As we cruise through how adults played in the early 20th century, we find that many of the leisure activities, games, and toys have continued in the 20th and 21st century, such as card playing, weekend band concerts in the local park, buggy rides into town by our more rural folk, and more. These early new inventions and innovative applications started our nation on an adventurous leisure path that never before existed.
Throughout our nation, families began to travel more frequently on those new contraptions like the automobile and aero plane; then came the movies and radio. One creative venue actually accelerated all the many ways adults began to play and sing about. And it wasn’t only the exploding sports scene that transformed how we played but the songs about sports and past time activities.
According to Songs of Sports and Pasttimes (Online Text. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200197829/) “American popular song emerged in the same era that American leisure culture began to develop, and sports such as baseball and football began to take on their present, distinctly American forms. As transportation improved, professional entertainers and traveling shows and circuses became regular visitors throughout the country. Transportation itself also became a form of recreation. In many cases, the songs themselves directed the activity. In 1915, Conway’s Band recorded a medley of children’s game songs, many quite old and some still familiar nearly a hundred years later. Adults had their own musical games in the form of dances that included musical commands from callers and singers that forced them to change direction or partners.”
Let us also not forget that the growing popularity of movies propelled songwriting to new levels. Here’s a few examples sung by The Peerless Quartet: Since Mother Goes to the Movie Shows (hear song: https://www.loc.gov/item/jukebox.4261) and Take Your Girlie to the Movies (https://www.loc.gov/item/jukebox.7170).
Now when it come to sports, who hasn’t heard the classic 1908 song, Take me out to the ball game! written by Jack Norworth with music by Albert Von Tilzer. You may not have heard their names but surely the song! Norworth wrote the lyrics on a scrap piece of paper on a train ride to Manhattan, New York. Then he handed the lyrics to Albert Von Tilzer who composed the music that was published by the York Music Company and within the same year a hit record was birthed. Here’s another baseball song you may not have known, The Baseball Rag (https://www.loc.gov/item/jukebox.3332).
Now let’s venture with a few song about trains and cars that took families to the beach and got them sailing. Songs popped up like Come Take a Swim in My Ocean (https://www.loc.gov/item/jukebox.1695). The American Quartet popularized Sailing Down the Chesapeake Bay in 1912 (https://www.loc.gov/item/jukebox.3356).
Now when it comes to a subway, Walter Van Brunt brought us Subway Glide (https://www.loc.gov/item/jukebox.2690). Now let’s get off the ground as the “aeroplane” was coming of age in the early 20th century. Although not too many initially would be able to take a fun ride in a plane, by 1909, the Haydn Quartet sang Up in My Aeroplane (http://www.loc.gov/jukebox/recordings/detail/id/1696/). Then the next year, came Come Josephine, In My Flying Machine (https://www.loc.gov/item/jukebox.2093).
I bet there is just about a song for any sport or leisure time activity known to mankind. Whether the song is about a the movies, buggy ride, sailing, flying, roller skating, all the way to hot rods and surfing, these songs through the generations chronicled our history and heritage of innovation, invention, and just having good ole fashioned fun. In the next article, according to some leisure time per capita is still the same today as it was in 1900, although work and school hours are a different story. Let’s have a look next issue.