Last week, I received a special treasure in the mail. It was a book called Vicks Two-Year Almanac and Party Book – 1939 – 1940. Sarah Ives from Upscale Downhome sent it to me. She is the ultimate vintage treasure hunter, scavenging garage sales and auctions for amazing finds to use in her decorating projects. Sarah happened to come across this book and snatched it up for me. What a great find!
The book highlights suggested party ideas for celebrations throughout the year. Each idea starts with a description of an invitation and then includes a selection of games to play. These have been the most fun to read.
Although some are pretty comical, I definitely can see myself adapting a few to party games today. Party themes range from a Grandmother’s Bible Party to a Young Lover’s Party. There’s even directions on how to do the Virginia Reel, exterminate insect pests and short cuts for homemakers. You can even learn about different uses for kerosene. Did you know adding a few drops when washing your windows can add a nice polish? I guess before the invention of the internet, you needed an all in one reference to get this basic information from.
After perusing the book, I pulled out a few fun party ideas to share with you. Some of these might need to be updated a little, but they’re a great to mix up the activities at your next celebration.
One really fun party that I enjoyed reading about was the Taffy Pull party. There’s a concern in the book that the art of taffy making will die out, so throwing a taffy pull party is a way to get youngsters excited about this “old fashioned” activity. (After a quick search of the internet, I fear that their concerns came true. I could only find one real mention of taffy pulling and that was at an historic 1890s farmhouse party.) To throw a taffy pull that is as entertaining as the ones when “Teddy Roosevelt was wielding a stick”, there must be singing. Because, as we all know, a taffy pull without song was like “Thanksgiving without turkey”.
Although taffy pull parties might be things of the past, there were a lot of fun games to play at the party, including the peanut pitch. To play, guests line up in two groups facing each other. On one side, each player gets a large paper bag. On the other side, they receive a pan full of peanuts. The player holding the pan must toss the peanuts, one at a time, at the player holding the bag. The player with the bag tries to catch the peanuts. When “stop” is called, the players count how many peanuts they caught in their bag. The pair with the most successful catches wins.
Another peanut inspired game, this one is a wonderful variation of Pin the Tail on the Donkey. It would be fun to play at a circus themed party. Hang up a large cardboard cutout of an elephant with a very large mouth. Blindfold the child and him a peanut. The goal is to put the peanut as close to the elephant’s mouth as possible. The child with the closest peanut wins.
This game is sure to test the mental ability of your guests. Players start by counting by ones with any number that has the number 7 being substituted with “yo”. Then, any number that is divisible by 5 is substituted with “ho”. Players go around in a circle counting and making the correct substitutions. When a substitution is missed, the player must drop out. Counting would sound a little like this: “1, 2, 3, 4, ho, 6, yo, 8, 9, ho, 11, 12, 13, 14, yo, ho, 16, yo, 18, 19…” Wouldn’t this be fun to play with a group of kids while waiting in line or just as opening game at a birthday party? You could even subsitute numbers based on different rules and using a variety of words. I’m definitely going to have to try this one.
Mending Broken Hearts
One of the more amusing party ideas was the Young Lover’s Party. It seemed to be the way of the times to give young couples a chance to socialize and do a little match making. This fun game could be also used at a dinner party today to decide partners for a game or where people sit for dinner. It would even be perfect to play at a Valentine’s Day party. Create a set of small paper hearts and cut them in half. Each set should be cut in a different way – some straight, zig-zag, circular, and jagged. Give one piece of a heart to a boy and one to a girl (if you just want to make it a fun matching game, skip this step). The players mix around to find the match to their heart. The first players to match up win a prize.
A very surprising party theme in the book was the Newspaper Party. I’ve never thought of having television party unless I was inviting people over to watch a big event. But to celebrate the newspaper seemed a bit different. The activities that went with this party were quite fun, though, and I think would be great to use at different events. One of my favorites was the Paris Fashions craft. Using old newspapers and pins, guests were partnered up (boys with the girls) and the boys designed and created a dress and hat for their partner. The twist is that NO scissors can be used. Being that we are in the 21st century, I would pair guests up at random and have each make an outfit for their partner. Then the outfits are paraded around like a fashion show. A group of judges decides who has the best outfit. Can you imagine some of the creations that people would make? I can’t wait to see what my guests would come up with!
It’s so neat to use the past to help influence our parties of today. There’s so many fun ideas and inspiration from vintage things. I’m definitely going to have to keep my eyes open for other books like this. I’d love to resurrect some of these ideas in my celebrations.