Friday, January 16, 2009

Little Orphan Annie (and The Goblins)

Last night my best friend, Pov, and I were over at my parents' home for dinner. His daughter, "Bugs", was with us, and we sat around the table after dinner talking about many things.

At some point, I brought up an old poem my mother used to tell us when we were very little because I wanted Bugs to hear it. It always caused shivers to run up and down my spine. The new generation is much more jaded than mine, so I didn't expect that it would have the same effect, but Mom is a wonderful story teller.

Mom had learned the poem from a series of books my grandmother had (which have been passed down to me) called "The Home University Bookshelf". When I was little, I read through most of them, although the section on childcare bored me and I didn't bother with that particular volume.

The first of the 10 volume set is devoted to literature, and it's always been my favorite. The poem Little Orphan Annie is in there, among many others. This is the poem which my mom recited last night. It's made much more impressive when she grabs you after each paragraph. When we were kids, it scared the heck out of us!

What is also interesting is this reminder of our history. Before 1941, child labor was still possible and quite common in many areas. Orphans, by definition, were entirely alone and would often be left to starve to death unless they were "lucky" enough to be taken in by a charity (which would exploit them) or a family (which would exploit them) or a business (which... well, you get the picture).

This poem is actually about a relatively "lucky" orphan: Little Orphan Annie. The poem later inspired Harold Gray to create his famous comic strip character by the same name. The first Little Orphan Annie comic strip was published thirty-nine years later, in 1924.

Little Orphan Annie's come to our house to stay,
And wash the cups and saucers up, and brush the crumbs away,
And shoo the chickens off the porch and dust the hearth and sweep,
And make the fire, and bake the bread, and earn her board and keep;
And all us other children, when the supper things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire and has the mostest fun
A-listenin' to the witch tales that Annie tells about,
And the Gobble-uns that gits you if you don't watch out!

Once they was a little boy who wouldn't say his prayers--
And when he went to bed at night, away upstairs,
His mammy heard him holler and his daddy heard him bawl,
And when they turned the kivvers down, he wasn't there at all!
And they seeked him in the rafter room, and cubby hole and press,
And seeked him up the chimney flue, and everywheres, I guess;
But all they ever found was just his pants and round about!
And the Gobble-uns'll git you if you don't watch out!

And one time a little girl would always laugh and grin,
And make fun of everyone, and all her blood and kin;
And once when they was company and old folks was there,
She mocked them and shocked them and said she didn't care!
And just as she kicked her heels, and turnt to run and hide,
They was two great big Black Things a-standin'by her side,
And they snatched her through the ceiling
'fore she knowed what she's about!
And the Gobble-uns'll git you if you don't watch out!

And little Orphan Annie says, when the blaze is blue,
And the lampwick sputters, and the wind goes woo-oo!
And you hear the crickets quit and the moon is gray,
And the lightning bugs in dew is all squenched away--
You better mind your parents, and your teachers fond and dear,
And cherish them that loves you, and dry the orphan's tear,
And help the poor and needy one that cluster all about,
Or the Gobble-uns'll git you if you don't watch out!


The Lazy Iguana said...

You think that poem will work on the cat who thinks it is OK to take a squat by the front door??

Saur♥Kraut said...

Lazy, You could always try! I hear that cats and goblins don't get along.

M@ said...

the section w/ child care bored you. lol.

Saur♥Kraut said...

M@, ;o)

The Lazy Iguana said...

The sections on child care usually scares me.

You mean you have to wipe up shit for HOW MANY YEARS?!?!?!?!

There has to be a better way. And I will invent it.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Lazy, Well, my parents always jokingly discussed the possibility of creating a rubber room that could be hosed down on a regular basis.

Childcare isn't easy or fun, IMHO. But then, I'm an unusual woman in many ways. I love children as they get OLDER and have minds and opinions of their own. Babies bore me, for the most part. But they're a necessary thing to cultivate if you're going to get the fantastic product of a fascinating child. Unless you're willing to adopt - but that can come with it's own perils.

Anonymous said...

i was so thrilled to find this poem! i recited it at school as a child. lost the antique book it was in.didn't know author's name.can you tell me about your book?

Saur♥Kraut said...

Sure! I have all the volumes of the Home University Bookshelf published by The University Society, New York. The copyright is 1938.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! I wanted to read this poem to my daughter tonight, and you made it possible. My mom read it to us kids years and years ago.

rkyobo said...

Thank you! My mother, who passed away this past January at the age of 89, used to recite this poem to us every year at halloween, and it always scared me to death, cause she would always grab us at the end of each verse. Reading it, I can actually hear her voice reciting it. Especially when she would get to the part about the "two big black things" I'd about jump out of my skin! Such a great memory - I sure miss her!

Anonymous said...

This was one of MY very favorite poems as a child! I look for it every year around Halloween! So glad others have the same feelings for it.