Appalachia courting/love Holidays in Appalachia

Kissing Games

Old fashioned games spin the bottle, post office, barber,

Did you ever play any of the embarrassing games designed to instigate contact between the opposite sexes when you were in school?

I was in about 8th grade when one of my friends had a boy/girl birthday party. Until then all the parties I had been to were girls only.

Her mother made fondue, which most of us didn’t know how to eat. And she had us take one shoe off and give it to her. She placed them in a big pile-one pile for the boys-one for the girls. Then we took turns picking a shoe. The shoe you picked = the person you were going to dance with. My friend and I almost died from embarrassment.

As backward as I was-I never got up the nerve to play any of the kissing games like spin the bottle. Taking a chance on kissing someone I thought was gross in front of the rest of my friends wasn’t something I was ever going to do.

Looking through The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore I found a few other courtship games (also called play party games).


A boy and a girl stand at one side of the room. Another boy and girl catch hands and skip around them singing the first verse. The first boy responds with the second. The second couple sings the third and the first boy sings the fourth. At the end he asks “How about Mr. (one of the boys playing the game). The chosen boy comes up and takes the girl, and the singing dialogue is continued until all the girls but one are paired off. Then this last girl and the first boy clasp hands and raise them as in “London Bridge.” The couples dance through singing:

Come under, come under
My honey, my dove, my turtle dove;
Come under, come under
My dear, oh dear.

We’ll take you both our prisoners,
My honey, my love, my turtle dove;
We’ll take you both our prisoners,
My dear, oh dear.

Then hug her tight and kiss her twice,
My honey, my love, my turtle dove;
Then hug her tight and kiss her twice,
My dear, oh dear.

The last couple caught proceeds as directed in the last verse, and “go ahead.” The game goes on until each couple has been caught then the leaders dance under the clasped hands of all the other couples and are captured by the last. Then they too kiss each other and the game ends.


Old Sister Phoebe contributed by Maude Minish Sutton who obtained it from Bob Huskins a banjo picker from Mitchell. c. 1927.

Old Sister Phoebe, how happy are we
As we go ’round and ’round the juniper tree!
We’ll tie our heads up to keep them all warm,
And two or three kisses won’t do us no harm.
Old Sister Phoebe!

Here comes a poor widow a-marching around
And all of my daughters are married but one,
So rise up, my daughter, and kiss your true love.
Old Sister Phoebe!

This kissing game is a favorite among young people in the remote parts of the Blue Ridge. Bob (the informant) was a very picturesque person, and he sang this song to a rollicking, jiggy tune.


Flower in the Garden contributed by Maude Minish Sutton c. 1927. Collected in Big Ivy (Madison County).

There’s a flower in the garden for you, young man;
There’s a flower in the garden for you,
There’s a flower in the garden, pick it if you can;
Be sure not to choose a false-hearted one.

The boy in the center of the circle selects a girl, and those in the ring sing:

You got her at a bargain, my young man;
You got her at a bargain, I tell you,
But you promised for to wed her six months ago;
So we hold you to your bargain, you rascal you.

The couple kiss and the girl remains in the center. The second verse is the same except for a change from man and her to maid and him.


If you remember any games like the ones above from your childhood I’d love to hear about them-so please leave me a comment!


*Source: The Frank C. Brown Collection Of North Carolina Folklore.

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  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    February 15, 2017 at 7:50 pm

    Tipper–I’m late to the party and the juvenile love fest, but I’m wondering if any of your readers recall some of the decidedly silly “rhymes” associated with youthful courtship.
    For example,
    Tipper and Matt, sitting by a tree,
    First comes love, then comes marriage,
    Next comes Tipper with a baby carriage.
    There were lots of others.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    February 15, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    Me too, too shy that is, but I grew out of that

  • Reply
    February 15, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    I never played the Kissing Games, except Spin the Bottle. And when I did play that game, it was with older girls. Some of them were real good kissers.
    As I was coming to work today, Donna Lynn played most of the songs on the CD that Paul left yesterday at the radio station. Those songs by Ray and Pap were from 1973 and they’re “old timey” that I like. …Ken

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    February 15, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    I was the same way, Tipper. I hated that stuff. I dreaded going to parties, mostly because of that.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 15, 2017 at 11:17 am

    There were never enough people my age in walking distance to have much of a party of any kind. I too was backward anyway (still am). To me three’s a crowd. Two’s a plenty!

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    February 15, 2017 at 9:50 am

    Tipper, I remember very well the kissing game we played in middle school. Like you, it was the first time we started having parties that included both boys and girls. We often played spin the bottle, and though it nearly embarrassed us to death, we loved it. Just so no one gets the wrong idea it was a peck on the cheek in front of everyone else and you just leaned over and turned your head toward the boy so no other part of you touched him. There was more physical contact in dancing than there was in our kissing games. But whether dancing or playing games those boy-girl parties were the highlight of our middle school years. I don’t remember many parties after about tenth grade, so I guess we thought we had out-grown them. That’s too bad because I think we would have been better off going to parties rather than dates.
    When I was much younger, in elementary school, the games we played were hopscotch, jump rope, red rover, mother may I, hide and seek, tag, and kick the can. I have such sweet memories of playing games when I was growing up. I hope the children of today’s generation get to know how much more fun they were than playing on phones and I-pads.

  • Reply
    February 15, 2017 at 9:19 am

    Oh those wonderful days when they would give weiner or marshmallow roasts and young folks would gather. There was a huge bonfire in the middle of a field surrounded by forest. I recall spin the bottle, but I also remember a girlfriend and I being much more interested in exploring the outer perimeter from the light of the huge bonfire. Oddly enough no supervision and everybody behaved, except for a lot of silliness. It was such a carefree time for all, and seemed to be a preferred way for young folks to gather.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 15, 2017 at 8:33 am

    Tip, I went to one of those parties when I was a kid and one was enough. I never went to another one. The idea of kissing some guy I barely knew was not something I was interested in doing.

  • Reply
    February 15, 2017 at 8:24 am

    {Sigh….} None of that for me. When I was in the 8th grade I was 14 years old and aware that girls surely had cooties…

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 15, 2017 at 8:23 am

    Not me. Way too shy to play kissing games. I never went to parties either. I was way more likely to be out roaming the woods. My wife’s cousin, who was also my best friend, was the go-between to get us together or I might still be single.

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