Ah, the silly songs of childhood. I fondly recall sitting on my Grampo’s lap and giggling as he recited “Midnight on the Ocean.” It became my favorite and I memorized it as well. As I was putting this post together, I learned that it had been written by Asa Martin and had numerous other verses. But these were the four verses that I learned and loved and I am happy to share them here.
MIDNIGHT ON THE OCEAN
It’s a song the alligators sing
While coming through the rye,
As they serenade the elephants
Up in the trees so high.
The iceman hums this ditty
As he shovels in the coal,
And the monkeys join the chorus
Up around the nothern pole.
It was midnight on the ocean,
Not a streetcar was in sight,
The sun was shining brightly
For it rained all day that night.
‘Twas a summer night in winter
And the rain was snowing fast,
And a barefoot boy with shoes on
Stood a’ sitting in the grass.
While the organ peeled potatoes,
Lard was rendered by the choir.
The sexton wrung the dishrag,
Someone set the church on fire.
“Holy smoke!” the preacher shouted,
In the rain, he lost his hair.
Now his head resembles heaven,
For there is no parting there.
It was midnight on the ocean,
Not a horsecar was in sight,
As I stepped into the drugstore
To get myself a light.
The man behind the counter
Was a woman, old and gray
Who used to peddle shoestrings
On the road to Mandalay
“Oh, good evening, sire,” she said,
And her eyes were bright with tears
As she put her head between her feet
And stood that way for years.
Her children, six, were orphans
Except one big, tiny tot,
Who lived in the house across the street
Above a vacant lot.
Three other goofy songs stand out in my memory. My sister and I loved hearing Grampo and our dad sing these beloved classics. First up is my second favorite, “The Horses Run Around.” A quick look on the Internet turned up countless variations and even some audio recordings. But this is the way my sister and I were taught it.
THE HORSES RUN AROUND
The horses run around,
Their feet are on the ground,
Oh, who will wind the clock while I’m away, away?
Go get the Listerine ’cause sister’s got a beau,
And who cut the sleeves off father’s vest, his vest?
A’ lookin’ through a window, a second-story window,
I slipped and skinned my eyebrow on the pavement, the pavement,
Go get the axe, there’s a hair on baby’s chin,
And a boy’s best friend is his mother, his mother.
A’ lookin’ through a knothole
On Skipper’s wooden leg,
Why do they build the shore so near the ocean, the ocean?
A snake’s belt slips just because he has no hips,
And who took the glass with Grandma’s teeth, her teeth?
After Googling “Young Folks, Old Folks,” I learned that it, too, has tons of verses I’m unfamiliar with. But these are the only two verses I remember. Yes, I know the last line of the Adam and Eve verse doesn’t make much sense. I saw one version that noted that Adam was made of clay, which explains the fence part. Except this is the way I remember it, so nonsense or not, it makes me happy to sing it this way!
YOUNG FOLKS, OLD FOLKS
Young folks, old folks, everybody come,
Come to little Sunday School and have yourself some fun
There’s a place to check your chewing gum and razors at the door,
And you’ll hear some Bible stories that you’ve never heard before.
Oh, Daniel was a young man who wouldn’t mind the king,
The king said he wouldn’t stand for such a thing,
So he threw him in the dungeon with the lions underneath,
But Daniel was a dentist and he pulled the lion’s teeth.
Adam was the first man whoever was invented,
He lived all alone and never was contented
So God made Eve, and the days went by,
And they hung on a fence in the sun to dry.
And finally, this little ditty never failed to make my sister and me laugh. After all, when you’re a kid, being naked is hilarious!
ONCE I WENT A’ SWIMMIN’
Once I went a’ swimmin’
Where there were no women
And no one to see.
Since no one was there,
I hung my underwear
Upon a willow tree.
Dove into the water,
Fresh as Pharaoh’s daughter,
Dove into the Nile . . .
Someone saw me there
And stole my underwear
And left me with a smile.
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