Play Parties and Games on Kansas Homestead

Entertaining was truly a team effort on a Kansas homestead, but play parties certainly set the tone.

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As I am an old-timer, I want to tell about old-time play parties. They were enjoyed by young and old and were our main source of entertainment.

Usually young men or women in the neighborhood, looking for diversion and entertainment, would hit on the idea of a party. They would ride a horse or walk to a friend's house and ask, "How about a party tomorrow night?" Usually the friend would be agreeable, so off they would go to other houses until every family around had been invited. The parties were neighborhood affairs.

Sometimes at a party one of the guests would volunteer to be the host for the next party and he would issue his invitation to the group. If a new family moved into the -community, they would be invited, too.

Most homes were small and more often than not a bed had to be taken down or a table moved out to make room for the activities. The games we played were not much different from square dancing except that we danced to singing instead of fiddle music. We sang as we danced. None of us minded the rough floors made of native lumber. In the summertime we often played in the yard.

No one thought of serving refreshments – well, maybe a pan of apples would be passed around or at Christmas popcorn balls would be offered.

Most parents played the games with their children while others told stories or sang songs to the little folks. I had my father as a partner many times when Mother didn't care to play.

In most of the games the words of the song told us what to do and after a few tries the routines were easy and fun. Here is an example of the calls in a game we knew as Tidy-ho.

"Pass one window, tidy-ho, pass two windows, tidy-ho,
Pass three windows, tidy-ho, pass four windows, tidy-ho,
Skip to the center and bow to your beau
And we'll all go jingle, tidy-ho."
The verse was repeated for each couple in the game.
Other games I recall were Pig in the Parlor; Pretty Little Girl in
Georgia; Skip to My Lou, My Darling; Old Dan Tucker; Buffalo Gal, Are You Coming Out Tonight; Evelina Roll Around; Farmer in the Dell.

The automobile and new forms of inexpensive entertainment spelled the end of play parties, but many of the songs have not been forgotten.

Anna Atkinson
Longton, Kansas


Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.