Saturday, January 4, 2014

"My Mommy Sent Me To The Store" & What Ya Gonna Feed Him" Children's Rhymes

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post presents text examples of children's rhymes that include the line "My mommy (or "mother") sent me to the store". Many of these rhymes include the lines "What ya gonna feed him/neck bones (or words that are a similar to "neck bones"). A sub-set of those children's rhyme examples contain the line "Shave and a haircut/Two bits" rather than the line "My mommy sent me to the store".

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

These examples demonstrate how children combine two or more independent (stand alone) verses or rhymes. The verse that is common with these examples (with the exception of Examples #1 & #4) are made up of two or more "what" or "who" questions with short, rhyming responses. The line "What ya gonna feed him (or "it") is found in each of these examples, except the exceptions already mentioned. The first "What" question is the first line of the second [stand alone?] rhyme. The first rhyme is either "My mommy sent me to the store" or "shave and a haircut". Other rhyming verses may also be added to these rhymes.

It also occurs to me that these rhymes with "what" or "who" questions & short, rhyming responses remind me of the song/chant "Hambone" ("Hambone Hambone where you been"?), and the "Puddin Tane" rhyme ("What's your name/Puddin Tane"). And another "What did you feed them?" song from African American culture -along with this posts' featured rhymes- is "Did You Feed My Cow".

Very little demographical information is available for the rhyme examples that are featured on this page. All of these examples were given as remembrances of rhymes that the contributors chanted or the contributors remembered being chanted during their childhood (by other children or by their parents or from their grandmother who remembered it from her own childhood).

Both female and male contributors posted examples of these rhymes. No racial demographics were given for any of these contributors. However, read my comments after Example #3 in which I share why I deduced that the contributors for that example and for Example #2 were African American.

The earliest date for the examples in this collection is 1922 (from Dad's memory). Other dates that were given were "the [19]60s (from grandmother), and "my whole childhood" (age given 27 years in 2010 = 1970s) [Example #7].

Example #1 in this post is from a collection of jump rope rhymes. Another contributor [Example #4] indicated referred to her [?] rhyme as a "clapping game". No performance information was given for the other examples.

I believe that this children's rhyme was inspired by the Fats Waller song "My Mommie Sent Me To The Store". I also believe that that Fats Waller song in turn was inspired by the Parkers Brothers card game "My Mother Sent Me To The Grocery Store.

Click for an example of and lyrics to that 1940 Fats Waller song, and information about that memory game which was first produced around 1902.

The "Shave and a haircut. Two Bits" line comes from that popular jingle & tune. Click for a pancocojams post about that tune. Also, click for additional "Shave and a haircut" children's rhymes.

These examples are posted in chronological order based on their publishing date online or their collection date with the earliest published examples given first. When neither of those dates are available, that example will be posted with the date that it was retrieved from that website.

Example #1:
Mother sent me to the store.
She said I could not stay.
I fell in love with a blue eyed boy.
I couldn't get away.
Source: Abrahams (1969);

Example #2:
My momma sent me to the store
She told me not to stay out long
I fell in love with a little black boy
That stole my heart away, hey hey hey.
Who's the daddy?
What you gonna feed him?

LOL, I don't remember the rest of it. That was a long time a go
CJUS, 4-01-2003 "Old School Chants"
Read my comment below about this example and example #1.

Example #3:
Originally posted by CJUS
"My momma sent me to the store
She told me not to stay out long
I fell in love with a little black boy
That stole my heart away, hey hey hey.
Who's the daddy?
What you gonna feed him?

LOL, I don't remember the rest of it. That was a long time a go"

...I fell in love with the grocery boy who took my heart away, way way.

Who's the daddy?
Whatcha' gone feed it?
Whatcha' gonna feed it with?
a silverspoon.
Kisha, 4-01-2003 "Old School Chants"
From the vernacular language used in some of the rhyme examples & some of the comments, and from the inclusion of certain rhymes which are almost always associated with African Americans, I deduced that all the participants in this "old school chants" discussion thread were African Americans. This deduction was reinforced by some of the screen names and signage of other participants in this discussion thread which identified those contributors as members of historically Black Greek lettered sororities (and the fact that sororities in the United States are almost completely racially segregated.)

I believe that both of these examples are missing a line or lines at the end. Read the subsequent examples to find possible ending lines and/or the format used to come up with possible ending lines.

Examples #4:
Clapping games
(These lines probably don’t even really go together except in my head.)

My boyfriend’s name is Tony.
He comes from the land of Baloney.
With 23 toes and a pickle for a nose.
This is how my story goes.
One night while I was walking

I saw my boyfriend talking
to a cute little girl with a strawberry curl
and this is what he said, said, said.
I L-O-V-E love you.
I K-I-S-S kiss you.
I K-I-S-S kiss you on your
F-A-C-E face face face.

My mother sent me to the store.
She told me not to stay.
But I fell in love with the grocery boy
and stayed ’til Christmas day, day, day.

My mother wanted peaches;
my mother wanted pears;
my boyfriend wanted 50 cents
and kissed me on the stair, stairs, stairs. Posted on Saturday, November 21, 2009 in children's rhymes

Example #5:
Shave and a haircut, two bits.
Who’s gonna pay for it? Tom Nix.
Whatcha gonna feed him on? Cold Grits.

Don’t know where that came from, but that’s how my grandmom sang it in the 60s
-Elizabeth on September 17, 2010, "Amidst a tangled web: shave and a haircut, two bits" Hereafter given as Hersam: Shave And A Haircut
"Thomas Edwin "Tom" Mix (born Thomas Hezikiah Mix;[1] January 6, 1880 – October 12, 1940) was an American film actor and the star of many early Western movies. Between 1909 and 1935, Mix appeared in 291 films,[2] all but nine of which were silent movies. He was Hollywood's first Western megastar and is noted as having helped define the genre for all cowboy actors who followed."

Examples #6:
All the variations are amazing! This is my memory:

Shave and a haircut, six bits,
Who’s the barber, Tom X (maybe Mix).
What’re your gonna feed him? Steak bones?
Who’s gonna eat ‘em? Spike Jones.
-Polly on September 25, 2010, Hersam: Shave And A Haircut
"Lindley Armstrong "Spike" Jones (December 14, 1911 – May 1, 1965) was an American musician and bandleader specializing in performing satirical arrangements of popular songs. Ballads and classical works receiving the Jones treatment would be punctuated with gunshots, whistles, cowbells, and outlandish vocals. Through the 1940s and early 1950s, the band recorded under the title Spike Jones and his City Slickers and toured the United States and Canada under the title The Musical Depreciation Revue."

Example #7:
I’m 27, and my whole childhood we sang
“shave and a haircut,
2 bits; who ya gonna marry? thomas
whatcha gonna feed him? ham bones
who’s gonna eat ‘em? spike jones

then we’d instantly go into the “my momma told me” song.
-Janice on September 27, 2010, Hersam: Shave And A Haircut
"My momma told me" is probably the song:
My momma told me
If I would goody
She gonna buy me
A rubber dolly
But someone told her
I kissed a soldier
She didn't buy me
A rubber dolly.
(from my memory of that song in New Jersey, 1950s, jump rope or hand clap rhyme)

Example #8:
My grandmother sings:

Shave and a haircut–two bits
Who got married–Tom mix
Who was he doctor–buck jones
What did they feed him–dog bones

Awesome!!! Thought it was always something she made up for us but it’s cool I found others!!
-Dusty on March 16, 2011, Hersam: Shave And A Haircut
"Buck Jones (December 12, 1891[1] – November 30, 1942) was an American motion picture star of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, known for his work starring in many popular western movies. In his early film appearances, he was billed as Charles Jones."

Examples #9:
The way my grandmother and mother taught us was:

Shave and a haircut, two bits!
Who ya gonna marry? Thomas!
What ya gonna feed him? Neck Bones!
Who’s gonna eat them? Spike Jones!

This was followed up by the lady with the bald headed baby song
-Alicia on June 29, 2012, Hersam: Shave And A Haircut
This may be the rhyme (song) that includes a line about "the lady with the bald headed baby"
From "The Handgame Society"

Take a peach take a plum
take a pocket full of gum
No no don’t take it
Take it up
Take it down
Take it all the way around
Popcorn maybe chicken and gravy
Here comes the lady with the bald-headed baby
She can wiggle she can wobble
She can do the splits
Betcha 5 dollars she can’t do this:
Said spin all the way arrrrouunnd
Jump all the way arroounnd

Examples #10:
Ok kids, here my Dad’s version, who was born in 1922:

Shave and a haircut, 2 bits.
Who’d got married? Tom Mix.
Who’d he marry? Shea Ray.
How’s the baby? OK.
Who’s the doctor? Doc Jones.
What’ya feed the baby? Big bones.
-Chris on September 30, 2012, Hersam: Shave And A Haircut

Example #11:
My gramma taught me:

Shave and a hair cut – two bits
Who’s getting married – Thomas
Who is he marrying – Pearl White
How is the baby – All right
What do they feed her – Ham bones

I’m pretty sure there’s another line to rhyme with bones.
-Atalaya on May 16, 2013, Hersam: Shave And A Haircut
"Pearl Fay White (March 4, 1889 – August 4, 1938) was an American film actress. White began her career on the stage at the age of six. She later moved on to silent film appearing in a number of popular serials.

Dubbed the "Queen of the serials", White was noted for doing the majority of her own stunts in several film serials, most notably in The Perils of Pauline."

Example #12:
Shave and a Haircut, 2 Bits
Who is the Barber? Tom Mix
Whatcha gonna Feed him? Neck Bones
Who’s Gonna Eat ‘Em? Buck Jones
Run to the River, Jump In.
Sink to the Bottom,
The End.
-Jim Lilly July 8, 2013, Hersam: Shave And A Haircut

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Special thanks to Dan Hersham "Amidst a tangled web: shave and a haircut, two bits".

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Visitor comments are welcome


  1. As an African American interested in children's playground rhymes and also concerned about all children developing positive self-esteem and group esteem, I consider it significant that the lines in Example # 1 and Example #2 probably reflect the racial identities of the chanters. (Example #1 line: "I fell in love with a blue eyed boy" and Example #2 [also quoted in Example #3] "I fell in love with a little black boy". This is not to say that people can't fall in love with people outside their race. They do and, if it is for real, more power to them. But it seems to me that the change from "blue eyed boy" to "little black boy" is a healthy sign that Black people are developing and expressing an increased acceptance of ourselves.

    It also occurs to me that although I still think it's true that most children's rhymes don't refer to race, the references to "blue eyed boy"" and such characteristics as "strawberry curls" (in rhymes like "I Am A Pretty Little First Grader" , formerly "I Am A Pretty Little Dutch Girl"), also are racial references since People of Color don't usually have "strawberry" curls, unless we dye our hair.

    Also, it occurs to me that the question "Who's the daddy?" in Example #1 and Example #2 probably means "Who's your baby's daddy?". If this the correct interpretation, then that question may reflect the social conditions that some African Americans (and some people of other races/ethnicities) experience of having babies without being married - because if the girl was married, then other people wouldn't be asking her who is her baby's father.

    Also, recall that these call & response (or at least these two part, dialogue) rhymes are chanted by children. So these rhymes may both reflect the world these girls experience, and prepare these girls (socialize them) for their lives as adults. And if that is so, I'd much prefer a world where females had a strong, positive monogamous marriage before they had a baby so no one would have to ask "Who's the daddy?"

  2. Since I mentioned race in my first comment, let me quote this comment that I wrote to another pancocojams post about children's rhymes [Children's Risqué Rhymes)

    "While I recognize that the confidentiality of children should be maintained, I believe that folkorists should collect & cite all demographical information that they can, including contributors' age, gender, nationality, geographical location, and race/ethnicity.

    I believe that race/ethnicity is important to collect and to cite with folkloric material such as children's rhymes, cheers, and singing games for cultural and sociological reasons. For instance, knowing the racial identity of a contributor of a rhyme may help explain topical references and slang words & phrases in that rhyme. Also, studying the type of rhymes & cheers that particular populations of children prefer, what values are reflected in those examples, and how those examples are performed can provide information and insights about the particular population. Furthermore, I believe that changes in rhymes such as the inclusion of racialized references and confrontational language in rhymes such as "Down Down Baby" which previously did not have that content reflect the changes and stresses that have occurred and continue to occur in integrated school settings.

    Since 1985, but particularly since 2001 my direct collection & internet collection of contemporary English language playground rhymes suggest that very few of those rhymes refer to race/ethnicity. Nevertheless, I believe that race/ethnicity significantly influences the types of playground rhymes that members of specific populations tend to prefer and significantly influence how those rhymes tend to be performed. [with "rhymes" being a generic term for all types of rhyming verses, cheers/chants, and singing games]. Having said that, there are many instances of rhymes originating with one population and one language being chanted by children throughout the world, regardless of those children's race, ethnicity, and nationality. And it is also true that not everyone who identifies with a particular cultural population- for instance "African American" - knows and likes the same type of rhymes. However, there is an aesthetic to playground rhymes that is nurtured, encouraged, and promoted within particular populations (while other types of rhymes are disdained) the same as there is an aesthetic for specific types of vocal & instrumental music in that is encouraged in that same population."...

  3. This is wonderful,! I wondered if this extraordinary part of our vernacular history was being preserved! A next awesome step would be to collect video and audio in an archive so that people can understand how these rhymes look and sound I’m everyday life. For example, I recall the “Bald-headed lady” rhyme being sung during double dutch. Where the chanter says “arrrrround” we would jump in a circular motion. Important details! Thanks to those documenting this and doing this important work!!!

    1. Thanks for your comments Unknown.

      With regard to compiling archives that include video and audio of these playground rhymes, that would be a HUGE effort since there are so many versions of many of these rhymes within the same time period and different time periods in the same nation and in multiple nations.

      That said, a number of later pancocojams posts include one video or more than one of the featured playground rhyme or cheer.

      Here's a link to the lastest pancocojams post in which I've listed the titles of posts for these rhymes/cheers that I published in 2019. Archived Lists Of Pancocojams Posts About Children's Playground Rhymes & Singing Games (Part IV-2019). There are three previous archived titles for pancocojams posts about playground rhymes/cheers and I've yet to archive the posts for 2000 on.

      By the way, thanks for adding that information about the movement that was done while the chanter said "arrrround".

      While I recognize that double dutch is a sport now, I regret that double dutch chanting for recreational (fun) purposes is rarely done anymore.

  4. Our version of the “my momma told me” song ended “my momma told me to pick the prettiest one and that is Y-O-U” :)

    1. Thanks for sharing that memory Unknown.

      I appreciate it.