“Honest Toil” Parties for Labor Day: 1916

“HONEST TOIL” PARTIES FOR LABOR DAY

Labor Day, which as you remember falls September the sixth, should furnish a wealth of inspiration for early autumn parties. The motif of “horny-handed toil” is a new one upon which to base a merrymaking and the entertainer who develops it cleverly could hardly fail to sound an original note. The idea of the various trades affords a basis for splendid games, including the guessing contests by way of diversions for an evening.

An attractive way to write the invitations for such a party would be:

“Fellow Laborer: On the evening of September the sixth representatives of all the trades, unions, and professions assemble at address of hostess to celebrate the annual festival of ‘honest toil.’ We hope you will find it possible to attend. Please come as a member of the Bakers’ Union.”

If a costume party would be too great a tax upon prospective guests, a head-dress party can be substituted, the head-dresses being nothing more expensive than colored paper and appropriate in shape to the traditions of the guild to which the guest is elected for the evening. Each union could have from four to six members to start the fun at a table specially designated for their group. Before proceeding to the tables have a “grand march of labor,” three times around the room to music. Now break ranks that all may proceed to the table of their respective guilds, there to compete for a prize in store.

The different vocations which could be utilized in this way are legion. A few will suffice to show the plan and at the same time provide fun for a party of generous size. Suppose we choose for them bakers, tailors, farmers, sailors, architects, shoemakers, and artists.

For the bakers’ table provide tiny pads with pencils and call on the men of flour and dough to write down as complete lists as possible of words relating to the staff of life. Such words as “bun,” “twist,” “sandwich,” “roll,” etc., are those meant. If the players are of a literary turn, see who can write down most quotations regarding bread. Or give each a saucer on which is a slice of bread from which he is asked to model a figure of anything that suggests itself, a prize being in store for the most ingenious. Have a bowl of water on the table, in which each may moisten his fingers before beginning the modeling.

Sailor from the HMS Victory

To the sailors could be given packages wrapped in paper and tied with a number of hard knots. The player who first opens his package by untying the knots wins the prize. Present this with a humorous allusion to ” thirty knots an hour.” A toy ship under sail could be displayed and the Jackies could compete by making pencil sketches of it. Another good hint would be a question game founded on parts of a ship.

Which part of a ship is an English coast town? Hull. Which part consists of acorns or small seeds? Mast. Which side explains what the ship sails for? Port. Which part is a pack of cards? Deck. Which part is a small house? Cabin. Which part is a common mineral?- Spar. Which part is energetic advertising? Boom. Which part is an act of courtesy? Bow. Which part is part of a flower? Stem. Which part is severe demeanor? Stern.

The tailors could dress dolls with tissue-paper, or they could design and paint paper dolls to illustrate the styles of the moment. A list of words applying to dress in the past (such as “surtout,” “wimple,” “buskin,” “jerkin,” “doublet”) could be written and the men of cloth asked to define them.

The architects could write short papers on “My Ideal Home.” They can cut and paste the doll-house paper furniture which comes among kindergarten supplies with an award for rapidity and neatness. Or they, too, might answer questions in a riddle game, called “The House That Jack Built.”

Which part of a house looks impolitely? Stairs. (stares). Which part is the same as the first temptation? Eaves (Eve’s). Which part is pure Greek? Attic. Which part stands badly? Stoop. Which part is to worship? A door (adore). Which part closes a letter neatly? Ceiling (sealing). Which part of a big room is coldest? The frieze (freeze).

Interesting, too, would be a guessing game, for which the entertainer clips from the magazines pictures of historic houses and mounts them on cardboard, guests being asked to distinguish Mt. Vernon from Monticello, and so on.

Let the shoemakers have a comic contest in sewing shoe-buttons on strips of leather. Or provide shoestrings and revive the former hobby of making fob chains and purses from these lacings.

The artists may be called on to guess the painters of twelve masterpieces, represented by the penny prints. The prints may be cut into small pieces and used as a picture puzzle. For a funny contest each artist might be required to sketch his vis-a-vis.

A delightful idea for supper is to give each couple a “full dinner-pail,” which they are to share. For a kettle-lunch serve baked beans, lettuce sandwiches, a ripe pear or banana, some doughnuts or slices of pie. Pass coffee on trays, or have a bowl of lemonade or fruit punch from which each can help himself.

LABOR DAY GAMES FOR CHILDREN

For quite young children too old for the amusements of mere tots and too young for guessing games that are in any way difficult, a specially jolly pastime is called General Strike. While not difficult it will be found to delight and interest the children.

Dipping into a basket with eyes closed each child selects one of the little symbols there jumbled together which suggests some, trade or occupation. Thus, for the Shoemaker, a shoe; for the Bricklayer, a tiny red carboard brick.

Or it may be that head-dresses, made up out of crepe and tissue of different colors and representing certain trades, are in the basket and that each child instead of a simple symbol pick out one of these to be worn during the game. This, of course, is where costume embodying Labor Day suggestions is not worn.

Now, at a given signal, all the players begin to pantomime the trades they have drawn. Thus, the carpenter saws or hammers, the sailor pulls in an imaginary anchor, the engineer blows a whistle, etc. Now someone in the party has secretly been given a slip, which commissions him after pantomiming a certain time to cease doing so, and thereafter remain as quietly as possible, calling no attention to the fact that he is motionless. The children know that such a paper has been given, but do not know to whom. It is, therefore, necessary to watch carefully in all directions so as to immediately detect the player who is motionless. The second player on seeing the first motionless becomes so also. This is called Going on Strike, and it continues spreading in all parts of the room until but one player remains at work. This person must perform a penance as imposed by the rest. Any number of rounds of the Strike Game can be played.

LABOR DAY GAMES FOR ADULTS

For older players a competition in naming or guessing the different trades or occupations which celebrities followed during their youth or lifetime would prove most interesting. Twenty-five names might be written down upon each player’s card opposite which names he is required to write the occupation once followed by their owners. Here are a few to start the list with:

Of what trade was Hans Sachs, the German poet? (Shoemaker); Benjamin Franklin (Printer), Shakespeare (Actor), Francis Bacon (Lawyer), Cervantes (Volunteer Soldier).

A plaster cast of some celebrity who began life in obscure condition and achieved success through his own efforts would make an attractive prize.

How It Is Made

For a quiet contest try this good one. The entertainer, who has previously provided herself with a good book on the subject, distributes little blank books in which she asks her guests to describe the process of making or doing something quite ordinary. For instance, this might be glass making or the production of yarn. Half an hour is given in which to prepare one’s account. At the end of that time the different papers are read aloud, followed by a short but true account from the book. The differences in the account will probably be great enough to cause much fun. If glass making is described, the prize should be a pretty trifle in glass. If wool is in question, the gift should have a woolly basis.

THE WORKINGMAN’S WISDOM

Have half as many cards as there will be guests and let a lady and gentleman share a card between them. On each card have a series of proverbs and quotations about labor with words omitted in each phrase. Guests are requested to fill in the missing words in competition for a prize. Examples of the incomplete proverbs would be:

A bad workman (blames) his (tools).

The laborer is (worthy) of (his) (hire).

You cannot (make) (bricks) without (straw).

Man may work from sun to sun, But woman’s work is never done.

The Mary Dawson Game Book, Mary Dawson, 1916: pp. 705-712

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil is aware that many of her readers reside in the United States where Labour Day (or Labor Day as it is spelt in that efficient American way) is celebrated. She thought that it might be amusing to suggest some old-fashioned ways to celebrate the joys of “honest toil,” which, Mrs Daffodil suggests, are frankly overrated. The idea of little innocents playing a game called “General Strike” is a diverting one. The instructions do not mention brickbats, barricades, or “bullhorns,” which seems to take a good deal of the fun out of the thing.

Mrs Daffodil will be taking a brief holiday while the Family is off to New York to enjoy the U.S. Open Tennis contest and will return to the blog Wednesday next.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

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2 thoughts on ““Honest Toil” Parties for Labor Day: 1916

  1. floodmouse

    Wow, this is like the scavenger hunt in “My Man Godfrey,” only a generation earlier. There’s something faintly appalling about the idea of upper-crust socialites getting together on Labor Day to celebrate all the work they DIDN’T have to do the rest of the year. But I suppose it was meant well.

    I plan to include a variation on the game “General Strike” at any future Labor Day gathering I might hapen to hold. I think we could definitely re-introduce nonlethal versions of some of the “adult” elements of a classic American strike (e.g., Nerf brickbats, and for that matter Nerf machine-guns – saw a really dandy Nerf machine gun in a recent issue of “Popular Science.”)

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