Friday, June 16, 2006

The dowdy world goes to a party

That's an early Father's Day present, Parties for All Occasions, by Jane Werner (Racine, WI: Whitman Publishing Company, 1941). Here are Miss Werner's suggestions for one such party. Mind you, this party's for grown-ups:


Invitations: By telephone if you like, but this is a perfect opportunity for original invitations. These should be very simple. For a hay ride they could be of brown wrapping paper, for a sleigh ride a circle of white to represent a snow ball. Color is almost an essential; even if you are not artistic you can manage funny stick figures in colored pencil to decorate the invitations. And a rhyme is worth the effort; perhaps it may be something like:

      With a hi! and a ho! it's a hay (sleigh) ride!
      Climb aboard at half past eight!
      We'll be starting from our door
      Promptly then — but not before —
      So we urge you not to come too late!

Hour: Any time during the evening.

Decorations: A basement game room is ideal for after-the-ride refreshment and games. If you do not have one, try to carry out the informal spirit of the party in the rooms you do use. A scarecrow might greet the guests after a hay ride. If cornstalks are not in season, jars full of grasses would be decorative. Shiny Christmas tree icicles and evergreen boughs covered with artificial snow would help suggest winter for a sleigh ride.

The table for a hay ride should be covered with a bright cloth, and your brightest pottery should be used. A centerpiece of fresh vegetables might be used.

A typical winter table might have a mirror centerpiece surrounded by cotton batting snow, with paper or pipe-cleaner figures skating, skiing, and enjoying other winter sports. They can be dressed up easily in bits of colored paper or cloth, with green paper trees in the background.

Refreshments: One hot dish, such as chili or oyster stew. Something hearty and fairly substantial is essential for crisp winter weather, followed by hot chocolate and cookies.

Of course warm weather would demand lighter refreshments. Perhaps cold meats, vegetable salad, rolls, a cold drink (or coffee) and cookies would be the solution. Or you might serve individual picnic lunches packed in boxes covered with colored paper.
These tips are followed by descriptions of several games that might follow the refreshments: On the Ski Trail, Walk to the Duck Pond, Livestock, Snowflake Tennis, Wit-Tickler.

While waiting for cornstalks and snowflakes to be in season, you can read more about "the dowdy world" via the links.

Link » The dowdy world on film
Link » The dowdy world on radio

comments: 5

Anonymous said...

Happy Pater's Day, Daddy Dear!

(that last comment was me too!)

Michael Leddy said...

Thank you, RL!

Genevieve Netz said...

People were not so demanding in 1941. Life was still hard, and entertainment didn't have to be fancy. It was good to just get together and be lighthearted for a few hours. The depression was hardly even over yet.

I have an interesting book of similar vintage (1940): The Fun Encyclopedia by E. O. Harbin. Much of it is games and quizes, but there are several long sections on parties. When my children were still having birthday parties and going to Vacation Bible School, Cub Scouts, etc., I found some useful games in this book and several older books of games that I've collected.

I became interested in collecting these sorts of books because so many of the old playground games have been forgotten.

Michael Leddy said...

The simplest games — "I'm Going to California," for instance — were always big hits with my children at late-20th-century birthday parties. They also loved Hit the Penny and Boxball (city games, played with a "Spaldeen").

I think you're right — that people were more adept at making their own homemade fun. My wife and I wondered whether people really played the games Jane Werner describes, and we decided that they must have.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post!!!! What simple times, what thoughtful times.
Gracious, too.