Continuing last week’s column, Rupert Peyton further expounded his memories of old-time “play parties” in The Bossier Banner Progress’ February 25, 1954 issue.
“I first saw one of these parties when I was about three. The last time I attended one was around 1910 or 1912. I suppose the ‘play parties,’ Bossier version, had their dying gasp in the Chalybeate Springs community, sometimes referred to in those days as the ‘Alabama Settlement’ or ‘Heifner Community.’”
“Changing times, but no reform movement, put the end to the ‘play parties.’ The arrival of the automobile did more than anything else to spell their doom. Communications between communities broadened and a wave of sophistication reached its fingers out to the rural Beau Brummels and Belles. There was a revolt again in favor of modern dancing. The two-step, the waltz caught the fancy of the young people and the play party was no more. Then came a wave of new dances, such as the tango, that went to the remotest corners. Every barbecue was featured by a dance. Sometimes a band came up from Shreveport, sometimes Mr. Amos Hudson and his sons provided the music, but the modern dance had taken over.”
“Anybody fifty years of age or even less has some memory of the old play parties in Bossier. Many remember the old airs of the songs but years have dimmed their memories about formations and movements. However, to the best of my memory they were identical in many ways to the square dances.”
“I have found one man who states that he still remembers not only the airs, but the words and movements of the old play parties. He is Seymour Garrett of the Mot community. Seymour was a lion at play parties over 40 years ago.”
“Another one of the great lovers of the old play parties is Andrew Smith who lives up Chalybete Springs way. I’ve stood and watched Andrew lead the singing and dancing (which it really was) for hours.”
“Here are some of the old plays and a few of the words as I best remember them.
SHOOT THE BUFFALO
Shoot the buffalo, shoot the buffalo,
All around the canebrake shoot the buffalo
O, the buffalo is dead for I shot him in the head
With a piece of corn bread
Shoot the buffalo!”
“But of all the plays the most popular seemed to be ‘Sugar Lump.
Oh you better be rocking your sugar lump,
Better be rocking your sugar lump
Better rocking your sugar lump
O turn cinnamon turn.”
“As the beaus and belles gathered [in] the great open hallways, the boys on one side, the girls on the other, the chorus of song rose in tempo and the boys began to ‘swing your partner,’ and the very houses shook to the rafters. Actually one night I saw a floor cave in at one of these plays. A girl was slightly hurt. The players just moved into another room and the party went on.”
“But there’s an air that I’ll never forget altogether. As the boys and girls formed a ring, holding hands alternately, the countryside resounded to this song in slow tempo:
When coffee grows on white oak trees,
And rivers flow with brandy-o
Go choose you one to roam with you
Sweet as lasses candy-o
Four in the middle and you better get about,
Four in the middle and you better get about.”
Peyton concluded his memories with an invitation to anyone who remembered more to share them with him. If you would like to learn more about the play parties, visit the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center.
Ann Middleton is Director of the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center. She can be reached at (318) 746-7717 or by e-mail at email@example.com