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Kentucky Play-Party Games from Graves & Carlisle Counties
A project to identify tunes to the play-party songs and document the movements that accompanied them when they were played as play-party games in the late 1920s.
Dave & Jim Couch - Harlan County, KY "Old Dan Tucker" 02-1-1953. Leonard Roberts Collection, (LR-OR-033)
Meet an Interviewee
By far, my favorite aspect of this project was getting to know the individuals I interviewed. Each was kind, interesting, and eager to be of service. They graciously shared their time, their memories, and often details about their lives at the time they played the play-party games. I am grateful for knowing them and they have a special place in my heart.
One fascinating interviewee is Mrs. Lucille Harp. Lucille was born in December of 1914, so at the time of this research she was 92 years old. Blessed with a way with words (she was formerly a journalist for the two Carlisle County newspapers) and a crystal clear memory, Mrs. Harp proved invaluable to the research. A native of Carlisle County, she was able to describe the play-parties she attended near a school house close to Milburn. These were held in 1926 and 1930, exactly the time period and region of Mr. Douthitt's collection. I found especially informative and revealing of Mrs. Harp’s character the description of the first play-party she ever attended and the story about the last play-party she attended and why she never went to another one.
Stories from Interviewees
Numerous stories were gathered from people interviewed. Several people mentioned that some parents felt that not only dances but also play-parties were sinful. They believed that good religious folk wouldn't participate in a play-party. However, many of the interviewees described themselves as being very religious and said they would never miss church, no matter how late they were out playing the games the night before. One woman in her mid-90s from Graves County told this story. Her mother attended many play-parties and she told of one held during an evening when it snowed and snowed. There was so much snow that even the nearby neighbors couldn't get to the party, so only five or six showed up. One of the women said, "There aren't enough of us to get partners and play the games. So let's just have a prayer meeting!"
Mrs. Edwina Rice Hutcherson, who was born in Marion, Crittenden County, northeast of Paducah, in 1923, told this story. She has no idea about where it came from or why, but there was a custom in Western Kentucky of having to go underneath a bed on your birthday. On his birthday, her uncle was very afraid of going under his bed, so he ran away from home. Night came and still he was gone. The adults searched everywhere to find him and finally they found him, shaking with fear, under a little bridge. They brought him home and the men tried to force him under the bed, but still he wouldn't go. Finally they picked up the bed and placed it over him, so he was under the bed.