What fun songs do you remember singing as a child?
Preacher Mike’s blog this morning quoted a line from an old song about trains that I learned in the second grade but haven’t thought about in years. The teacher gathered our class around the piano every day and we sang songs from a set of discarded songbooks that had been part of the curriculum many years before. The book included this song, which we sang often – because I liked it and asked for it all the time! I still remember my favorite verse and the chorus:
Got on the Sunny, didn’t have my fare
Conductor said, “What’cha doin’ there?”
I jumped up and made for the door
And he cracked me on the head with a two-by-four!
On the Sunny, on the Sunny Line
Rise and shine
Rise and shine and pay your fine
When you’re riding on the Sunny, on the Sunny Sunny Line!
Preacher Mike remembered the song as “Dummy Line.” I Googled it and found that there are many songs about trains with “dummy” in the title, including this one. I find it curious that the songbook publisher sanitized the title but not the lyric where the conductor assaulted the farecheater!
Turns out that this is a folk song with roots going back as far as the 1890s. The version I learned was about hoboing on the railways on “dummy trains,” the trains being “dumb,” meaning quiet, because they used locomotives with condensing engines that eliminated the noise of steam escaping. Other versions involve trolleys or short branch railways, the cars pulled by small steam engines that sometimes were “dummied up” to look like passenger cars so the sight of them didn’t frighten horses on city streets. I gather that this kind of dummy train was known for being slow, reflected in this lyric I found but don’t remember:
I said to the brakeman, “Can’t you speed up a bit?”
Said he, “You can walk, if you don’t like it”
Said I, “Old man, I’d take your dare
But the folks don’t expect me till the train gets there.”
I wouldn’t have cared about any of this when I was in the second grade. I just got a big kick out of singing about that poor guy getting hit on the head with a board!