North Louisiana journalist and historian Rupert Peyton recalled “play parties” in the February 25, 1954 issue of The Bossier Banner Progress.
“Has anyone seen Rocksie Ann?”
“It’s been years since I heard of Bossier’s most famous coquette. I wonder what happened to her.”
Rocksie was quite a girl. She’s probably the only girl in these parts who had a song written in her honor. Nobody knew what Rocksie Ann looked like but she must have been a great influence shortly after the turn of the century when the ‘play parties’ were the height of fashion in the hinterlands of Bossier.”
“Rocksie made the homes rock. Her name was on the tip of every tongue, and feet tripped to the light fantastic and the tune of ‘Rocksie Ann.’”
“Rocksie Ann’s a-fooling you,
Fooling you all the while,
She’s been a long time fooling,
Long time fooling you.”
“Thus went the words of the play party song which became so popular after the whistles and bells had announced the arrival of the twentieth century. But the Gay Nineties were over. The strawberry blondes had been danced to exhaustion and the bands had played and gone. Taboo went out against the fiddle and the square dance. Somebody got so mad at the ways our grandparents had acted in the Gay Nineties that they boycotted sin and great was the observance thereof.”
“The revelry of the last decade of the nineteenth century died down after a lusty fling as pulpits rang with the stormy protests against the dance. The automobile had not reached the rural sections and Huey Long had not come to pave the highways. Those caught in the vortex of this social upheaval were between the devil of the Gay Nineties and the blue sea of the ribald age of post World War I.”
“Skirts had not begun that ascendancy and an ankle was a deep, dark secret. The old folks were watching with eyes of parental and ecclesiastical justice and stern was their discipline.”
“But youth has a way to confound the elders and those of the rural Bossier were not to be denied. Deprived of the fiddle and the dance-caller, they devised ways and means of obtaining the utmost pleasure in this stern era of puritan ideas.”
“They just borrowed enough of the formations and motions of the old square dances, made up their tunes or borrowed some old airs and tripped to their own vocal music. And they got away with it. Devout parents who wouldn’t allow a fiddle or a caller in their home saw nothing wrong in the ‘play parties’ which in reality were only slight deviations from the old square dances. You could ‘play party’ in the deacon’s home.”
Read next week’s column to find out more of Peyton’s comments about the “play parties.” Or visit the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center to read his entire article.
Ann Middleton is Director of the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center. She can be reached at (318) 746-7717 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org