Saturday, March 18, 2017

Examples Of "What Time Is It Mr. Wolf?", "I'm Going Downtown To Smoke My Pipe", & "Children Children" (Where Are You Going?) Games.

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post documents what I believe to be connections between several children's recreational games from Britain, the United States, and the Caribbean that involve role playing with ritualized speaking parts, and are (usually) followed by chasing.

My position is that these recreational games - which include the titles "Witch In The Well", "Chicka Ma Chicka Ma Crany Crow", "What Time Is It Mr. Wolf", "I'm Going Downtown To Smoke My Pipe", and "Children Children" among others - all have their primary source in specific British recreational games.

Particular attention is given in this post to several examples of this sub-set of recreational games that are known as "I'm Going Downtown To Smoke My Pipe" (in the United States). "What Time Is It, Mr. Wolf" (in Great Britain & in the United States), and "Children, Children" (in the Caribbean & in the United States*).

*Although I've collected an example of "Children Children" from African Americans in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, my guess is the teacher who shared that rhyme with her students learned it from relatives or other people from the Caribbean.

The content of this post is presented for historical, folkloric, cultural, and recreational purposes.

I include comments from other online sources in part to help ensure that that information is retained and disseminated. I encourage pancocojams visitor to visit those linked articles/blogs to read their entire content.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

Notice the similarities between the textual structure and words of the following examples. Also, when these chants have accompanying performance activities, notice the similarities between those activities.

These excepts are numbered for referencing purposes only.


Subject: BS: 'I'm goin' down town to smoke my pipe,
From: dulcimer42
Date: 26 Apr 08 - 04:52 PM

"We played a game in our neighborhood which began with a rhyme: I'm going' down town to smoke my pipe. I won't be back till broad daylight. If you let one of my children go, I'll spank you with my rubber shoe". Just happened to recall it.... it was in Michigan, probably around 1950. Anyone recall anything like this? I don't recall the details of it. We neighborhood kids played it out in the yard..."

Subject: RE: 'I'm goin' down town to smoke my pipe,
From: GUEST,FransDotir
Date: 25 Nov 08 - 10:01 PM

"We also played this game in Detroit in the 1940s, but before the internet I could never find anyone outside my old neighborhood who had heard of it. About 12 or 13 years ago I joined a storytelling listserve and we had a discussion about the game. A query produced versions from all over the country. Someone mentioned that a part of the game resembled the children's book, Heckedy Peg by Audrey and Don Wood. Someone else suggested Games and Songs of American Children by William Wells Newell, an anthropological account of children's games first published in 1893 and reprinted by Dover Press. Newell lists the game as a version of "The Old Witch" and traces it back to 17th century Europe. Heckedy Peg is a beautifully illustrated story based on one version of the game - well worth looking at.

I now tell kids about the game we played growing up and then tell them the story of Heckedy Peg. They love it!"

Subject: RE: 'I'm goin' down town to smoke my pipe,
From: GUEST,FransDotir
Date: 25 Nov 08 - 10:09 PM

"Saturday, April 6, 1996 5:50 pm (To the Storytell Listserve)

How delightful to find someone else who grew up playing my favorite game. For you and anyone else who's interested, here's the rest of what I remember about it.

It took at least 5 or 6 kids to play and mostly it was a game that girls liked, though occasionally we could get a younger boy to participate if there wasn't anybody to play catch with.

We usually played it at our house, a late 1930s brick bungalow with a low cement front porch. We lived on the corner, which gave us plenty of sidewalk. One of the older kids - nine or ten - would be the mother and another would be the witch. Those two roles had a lot of ritualized speaking parts which the little kids couldn't always remember. Before the game began the witch would choose a category of food, such as "pies" and then she'd go up on the porch and wait for the counting out ritual to proceed.

The rest of the children would sit on the step at the end of the walk and the mother would count them out, chanting the refrain we've mentioned before:

I'm going downtown to smoke my pipe
And I won't be back 'til Saturday night.
I'll whip you black and I'll whip you blue,
Especially you, my daughter Sue.

As soon as she had pointed to "Sue", the mother would casually saunter around the corner walk making a big show of smoking an imaginary pipe, while the witch would come down and take "Sue" up on the porch, meanwhile whispering to her the name of a particular pie (blueberry, apple, lemon, etc.) which "Sue"
was supposed to remember for the second part of the game.

When the mother returned from her stroll around the corner, she would ask, "Where's daughter Sue?" The other children would reply in unison that the witch had come to get her. Then the mother would repeat the rhyme and count out another "daughter Sue". This part of the game continued until all the
children were up on the porch.

When the mother returned to find all the children gone, she'd make a great fuss, lamenting loudly for her lost children. Eventually, she would go up to the porch and pretend to knock on the witch's front door. Another ritual dialogue would ensue:

Mother: Have you seen my children?
Witch: Yes, they were here, and I gave them a piece of bread and butter and
sent them down to Slippery street.

The mother would thank the witch, then walk out to the front sidewalk and pretend she was on Slippery street, slipping and and sliding all over the sidewalk. This part of the game would be repeated several times with the mother returning to the witch to report, "I went down to Slippery street but
they weren't there." The witch replied, "They came back and I gave them another slide of bread and butter and sent them down to Noisy street."

When the mother had looked for her children on Noisy street, Prickly street and any other street the witch could think of to have her act out the name of, the game would move into a new phase, another and rather bizarre dialogue between the mother and witch.

Mother: May I come in?
Witch: No, your shoes are dirty.
Mother: I'll take off my shoes.
Witch: Your feet 'll stink. (to great hiliarity of the group)
Mother: I'll cut off my feet.
Witch: No, you'll get blood all over my beautiful carpet.
Mother: I'll put on golden slippers.
Witch: (giving in reluctantly) All right, you can come in.

Meanwhile, the children stood in a row on the porch with their hands stretched out, palms up. The mother would pretend to look around the room curiously and eventually let her eyes fall on the children. "Oh, what a beautiful piano!" she would say , then go over and pretend to be playing the outstretched hands of the children. When she touched their hands, the children would respond, "Mama, Mama!" The mother would turn to the witch and say, "That sounds like the voices of my children?"
However, the witch would deny it and the mother would not press the issue. Eventually, ( and I may have forgotten some detail here), the mother would invite herself to dinner, overcoming any of the witch's objections.

That's when the game would move out onto the sidewalk again and turn into what Bronner calls "Pies." The mother would stand behind a designated line with the children and begin to guess the names of pies or whatever category of food the witch was seving [sic] for dinner. When she called out a particular
pie, say "Lemon," whichever child had been given that name would race the mother to the big elm tree next to the street. This part of the game went on until each child had raced the mother to the tree and the game was over - a sort of anti-climax.

We kept ourselves busy for 45 minutes to an hour with this game and I found it very satisfying with its elements of storytelling, slapstick and role playing. Other games we played were Hide and Seek (of course), Tag, Giant Steps or Mother, May I? and a game called Whale, which involved jumping off the porch. I thought that one was dumb, but my sister, two years younger, liked it."

Subject: RE: kids' game: I'm goin' down town to smoke my pipe
From: GUEST,Emily
Date: 06 May 09 - 09:19 AM

"I played this game, we called it Witchypoo, in Washington, MI in the 1970's. I learned it from Guest.Flora (Hi Mom!).

The beginning of our game went:

I am going downtown to smoke my pipe.
I won't be back til broad daylight.
Whatever you do - DON'T GO UPSTAIRS!
or I'll spank you black, I'll spank you blue.
especially you my daughter Sue.

When the mother came back the dialog was:

Mom: Where's sister Sue?
Kids: She went upstairs.
Mom: How'd she get there?
Kids: Climbed on a chair.
Mom: What if she falls?
Kids: We don't care."

The rest of the game proceed as in FransDotir's version."

Subject: RE: kids' game: I'm goin' down town to smoke my p
From: Azizi
Date: 06 May 09 - 10:42 AM


Children, Children.

Yes, Teacher.

Where have you been?

To Grandmom's *

What did she give you?

Bread and cheese.

Where's my share?

Up in the air.

How can I reach it?

Stand on the chair.

Suppose I fall?

We don't care.

Ha, Ha, Ha.

Class is dismissed.

London Bridge is falling down, {This part is sung to that familiar tune}
Falling down falling down,
London Bridge is falling down.

Back to Detention. (this part returns to the spoken voice)
-Jackie (Black female, 13 years old); Daynail (Black female, 10 years old) , Marlon, (Black male, 8 years old ); 1998, collected by Azizi Powell, 1998, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

*The word "house" was understood in the phrase "to Grandmom's"
By the way the children recited this, you could tell that the children in the "story" were being smart alecky toward the teacher.

[I rewrote this background-with minor changes- in March 18, 2017 although I've retained the date references. In the Mudcat post this was given after the example of this game that I found in Grace Hallworth's book.]

As background, I heard the words to "Children Children" when I was driving the siblings Jackie, Daynall, and Marlon home from an Alafia [ah LAH-fee-ah] game song session* that I facilitated in a nearby town. During that 30 minute or so drive, I asked them to share with me some rhymes that they knew. Jackie started reciting "Children Children" first and then her other siblings joined in. They recited this chant in unison and not in call and response although there are clearly parts for a teacher and parts for the children/students.

I asked the children how they learned this rhyme. Jackie said she learned it from a teacher, Ms. Callis who had recited it during a bus ride during a school field trip. Jackie then taught it to her sister and brother.

Ms Callis is a Black female teacher in her mid to late 30s who taught at the same elementary school where my daughter teaches. I had met Ms Callis several times before and my daughter gave her the message that I was interested in collecting children's rhymes and hoped that she would recite that rhyme for me. Ms Callis agreed to do so one afternoon when I met my daughter after class.

Her recitation has a slightly faster tempo than the one that the siblings chanted, and she didn't sing the "London Bridge Is Falling Down" part at the end. However, that might have been because was faster and her speaking and not singing that part was because she had work to do after class or she might have been embarrassed to recite this rhyme for me. I asked Ms Callis where she had learned it, and she said she learned it when she was a child.* In response to my question, Ms. Callis said she didn't remember anyone ever doing any movements to this rhyme. Jackie, Daynail, and Marlon also indicated that they did no movements done while reciting this rhyme.
[Added on March 18, 2017] I didn't ask Ms. Callis whether she had any Caribbean ancestry, and unfortunately my daughter and I have lost touch with her. However, it wouldn't surprise me that she has Caribbean ancestry and that is how she learned "Children Children".

*Alafia Children's Ensemble is the name of an after school game song group that I founded and facilitated (with my daughter and other staff) in Braddock, Pennsylvania and in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from 1998 to 2004. Girls were ages 5-12 years and boys were ages 5-7 years [although older boys were welcome]. The group's performance repertoire consisted of traditional and adapted (by me) African American singing games and contemporary cheers. A beginning djembe (drum) class was also a component of Alafia's Braddock "chapter". Most of the older boys who participated in the Alafia were in that sub-set of that program.
-end of addition-


Children, children
Yes, Mama.

Where yo' been to?

What she give yo'?
Two apples.

Where yo' put them?
On the shelf.

How will yo' get them?
Stand on a chair.
-Grace Hallworth; Down By The River: Afro-Caribbean rhymes, games, and songs for children (Scholastic, 1996)


Different fonts were given in the book for the lines as shown above. This indicates to me that these lines were recited in a call and response manner. Hallworth writes "As the "children" answer "Mama" they creep closer and closer to her until finally "Mama" turns and chases them."

In my opinion, "Children Children" is an example of a rhyme that has become separated from its movement activity. The text and performance activity (chasing) of "We Don't Care" is very much like a portion of the Witchypoo game that Emily shared with us from Washington, MI in the 1970's."

Subject: RE: kids' game: I'm goin' down town to smoke my pipe
From: Mo the caller
Date: 27 Jun 09 - 06:41 AM

"The version of this game that Azizi posted on 26 Apr 08 - 07:40 PM is similar to one we used to play in london (England) in the early 50s.

Whats the time Mr Wolf?
The players follow the wolf around asking the time, and the wolf would give arbitrary replies until she shouted DINNER TIME and chased everyone. if one was caught before touching 'home' they were the next wolf.
We played this at Junior school ( up to age 11) and the first year or two at secondary school.
It was simpler than the 'Smoke my pipe game', but had the same elements of chanting question and answer, a mini-drama, then a chase."

Folk-Games of Jamaica





[page] 8
"The wake or "set up" for the dead is probably the most strictly popular of ajl [sic] Jamaican festivities and the one most closely approaching old African customs. On the third night after death — some say on the third to remain until the ninth night — the spirit of the dead is believed to return at night "to visit his relatives and associates and overlook all his possessions. " For this reason, the friends must gather on this night — the third in some districts, the ninth in others — and indulge in all sorts of sports supposed to interest the ghost and prevent him from harm- ing anyone until day dawns. 7 Such a festivity is called "Bakin- ny," or "Back in i' " as I take to be the meaning with reference

Folk Games of Jamaica [page] 9

to the driving of the ghost back to the grave. A bonfire is built outside the house, around which the men and boys gather in a circle while the women sit by to watch the sport. Among the games most commonly played are the stone-pounding and stone- passing games, and such song-games as "Going through the
rocky road," "Thread the needle/' and "Hill and gully riding." Games of wit with words are also popular at such times. Only a few specimens of the innumerable games, songs and dances improvised for such an occasion are represented in this collection."


15. Children, children. 19


All the "children" line up before "mama." At the end, all run
and "mama" tries to catch and beat them.

Children! children!

Yes, mama.
Where have you been to?

What have she given you ?

Bread and cheese.
Where's my share?

Up in the air.
How shall I reach it?

Climb on a broken chair.
Suppose I fall?

I don't care.
Who learn you such manners?

Who is the dog?

You, mama.

19 See "Old Mother Tipsy-toe," Newell 143; "Old W T itch," 217; "Mother, Mother, the Pot Boils Over," Gomme I, 396, dialogue, 398; "Mother, Mother, may I go out to play," Courtney, Cornish Folk-lore, Folk-lore Journal 5, 55."...
"Claremont" is a parish in Jamaica.

From [Jamaican children's ring games]

Anonymous, October 13, 2014
"Mama-Lashy!...not really a ring game...but a game children use to play generally started out with these lines...

A:Children! Children!
B: Yes mama
A: where have you been to
B:To granpapa
A:what did he give you
B:bun and cheese
A: so where's my share
B:up in the air
A:how can I reach it?
B:climb on a broken chair
A:suppose I fall
B:we don't care
A:who teach you that manners?
B:the dog
A:and who is the dog
B: yuh!!

At this point children (part-B) would start running and mama (part-A) would start chasing them."

Added September 15, 2017

The "Children, Children" portion in this Guyanese compilation song is given in italics to highlight it:

(popular Guyanese compilation of several children's songs]

Small Days is still on meh mind
Small Days is a good good time
Meh neighbour had some little children
And when they singin’ and they dancing
I does really admire them

Rick, chick, chick, chick Congatay
Me bin ah back Congatay
Me see fowl mama Congatay
Wid ten fat chickens Congatay
Ah beg she foh wan Congatay
An’ she wun gimme wan Congatay
You see dat gal dey Congatay
Name Daratee Congatay
She fat lak- a butta Congatay
An’ she magga lak- a chow Congatay

Small Days is still on meh mind
Small Days is a good good time
Meh neighbour had some little children
And when they singin’ and they dancing
I does really admire them

Children Children
Yes mumah
Where have you been?
What she give you?
Bread and Cheese
Where is mine?
On the shelf
How me gun get am
Climb on the Chair
Suppose me fall
We don’t care
Bad pickney
We nah care
Wicked pickney
We nah care

Small Days is still on meh mind
Small Days is a good good time
Meh neighbour had some little children
And when they singin’ and they dancing
I does really admire them


According to (

Dolphin (1996) notes that the introduction to this medley of folk songs was originally written by the calypsonian Mighty Panther, but over time the introduction itself has become accepted as a folk song. Songs usually sung as part of this medley include — “Chil’ren, chil’ren”, “On your carpet”, and “Rick, chick, chick, chick”." "

Source: 12, 2016 FOLK SONGS]
-end of quote-

"pickney" = children

"small days" = childhood memories

Guyana is a South American nation that "shares land borders with 3 countries: Suriname, Venezuela, Brazil."

Belize (a Central American nation), and Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana (all located in South America) are culturally considered part of the Caribbean.
Hat tip to Jeremy Peretz for sharing this link with pancocojams (in the comment section for a post on the song "Congotay". That post is given below.

Here's a hyperlink for a YouTube video that Jeremy Peretz also shared of Guyanese artist Marlon Jardine singing ”Small Days":

RELATED LINK Congotay Children's Game (words, play instructions, and comments)

Here's an excerpt from that 2014 pancocojams post:

Several children's chasing games involve children in the role of "chickens" being protected by their mother from attackers. Among those games are "Bull Inna Penn" (original source location: Jamaica), “Chicamy" (original source location: The United Kingdom); and "Chicka Ma Chicka Ma Craney Crow" (African American version of "Chicamy", given as "Hawk and Chickens" in Thomas W. Talley's 1922 book Negro Folk Rhymes: Wise and Otherwise.

Other closely related children's chasing games in the United States are "What's the time, Mr. Wolf", "What time is it Mrs. Witch", "What's The Time, Mr Fox", and "I'm going downtown to smoke my pipe".

To serve as an example, here is a description of "Bull Inna Penn" from Xavier Murphy; "Games played by children in Jamaica", Published May 1, 2002, retrieved October 29, 2010:
"[Bull Inna Penn] is a tense, rough and super exciting game, much loved by every child (and adults) in Jamaica.

This game is basically a story of a mother hen and her chicken, a bull in the pen and a hawk.

The mother hen is protecting her brood who are tightly lined up behind her, each little chick clutching tightly onto each other and in step with every move that mother hen does.

The Bull is standing a couple feet in front of mother hen, taunting and jeering, making noise, and trying everything to reach behind Mother Hen to grab one of her precious chicks. The game has a song and little play..."

Do you know these games or any similar games? If so, please share them in the comment section below.

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