You close your fuzzy-kitten Trapper Keeper
and stow it under your desk. Your second grade class lines up and
thunders outside for playtime. The boys head directly toward the sharp
steel seesaws, tetherball, and merry-go-round, those wildly unsafe and
now-defunct playground structures we adored. And sure, dizzying
centrifugal force and strangulation hazards were exciting, but if you
were a girl, you were just as likely to play some quieter, one-on-one
games with your friends.
You stood face-to-face with your best friend, similarly clad in
pinstriped, pleated jeans, elastic belt,
ribbon barrettes, and
t-shirts. You both raised your hands up in preparation and began
to chant and handclap in perfect synchronization, like the little girls
in this video
Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack,
All dressed in black, black, black,
With silver buttons, buttons, buttons,
All down her back, back, back.
She asked her mother, mother, mother,
For 50 cents, cents, cents,
To see the elephants, elephants, elephants,
Jump over the fence, fence, fence.
They jumped so high, high, high,
They reached the sky, sky, sky,
And they didn’t come back, back, back, ‘Til the Fourth of July, ly, ly!
Of course, there were several handclap games girls played in the eighties,
and you probably had your own favorite. I was especially fond of the Dr.
Pepper song and its accompanying handclap game.
These little girls
do it almost as I remember, although instead of the thighswish-thighswish-snap
move, we did a thighslap-thighslap-thighslap thing. The swish-snap is
cool, though, and I think I prefer it. The
Idssplash1 girls have a great explanation of the
In the eighties, we liked to mix up the songs for our handslap games
with commercials or other fun jingles. The Dr. Pepper handclap moves
worked great with the oh-so-naughty Miss Susie song:
Miss Susie had a steamboat,
The steamboat had a bell,
Miss Susie went to heaven,
The steamboat went to...
Give me number nine,
And if you misconnect me,
I'll kick your little...
BeHIND the ‘fridgerator,
There was a piece of glass,
Miss Susie sat on it,
And cut her little...
ASK me no more questions,
I’ll tell you know more lies,
The cows are in the pasture,
Making apple PIES, PIES, PIES-PIES-PIES!
(And there are a bazillion
interpretations of this song, it seems, featuring both Miss
Suzy and Miss Lucy. Apparently I missed out on the boys zipping up their
flies in the last stanza, as well as some final verses that vary from
version to version.)
The Idssplash girls have several other great instructional videos that
you might enjoy, including games called
Bim Bum and
Slide. Some ring a
bell and some are entirely new to me.
My other handclap fave was sung to Say, Say, Little Playmate. You
started off by curling your fingers together with your friend and
gliding your forearms back and forth, like a Nordic Track, during the
first line. Then you went straight to a simple alternating patty-cake
move throughout the rest of the song. I’m seeing that the YouTube
versions of this song are calling it Say, Say, My Playmate, or even
See, See, My Playmate, so it’s
entirely possible that the kids I grew up with were just, like, getting
In the vein of
Garbage Pail Kids,
the sweetness of the Playmate song was corrupted into something grody
and utterly shocking. (Well, to our eight-year old sensibilities,
Say, Say, My Enemy,
Come out and fight with me,
And bring your bulldogs three,
Climb up my sticker tree.
Slide down my razor blade,
Into my dungeon door.
And we’ll be jolly enemies,
Forever more, more, more-more-more!
And whoever said little girls weren’t sweet, right?
I’m totally delighted to see that some kids are still playing these
handclap games, and it’s cool to learn that there are some games I’ve
never even heard of. I tried to teach the 1980s Dr. Pepper song to my
sons when they were little, but, alas, handclap games appear to be the
sole province of the feminine set. If you’re fortunate enough to have
little girls in your life, be sure to pass on these sweet handclap games
to them. They’re an innocent, adorable, and awesome slice of your