4-H Fix: Sing for 4-H and Let’s Give a CHEER!

Sing for 4-H and Let’s Give a CHEER!

By Ron Drum, Statewide 4-H Program Professional/Associate Director 4-H Resource Development

‘Tis the Season to be singing; Fa la la la la la la la la!
Not so loud my ears are ringing; Fa la la la la la la la la!

Singing songs, playing games, giving cheers, and having fun have long been part of the 4-H movement. Many 4‑H Clubs, along with the usual offices of President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer, will elect additional officers such as “Reporters” and “Photographers”; and they often will include a “Song Leader” or perhaps a “Recreation Leader” if the Song Leader will also be leading games.

Singing and group games bring people together, build community. I guess it has something to do with feeling good about achieving a mutual goal, like “perfect” harmony (a-hem) or everyone having the same experience, such as getting dizzy after spinning around three times while holding your forehead on the butt of a baseball bat and keeping the tip of the bat on the ground. Just TYPING that made me a tad dizzy so I guess it is a bad example unless you have ever actually done this and therefore know what the heck I am talking about. Anyway, the goal is to get to the point where everyone can say, “We DID it!” and then want to retell the story in years to come while sitting around a campfire or a lava lamp or something.

Note of warning: As with the October post, “4-H Clubs, 1 2 3, 4-H Clubs for you and ME!”, this post is quite long. However, I think (hope?) you will find it quite a pleasure to read. It might even give you some ideas for YOUR 4-H Club and/or event activities! So on we push!!

When the National 4-H Supply Service started up in 1925, they put out a small booklet they called “The 4-H Handy Book.” In it they included not only the supplies they were selling, such as 4-H Hats and 4-H Pennants, but also pieces of useful information. The Handy Book for 1931, for example, included such information as how to run a business meeting, goals for all 4-H’ers, the 4-H Pledge with the hand motions to go with it, an explanation of the 4-H colors, and, of course, a number of pages of songs and games “appropriate” for 4-H Members.

One of the games that appears in the 1931 Handy Book is called the “Suit-Case Game.”

Each contestant has a suit-case and an umbrella. In the suit-case are a hat, a coat, gloves, and any other clothing desired, so long as the contents are uniform. At a given signal all contestants run to the goal, open the suit-cases, put on the clothes, close the suit-cases, open the umbrellas, and run to the starting point. The use of the relay plan adds greatly to the excitement.

Sounds like a pretty fun, and funny, game! Except, if I were leading this game, I don’t think I’d include the umbrella. Sounds to me like a recipe for disaster if I’ve ever heard one! But the rest would be very funny indeed!

Here’s another one, with a tad bit less opportunity for someone to get hurt. It’s called “The Laughing Game.”

Players are seated in a circle. The first player starts with the word “Ha,” the second says, “Ha, ha,” the third, “Ha, ha, ha,” and so on, each one in turn adding one more “Ha” than has been made by his neighbor. In each case the “Ha, ha’s” must be made without laughing, which is almost an impossibility. Before the circuit has been completed the entire circle is in peals of laughter. Each one guilty of laughing drops out of the game. The one remaining longest without laughing wins.

As Pennsylvania 4-H’ers in the 1970s we played a similar game we called “Ho, ho!” In this game the players laid on their backs on the ground, with player two resting his or her head on player one’s tummy, player three’s head on player two’s tummy, and so forth. Once all in place, player one would shout “HO!” with such force it would raise Two’s head off One’s tummy. Two then shouts “Ho, ho!”, followed by Three (Ho, ho, ho!), and Four (Ho, ho, ho, ho!), and so forth, each taking their turn and adding a “ho” when they did so, all without laughing during their turn. It was hilarious! I taught this game to 4-B Members while I was serving as a 4-B Adviser in Botswana (4-B is the Youth Development program of Botswana and is based on 4-H) and I never saw them ever finish even one round! Every time they played they just ended up rolling about and screaming with laughter!

Games can come in many forms and be used for various objectives. Active games can burn off some energy. Quieter games can be a great way to “break the ice” at the start of a meeting, especially when the participants have never met each other before. Here are two games that were included under “Recreation for November” in the November 1937 issue of Club Echoes (v20, #5, page 9) that seem perfect for helping people get to know each other or, as we say, “break the ice.”

But first a language note. These days, we try to use language that is all-gender inclusive so everyone can feel included. That has not always been the case. As will be seen in the passages below, although no one was intended to be excluded, in earlier days, the male gender was often used alone when referring to everyone.

TURKEY Letters — Supply each guest with an envelope, six bits of cardboard, and a pencil. Tell the first guest to write the letter “T” on each of the six cards and place them in the envelope. The next guest makes six “U” slips; the next letters his slips “R”; the next “K”; the next “E”; and the next “Y.” Continue giving the letters in the word Turkey to the guests in order, each guest writing his letter on all six cards. When all have written their letter and put the six slips in the envelope, collect them. Redistribute the envelopes so that no one will know what letter in in his envelope until he opens it. Tell the guests they are to trade letters one at a time until they have obtained the word “Turkey.”

By the way, if I were leading this game, my instructions would include having participants ask each other their names while trading the letters to help “break the ice.”

Here is another one from the same source.

Dark Horse — Provide a pencil and paper for each player. Switch off the lights and have each player draw a picture of a horse on his card. Then, still in the darkness, draw a feed box for him, and finally print OATS on the box. Turn on the lights and enter the amazing animals in a horse show.

It struck me as I typed this that the key here is for the room to be in total darkness. This could be a very funny game indeed! However, can you even find a dark room these days? Most of the public places I’ve been in recently have at least a lighted EXIT sign over the door, if not emergency lighting, that is always on. Maybe the participants could be blindfolded.

Some games are just for getting people thinking. Here are two more from the same source that use “matches.” Click on the word “matches” if you don’t know what “matches” are. They were once a quite common item in any home. These days, not so much. Perhaps “toothpicks” is a better option today but even THOSE are becoming a thing of the past. Anyway, here are the instructions. I’ve included an image from the newsletter to provide the solutions.

Instructions and solutions to the Match Puzzle
Puzzle 1. Arrange eight matches to form two squares and four triangles. Puzzle 2. Arrange 12 matches in 3 squares. Move two, take out two, and leave two.

Cover of The Maine 4-H Club Song Book, printed circa 1934In Maine, as in many states, “4-H game books” and “4-H song books” were compiled and printed. Here, for example, is The Maine 4-H Club Song Book printed around 1934.

Although most of the songs in The Maine 4-H Club Song Book are what might be called “old standbys” such as “The More We Get Together” and “America, the Beautiful,” quite a number of the songs have been “4-H-i-sized.” Take, for instance, the “Book’s” version of Hail! Hail! The Gangs All Here!”

Hail! Hail! The club’s All Here!
Do we like our club work?
Yes, we like our club work!
Hail! Hail! We’re full of cheer!
Do we like our club work? YES!

Now, of course, the problem in doing it this way is that one must be familiar with the base tune. Number 10 in the book is called “The Four Leaf Clover Song.” Sorry, but I don’t know that song. If you do, have a sing! If you don’t, perhaps make up your own tune!

I know a place where the sun is like gold,
And the cherry blooms burst with snow
And down underneath is the loveliest nook,
Where the four-leaf clovers grow.
One leaf is for head,
And one is for hand,
And one is for Health you know,
And God put another one in for Heart
If you search you will find where they grow.
But you must have hope,
And you must have faith,
You must love, and be strong and so,
If you work, if you wait,
You will find the place
Where the four leaf clovers grow.

And just to prove that 4-H IS fun try Number 7: WE’RE HERE FOR FUN!” (sung to “Auld Lang Syne”).

We’re here for fun right from the start,
Pray drop your dignity;
Just laugh and sing with all your heart
And show your loyalty.

Only two of the 52 songs included in the book were attributed to Mainers and only one was about 4-H. Called the “Four-H Clover Song,” the book says it is sung to the tune “I’m looking over a four-leaf clover” and was written by Nancy Kelleher from South Paris.

I’m looking over a 4-H Clover,
The emblem of my club.
One is my HEAD,
The other my HEART;
The third is my HANDS
With which to do my part.
No use explaining
The one remaining
Is top-most of the four.
Yes, it’s my HEALTH —
With all this wealth,
Oh, how can I ask for more!

Many Maine 4‑H Clubs created songs and cheers of their own. I included a number of cheers in my earlier post called “4-H Clubs, 1 2 3, 4-H Clubs for you and ME!” Club cheering seems to have peaked in the 1930s but who could ever forget “Gang-way, please, gang-way, please, Wells Ever-ready Club wants to sneeze, KERCHU!” or “Are we in it? Yes, we are! Four leaf clover club, RAH RAH RAH!” These works of art were, apparently quite loudly, presented during events such as State Club Contest and Eastern States Exposition Camp Vail. In fact, members were encouraged to do so!

Echoes from Clubdom suggested in the September 1918 edition (v1, #4, page 7), “Whenever possible clubs should start practicing cheers for the county contest.” The April 1919 edition (V1, #11) included some “suggestions” on page 5 of which one said, “Cheers help out — why not elect a good cheer-leader for your club — compose some cheers — the state office will be pleased to receive any cheers used by clubs.” And so, clubs sent in their cheers!

Not all of them were shared, though, or so it seems. Echoes from Clubdom, V1, #12 May 1919 on page 4 noted that “Knox (Waldo County) Club” had sent in some cheers adding, “One cheer especially shows their pep.” Hey! What about the others!? Oh well, at least here’s the one they DID share after which they added, “Good — hope other clubs will catch the spirit. Send us a copy.”

Hep — hep — all set
Now we’re on the way
Forward march — we’ll take the starch
Out of spuds — Hooray!

Plenty of work, don’t shirk
Work will win the prize,
Come on with the tin, we’re going to win
Now don’t you look surprised.

A few issues suggested cheers, sometimes called “yells,” that I think were written by staff, I suppose in the hope it would encourage clubs to create their own. Apparently it worked! One that was shared in 1931 seems to have been crafted right on the spot! Club Echoes, v14, #5, November 1931 reported that seven girls from the Skillful Workers 4-H Club of Fairbanks (Farmington), the only girl’s 4-H Gardening club that existed in 1931 according to the report, gave the following cheer during their October 17th County Contest which was, again according to the report, a rainy day!

Oh, how it’s raining! Gee!
Most everyone’s face is low,
But we’re as happy as can be,
‘Cause it makes our gardens grow.

“Cheer”ful encouragement to give cheers was a constant newsletter theme until WWII. Even Counties got into the act! For example, the October 1927 edition of the Penobscot County Farm Bureau News (V8, #7) cautioned, “Better practice up on your club cheers, songs, and state song before coming to the County Contest!”

Did you note the words “and State Song” above? Did you know Maine 4-H had a State 4-H Song? Few do. You do, if you ever visited the Page Farm and Home Museum and carefully looked over their 4-H Exhibit. There it is, the original manuscript for the State 4-H Song, notes handwritten, and words typed.

section of music and lyrics to The Maine Song

Note I said “had a song,” as in past tense. Well, I don’t really know that anyone actually ever said it was no longer “our song” but it hasn’t been used in years and, given its background, if it isn’t “past tense,” maybe it ought to be.

Although it is uncertain exactly when the words to the Maine State 4-H Song were written, it was introduced to the members of the Maine Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs as the “Official State Club Song” by the September 1922 issue of the Extension newsletter Echoes from Clubdom (the name “4-H” was not widely used in Maine until 1924). I haven’t seen evidence yet on just what process was used to make it “official” however.

The song’s words are set to the music of “Marching through Georgia,” a Civil War era song composed by Henry Clay Work in 1865. Although it was a very popular, well-known song in the Northern states, “Marching through Georgia” was not, and still is not, understandably, highly regarded in the South. After all, it glorifies a very difficult chapter in American history, one that saw Union troops in 1864, led by General William Tecumseh Sherman, march from Atlanta to Savannah in a very successful effort to destroy the morale of the Southern States’ civilian population and hasten the war’s end. Morale wasn’t all that was destroyed, however. Property was destroyed and lives were lost; the march was not pretty. As General Sherman once said, “War is hell.” But the march did achieve its goal.

Apparently desiring a Maine Club song, Extension Editor Abraham L. T. Cummings, better known as “Uncle Abe” to the Maine 4-H’ers of the 1920s and ’30s, put words to the then popular Civil War song’s music. Cummings crafted the words “Here’s a song to dear old Maine, the state we love so well,” fitting them to the rhythms of the music almost better than the actual song’s own words! More an ode to Maine than to 4-H, the song does tie club work in, especially in the chorus, singing, “Come on! Come on! The Club is calling you. Come on! Come on! Let’s push our projects through. In home and farm achievement there is time for pleasure too, while we are doing our club work.”

According to Harold “Brownie” Brown and other state 4-H staff members I worked with in the 1990s, the song was wildly popular “in its day.” It was apparently sung for years at county and state 4-H events and anytime Maine 4-H’ers wanted to express their connection to Maine. However, over time, with the changing of personnel, continual concerns expressed over the music’s origin, and the discontinuation of specific events that incorporated the song as part of the program, the song itself became less and less known, eventually falling into disuse.

By the 1990s the idea that Maine even had a “state 4-H song” was so little known that the members of the 1997 State 4-H Teen Council were surprised to learn one even existed. At first they wanted to reintroduce it to their fellow Maine 4-H’ers. However, given the fact that even though the words were original, the music was not, being not only “borrowed” but “borrowed” from a “controversial” song, in the end, the State 4-H Teen Council decided not to use it. They decided instead to hold a statewide competition to create a new state 4-H Song. This worthy idea, however, was never fully implemented.

There are actually national 4-H songs too, although nothing so official as a national “anthem” or anything. In 1927, a woman named Fannie R. Buchanan put words to music composed by Rena M. Parish (Fannie was a member of the Iowa State Extension Staff but I’m not sure of Rena’s employment status) and created two “4‑H” songs, “Dreaming” (for girls) and “Plowing Song” (for boys). What exactly they have to do with 4-H is not clear to me. Click on them and have a listen! These were recorded by West Virginia 4-H and they even included the words so you can follow along!

Music and words for Dreaming and The Plowing Song curtesy of “New England Sings,” an undated song booklet, probably published in the 1950s, which lists itself as “A New England Cooperative Extension Publication.”
Music and words for Dreaming and The Plowing Song curtesy of “New England Sings,” an undated song booklet, probably published in the 1950s, which lists itself as “A New England Cooperative Extension Publication.”

Now if you want to hear them as they were FIRST recorded by Lambert Murphey, a tenor, singing the Plowing Song and Betty Martin, a soprano, singing Dreaming, visit Judy Smith in the UMaine Extension Franklin County office. Maybe, just maybe, she’ll play their 4-H RCA Victor record for you! However, you have to bring the machine and the cider and snacks. Well, okay, I don’t know for sure that it is the FIRST recording but I like to think so.

4-H RCA Victor records

Writing club songs in Maine, like cheers, also seems to have peaked in the 1930s. In that previous blog, “4-H Clubs, 1 2 3, 4-H Clubs for you and ME!” we included Mrs. Grindle’s club song that was found on page 5 of the February 1932 issue of Club Echoes. Written to the tune of “The Bum Song,” it began, “We are the jolly 4-H clubs, we love to work and play,” and included the ever ringing words, “Let’s try to make the better best In everything we do!”

Just those words alone make one want to cheer. Oh, let’s not start THAT again! But how about a few more club songs! Here is one sent in by “Mrs. Grant.” Could this be the same “Mrs. Grant” who sent games to the 1937 newsletter mentioned above from Franklin County? The song this “Mrs. Grant” sent appeared in the 1927 January/February issue of Echoes from Clubdom (v9, #7 & 8, page 2). Called “We’re Ever Marching” the letter says it is sung to the tune of “John Brown’s Body” (which is the same tune as “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Just saying.).

The club is ever working for a state achievement seal,
(repeat twice as to tune)
And it expects to win.

Come and join us we’re club workers,
Come and join us we’re club workers,
Come and join us we’re club workers,
We’re ever marching on.

It tried to do it’s (sic) duty and to never fail in zeal,
(repeat twice as to tune)
For we’re always on the job.

The county helps to make the work of splendid benefit,
(repeat twice as to tune)
To all who join the club.

Join head and heart and hand and health, and let us stick to it,
(repeat twice as to tune)
And so keep marching on.

The year 1927 must have been a good year for 4-H Club songs! The Echoes from Clubdom letters for May and June each included a club song as well. The May letter’s song was sent in by the “Ivy Club of Litchfield” (v9, #11, page 4). This club not only had a song, but a Motto as well: “Ever climbing.” Sung to “Yankee Doodle,” Ivy’s song is rather lengthy — even the newsletter apparently didn’t print all the verses saying, “Here are a few verses of their club song.” Following their lead, here are even FEWER of the verses, like just the first and the chorus!

We’re willing worker (sic) of the Ivy Club
Our Motto’s “Ever Climbing”
We cook and sew and wash and scrub
You never hear us whining.

Ivy Club Oh keep it up
Let us falter never
Mind you do your very best,
And keep it climbing ever.

Then in the 1927 June edition of Echoes from Clubdom, on page 3 (v9, #12), appeared the South Jefferson Boys’ and Girls’ Club song, sung to the tune “My Mother and Father were Irish.” I never heard that song but then, I’m not Irish! It is long too, so I’m just giving the highlights.

  1. My Mother and Father were farmers, (repeat twice as to tune), And I’m a farmer too.
  2. They fed their chickens on dry mash, (repeat twice), And I feed mine so, too.
  3. They raised the pig by a formula (repeat twice), They raised me that way, too.
  4. They both belonged to the Farm Bureau, (repeat twice), I belong to the 4-H Club.

I don’t know. That just doesn’t seem to end right to me but, again, I don’t know the tune and I’m not Irish.

The Happy Go Lucky 4-H Club of Morrill sent in their song to Club Echoes in May of 1931, and Club Echoes included it on page 5 (v13, #11). Well, they didn’t actually include the song. After saying the club had submitted a song that was written by Lester Merrithew they added in parentheses, “(Because of space we can only print one verse.)” And then they only printed the CHORUS! (tune: Yankee Doodle)

But you just bet we keep it up,
Though struggles are oft bitter,
Has no use for a quitter.

Hilda Weymouth, News Reporter

I kind of feel bad for Lester!

This song writing thing, however, seems to have been popular, maybe even contagious! Even State 4-H Leaders were getting on the act! That same 1931 May Club Echoes edition, on page 2, under the title of “A NEW SONG” (POOR LESTER!), wrote, “When you have a club guest, try this song, written by George L. Farley, State Club Leader, Massachusetts and Manager of Camp Vail. Tune: Auld Lang Syne.”

We’re always glad to meet new friends,
Our greetings all to you,
We cannot all shake hands you see,
So here’s our ‘How d’ye do’.

During the last line each person shakes hands with himself high over his head. Song taken from Rhode Island 4-H Club News.

Maybe Lester should have included hand signs in his.

Remember the song “Whistle while you work”? County Agent G. C. Dunn must have had that idea in mind when he wrote “Dishes” (tune: School Days). I’m not sure if Dunn was the Somerset County agent but the article says the song is sung by the Somerset County 4-H Cooking and Housekeeping girls while they do their work.

Dishes — Dishes —
Always doing dishes
Washing and scrubbing and turning around
Sometimes I drop one upon the ground
Sometimes I nick one or two
Sometimes I drop one on my shoe
But wherever I go
I’m sure to know
There’ll always be dishes to do.

I’ve even tried my hand at this! I TOLD you it was contagious! Here’s one I wrote which you can use to help “break the ice”. It is called M-A-I-N-E (sung to: B-I-N-G-O). The first person stands up and sings the song calling out another 4-H’er’s name. When he or she hears their name, they stand up and sing the song calling out another member’s name. This continues until everyone in the group has been identified.

I know a 4-H’er from Maine
And (insert first name) is his/her name, Oh
M-A-I-N-E, M-A-I-N-E, M-A-I-N-E
And (insert first name) is his/her name, Oh

Or, sing this version as a group at events such as Eastern States or National 4-H Congress:

We are 4-H’ers, we’re from Maine
We shout it very proudly
M-A-I-N-E, M-A-I-N-E, M-A-I-N-E
UMaine 4-H is for ME!

In reviewing some materials on the National 4-H History Preservation website I came across a song entitled “4‑H Farewell Song.” The site says it was “written by Carlton Day, 13, Lisbon Falls, ME” and “sung to the tune of May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You.” As you can tell, it leans on the religious. They don’t say when it was written but my guess is around 1938.

May the Good Lord bless and keep you
Whether near or far away;
May your 4-H work be helpful
To you every day.

May you find new joys in learning,
Both in profits and in fun.
May the Good Lord bless and keep you
Till we meet again.

May all blessings fall upon you,
On your head, heart, health and hands;
May new knowledge serve you daily,
In your homes and on your lands.

May your 4-H projects prosper,
Your rewards be 10 times 10.
May the Good Lord bless and keep you,
Till we meet — till we meet — again.

Singing songs and playing group games have always been a part of the 4-H experience, it seems, nationally and in Maine, even unto today. To prove the point, look at this learning session that was offered during the 2017 Maine 4-H Days held in July!

How to Be a Fun Captain: To get the most of our Saturday evening campfire we need teen leaders! Bring instruments you might want to play, bring campfire songs you want to share, we will be learning some large group games and songs to make this campfire memorable and awesome for all!

So picking up where I left off at the start of this blog:

Tis the end, no more to say here; Fa la la la la la la la la!
Which to many will bring GREAT cheer! Fa la la la la la la la la!

And THAT is where we’ll leave it “Till we meet — till we meet — again.”

More information about 4-H music can be found on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

Words to the Maine State 4-H Song

First Verse:

Here’s a song to dear old Maine, the state we love so well,
Biggest in New England, and the state in which to dwell;
The story of its glory we will ever gladly tell,
While we are doing our club work.


Come on! Come on! The Club is calling you.
Come on! Come on! Let’s push our projects through.
In home and farm achievement there is time for pleasure too,
While we are doing our club work.

Second Verse:

Shout the praise of our dear State, its rivers, lakes, and coast,
Fragrant fields and wooded hills, the pine of which we boast;
Best of all, the happy homes and folks we love the most,
While we are doing our club work.

Repeat Chorus

Third Verse:

Maine, the State of purest air, its waters crystal flow;
‘Tis true we have real winter, and a lot of ice and snow.
But winter sports are glorious and keep the cheeks aglow,
While we are doing our club work.

Repeat Chorus

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