Dear Dr. Scribblerbuva:
When I was growing up in the 1930s and ‘40s, “blumsock” was played in barnyards at public sales and other gatherings of “buva.”
What is the correct spelling and what special rules are there beyond just plain “tag” using a knotted burlap bag?
Let's deal with “buva” before “blumsock.” Buva (also “buwe”) is a Pennsylvania Dutch word for boys. In this case, Bob, you mean Amish buva, who made up many of the boys playing games in barnyards in these parts in the 1930s and ’40s.
The Scribbler has no clue about the rules of blumsock, but an article by Vincent Tortora in the summer 1958 issue of The Pennsylvania Dutchman seems to have the recipe. The date of the article also suggests the game continued beyond the ’30s and ’40s.
“Blumsock, as played among the Amish, roughly corresponds to ‘who’s got the nine-tails,’ ’’ writes Tortora. “A piece of twisted and knotted cloth or a bean bag may serve as the ‘whip.’ ”
Players stand or sit in a straight line and pass a bean bag or burlap bag behind their backs. One of these players is “it” and moves up and down the line of boys trying to find who has the “whip.” The players, while keeping the object hidden, take it out and hit the player with it when he isn’t looking in that direction, then quickly pass it down the line.
As soon as the player who is “it” sees the object, he attempts to take it from the boy holding it. If he succeeds, that boy becomes “it.”
So, those are the rules. Not much to it. Tag probably outlasted blumsock because it’s far simpler and involves a lot of running around.
Dear Dr. Scribblerfair:
Looking at some photographs of Lancaster County on the Penn Pilot website (www.pennpilot.psu.edu/), I came across an April 29, 1940, photo of the area around Long’s Park. I noticed what appears to be a race track. It’s located on land on which Donnelley Printing later built a plant. The track has some attendant buildings and possibly a grandstand.
A June 7, 1958, photo of the same area no longer shows the track. Its outline and remnants of some of the buildings are still there.
Can you shed some light on this track? Cars? Dogs? Horses! Humans?
That was a race track for horses. Races were staged there from 1909 until the early 1930s. The races were a major feature of the Lancaster County Agricultural Fair.
The week-long fair actually began in 1888 at McGrann’s Park, which extended along New Holland Avenue from Plum to Franklin streets. In 1909, the fair association moved the attraction to the new site on Harrisburg Avenue near Long’s Park.
The new fairgrounds occupied 55 acres and contained 5,500 bleacher seats and 225 stables for racing and show horses. The fair also featured buildings for cattle and other animals, as well as horticultural, agricultural and “fancy work” exhibits.
Fairgoers enjoyed amusement rides, food stands, auto shows, farm machinery displays and other features. Ringling Brothers brought the circus to the fair. In 1929, May Wirth danced on the back of a racing horse. The versatile Australian performer also could do somersaults backward and forward as the horse ran.
The Depression ended the fair and most of the buildings deteriorated. In the winter of 1956, a fire destroyed what was left of the main exhibition building, which at that time was being used as an assembly plant by the New Holland Machine Company.
Jack Brubaker, retired from the LNP staff, writes "The Scribbler'' column every Wednesday. He welcomes comments and contributions at firstname.lastname@example.org.