding a contest, inviting people to call in to win tickets. NO ONE CALLED. They kept asking, "Come on, somebody call! Somebody call! Is anyone listening?" Nobody ever called. Not even their compatriots from the newspaper. Well, they were tickets to a rotten concert.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Week Forty: Radio Party

It’s funny, what the older generations will do to the younger. And what the younger generations will learn to be thankful for.

My mother, at the time in her sixties, introduced me to Spike Jones and the City Slickers thanks to a neighbor, then in her eighties, who had a Spike Jones cassette tape. Mom also introduced me to the likes of George Burns and Gracie Allen, Fibber McGee and Molly, and dozens of other radio show stars. These were her childhood, she said, and she wanted to share them with her kids.

As far as I know, I’m the only one who took the bait. And I think I’m richer for it. What’s old is new when you listen to it for the first time. I love listening in anticipation for McGee to open that famous closet. Despite the blackface roots, I enjoy listening to the antics of Amos and Andy. Bob Hope and Jerry Colona have a wonderful chemistry together.

So it’s no surprise that Cokesbury’s Radio Party should be a popular one with me.

But Cokesbury seems to take radio for granted and the party, I have to admit, is a disappointment for dyed-in-the-wool radio fans. Of course, this was in 1932. The shows I mention weren’t on the air then. But something had to be. True, Cokesbury does mention Amos ‘n’ Andy, but that’s the only – the only – program they mention. It’s like talking about television and only mentioning Seinfeld. Sure, Seinfeld was immensely popular. But what about all the others?

Could Cokesbury have been worried about copyright, even way back then? Can’t be. Why mention Amos ‘n’ Andy then? It’s a mystery for the ages.

So just as Seinfeld is a show about nothing, Cokesbury’s Radio Party is a radio party about, well, the radio. As you’ll see.

Here’s the invitation, finally, after my long preamble:

At our Radio Party we want you all,
Endeavorers short and Endeavorers tall.
The Social Committee has made a decision
To entertain you with radio and television.
Come to the social room on Friday night,
For we promise you an evening of real delight.

Now, without preamble, we get into the radio part of the Radio Party. Literally.

Part of the program should be a radio program. So construct a large radio out of a large box or make a frame and cover it with dark cloth of dark crepe paper. Arrange it so that parts of the program may come over the radio – that is, an improvised radio. Of course, the performers will be the guests. Those taking part should stand in the radio or behind it to perform, so that the program will appear to the guests to come over the radio.

Some of the program may be television and may be acted behind a screen of white sheets, with a light behind it so that a shadow will be cast on the screen. A reader may read the story while the actors dramatize it. Some suggested stunts that might be used are: “The Supreme Sacrifice” and “The Mellerdrammer,” from Handy, by Rohrbough, and “The Delectable Ballad of the Waller Lot,” “The Ogre of Rashamon,” and “An Indian Massacre,” in Stunt Night Tonight, by Miller.

It is our thought that the above suggestions about the radio and television programs should form only a part of the evening program. The party should proceed in the usual way, and the program occupy only about forty-five minutes at the end of the program.
So. Two books I need to look up when I run out of Cokesbury parties this May: Handy Playparty Book, by Lynn Rohrbough, and Stunt Night Tonight, by Catherine Miller Balm. But as I’m at the mercy of whatever books people toss to the local thrift stores, who knows what’ll happen next?

And, really, Cokesbury. You demand a lot from your readers. If this were a modern radio/television aprty, folks would come with their digitized Fibber McGees or DVD box sets of Hogan’s heroes and make a night of it. At most they might play some televison-oriented trivia game. But make shows of their own? Act them out? Build a box big enough to resemble a television or radio in which to perform said pantomimes? Not hardly. You were indeed a hardy folk in 1932. I doff my hat to you.

And for you planning such a party today, maybe find somebody with a cargo container. Or just stage it in the driveway, using the garage door opening for your “television.” That might work.

But back to the party. Or the next, exciting radio-themed game:

Opening Mixer: Radio Stations. Hang around the neck of each guest a card six inches by six inches lettered with the initial of their last name. A string should be tied in each of the corners on the upper side that will slip over the head. Guests should wear them all the evening, for they will be needed in the radio program at the close. Ask each guest to write his name on his card as well as having his initial on it.
Each guest is given a paper and pencil, and the leader explains that the guests are to form the call numbers of radio stations such as WJZ and WEAF, New York; KDKA, Pittsburgh; WAPI, Birmingham; WLW, Cincinnati, WIOD, Miami, etc. When three or four players can get themselves into formation so that they form a call number of a radio station, each of the four may write down the call number of that station. The best radio fan will probably know a large number of stations. Give a prize to the person having the largest number.
You can tell already that anyone with the initial W or K is going to become very popular during this game. If you can get your guests to play, that is. Seems kinda lame to me.

And yes, it might have been possible for you to hear such distant stations, especially at night. Go here for more info. This is the Cokesbury Party Blog, not Radio Amateurs.

But ponder this: Radio was kind of the last truly magical technologies. You could sit in your living room, tinkering with the knobs, and hear, if you were lucky, stations from far away. Radio is still mysterious and magical today, with numbers stations and the ability to broadcast yourself on a microstation. TV doesn’t hold that magical sway. The Internet is kinda like that, but the noise to signal ratio is really high. And aside from GeoCities, do people really get nostalgic about how a web page used to look?

Whoah. I guess they do.

On to the next game.
Names of Radio makes. Give guests blank sheets of paper and pencil and tell them that when the whistle blows, they are to write the names of all the makes of radio they can think of. Some of the makes now on the market are:

Atwater Kent
General Electric
Stromberg Carlson
Give a prize to the one having the largest list. Five or six minutes should be the time limit of this game.
This game is one of my favorites from the book, because it reminds me of the early days of computing when you had your Colecos, your Commodore 64s, your TRS-80s, your TI-994As, and even your Ataris. Sure, we still get that kind of variation today, but nobody – I guarantee nobody – is going to have as strong an emotional attachment to a Lenovo or a Gateway than they would with a Commodore or a TRS-80. It’s just not possible. Computers of today will never love us. Computers of that era did.

Okay, now it’s time to put on your own radio program. Here’s the setup:

We assume that some of the radio program has been arranged in advance, such as a reading or recitation, vocal solo, orchestra, and Amos ‘n’ Andy. A song leader should also be secured in advance who will know how to lead the songs for the sitting-up exercises.

Two of the radio features, however, should be impromptu. The leader selects two stations, WEAF and KDKA. Those having the letters WEAF and those having the letters KDKA to represent the initial of their last name get together and are assigned the task by the leader of “poking about” among the guests for advertisements and news. Let them write this out and get it up so that it can be given over the radio. The leader should take care in making the selection of those wgo are going to do this work, and it might be well go give some notice in advance. When they have finished, let the radio program start as indicated below, and let them take their aprt on the program. One from each of the stations should read the advertisements and news.

Then we go on to the “sitting-up exercises,” which includes singing enormous slabs of syllable and rhyme squeezed into tunes familiar and unfamiliar, such as:

Smile awhile and give your face a rest,
Stretch a while and ease your manly chest,
Reach your hads up toward the sky
While you watch them with your eye
Jump awhile, and shake a leg there sir!
Now step forward, backward – as you were
Then reach right out to someone near
Shake his hand and smile.

This is sung to the tune of “Smile the While You Kiss Me Fond Adieu.”
Now, on to the news. Advertisements. A reading – Cokesbury suggests a story from the Gipsy Party or – for the Amos ‘n’ Andy skit – something from the Cokesbury Minstrel Show, which will be handled with much delicacy later this year on this blog. Then, my favorite:
Orchestra. Gazoo orchestra could be substituted if a real one is not available. See “Kitchen Cabinet Orchestra” in Index. Or just go here.
Now to the refreshments which do not appear to be coffee and cigarettes, the most popular radio station snack I’m aware of:
Refreshment suggestions for this party would be Waldorf salad, sandwiches or wafers, and coffee, or iced or hot tea, depending on the season in which the party is given.
So I was wrong about the coffee.

Hope you had fun. Tune in – ha – next week for a Progessive Hearts Party. The party involves (whisper) dice, so you might want to consider once again screening your dice-fearing friends.

But before you go, Jerry Colonna – who has a face and voice built for radio – has this parting shot for us.

And while we’re speaking of the venerable Mr. Colonna, I never realized this:

But it’s certainly easy to pick out that radio voice, isn’t it?