Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Junior Party Book--Berenice Wells Carlton

1930's children's party inviations! A revelation!

Totally obsessed with The Junior Party Book by Bernice Wells Carlson (1938)-- my definitive (well, admittedly, only, as it's the first I've seen) choice for a late 30's sourcebook to guide your child into the position of precocious adolescent party host. The book is written in that Ladies' Home Journal pre-WWII third person prose you read in a lot of linoleum ads: "Patty O'Connor's Irish eyes were really shining as she thought of plans for her St. Patrick Day's party." Each holiday is presented as an event that happened, detailing games played, food eaten, decorations, invitations-- the whole shebang. My favorite party so far, and one that I most certainly intend on throwing (February 21, 2010-- mark your calendars):

George Washington's Birthday (read: President's Day):

Invitations: This guy with a hat. The hatchet and the apple are for the field events team drawings. "Yankee Doodle may have been a dandy, but the paper Colonial gentlemen which Bill Adams sent to bear invitations to his Geo. Washington party wore warm wool caps and mufflers reminniscent of the days of Valley Forge." Again, the writing style is adorable.

Field events: Draw from a box some figures (apples, cherries, axes) to form teams. First event, the broad jump-- points are awarded by measuring the width of teammates’ smiles and judging the widest winner. Second event, high hurdles-- each team member eats a certain number of crackers as fast as they could and then whistle to prove they’re through, until all the crackers are eaten. Third event, tug of war—red licorice with a cherry in the middle serves as the rope, each team leader puts his hands behind his back, and one side of the licorice piece in his mouth. First one to the cherry wins—no pulling on the licorice or tugging it away.

Boston Tea Party: Host says,“Now we’ll see how good you can be at keeping the tea away from Old John Bull”. One boy is John Bull, the others circle around him and toss a tea bag as he tries to get it. If he catches the tea bag, the one who threw it becomes John Bull.

Spy relay—each leader gets five sheets of tissue paper, balances them on their curved arm, carries them across the room, and returns to the team to relay them to the next person. Walking too fast or slow will blow the papers off and you have to start over.

Historic Pantomime—Act out an early American story—each team chooses props and costumes from a box, everyone has to act out something. Call out “Curtain” after 10 minutes and try and guess the event.

Refreshments-- Artificial tree with cherries attached—rubber hatchets for the boys and crepe paper colonial dolls for the girls. Baked ham, sweet potatoes, biscuits, and cherry tarts to eat.

And that wasn't enough to make you flip your lid, here are some of the invitations for other holidays. Notice how many have detachable items (St. Patty carries a shamrock, the Doll Party doll has her own paper clothes, Robin Hood and his arrows, etc, etc) and all can be made at home with decent tracing paper and some watercolors. You do not have to go all Lisa Frank on this can get your kid to make the invitations himself! And they'll be so much more precious.

SO. AWESOME. Can you imagine being a little kid at any of these parties? I remember most of my childhood parties in the late eighties and early nineties' had 1) not nearly enough kids (this seems to presuppose you know about ten more kids than I would have as a tenyear old), 2) a primarily pizza and soda based menu, and 3) NOT. NEARLY. ENOUGH. RELAY. RACES. Or games of any kind, for that matter. My cousin Joe's twelfth birthday party, from when I would have been eleven, was mainly the group of us watching a Blockbuster copy of Kazaam and playing some kind of Star Wars Nintendo Game. Still kind of awesome, but comparitively, a major let down in the area of homespun fun. Look at how the mother would have to think everything out in advance, but the child could actually participate in a major portion of the planning and execution of the party. Also, the book shows how you can have parties all year long, for all kinds of events, not just birthdays. A revelation. I'm so turning my house into a party boot camp when I have kids. My son will be in training to become Addison DeWitt. Worse things could happen.

Berenice Wells Carson died only last year (98 years old!!)-- the linked article from the School Library Journal (there's a publication for everything) says she got most of her ideas from her extensive work as a teacher, Girl Scout troop leader and church group leader, as well as author of several other children's-party books. What a joy she must've been to the kids that worked and played with her.

The author in her 90's:

Bravo, Mrs. Carlson!

1 comment:

  1. You find the best things to write about! This reminds of a book I found at our library (I was a library page through high school and used to live (and sleep) in the stacks) that was probably written in the 40's called "Yours til catskill mountains" (it was various and interesting ways to sign your autograph in yearbooks or letters- like "yours til niagara falls") I was slightly obsessed with it for awhile (was a little bit eccentric in my teenage years). You can't even begin to compare the writing styles to anything they have nowadays, it was just so awesome back then.



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