The singing assembly

I attended Woodland Elementary School in Costa Mesa, California from 1970 to 1976. I’m sure I learned a lot of math, vocabulary, and other important skills, but my memories are mostly about food, other kids, and special events. The Sloppy Joes were terrible, the little wooden spoon often broke on the hard ice cream, and one time there was a really big fight and a kid had a seizure. That kind of thing.

On some kind of schedule, probably monthly, we were all marched to the auditorium to sing together. Each of us received a damp ditto’d set of song lyrics. The music teacher sat at her piano and played intros to each song, which we then belted out. Songs I remember are:

  • It’s a Grand Old Flag
  • San Francisco
  • Aura Lee
  • This Land is Your Land
  • America the Beautiful
  • Marching to Pretoria
  • The Battle Hymn of the Republic
  • Bingo
  • Oh Susanna
  • Swanee River
  • Michael Row the Boat Ashore

Of course we didn’t sing the communist parts of This Land is Your Land. Pretoria has now been renamed Tshname because the current government in South Africa would prefer not to use all those old colonial names, thanks. I always wondered what the song meant, because they didn’t teach us about the Boer War in elementary school. However, one thing remains true:

There was a man who had a dog
And Bingo was his name-o
And Bingo was his name-o!

5 thoughts on “The singing assembly

  1. In grade school we performed calisthenics to “Rain Drops Are Falling On My Head”. Every morning.
    The song is still somewhat creepy to me.

  2. The politics of song choices
    Who chose and why those particular songs?
    My mother went to an Irish Catholic school in Philadelphia in the 1930’s. She tells me that they had singing assembly just like you. But the songs included Columbia the Gem of the Ocean, followed by nothing but Irish songs like It’s a Great Day for the Irish and Wearin’ of the Green. They may have also sung some of the more political anti-Brit songs too about the Irish martyrs and the six counties.

    1. Re: The politics of song choices
      Most of what we sang was “generic patriotic”, though I doubt they would have sung the Battle Hymn in the South, at least not without immediately following it with Dixie. Southern California in the 1970s was a bland melting pot of the country, and it was during our national experiment of Trying Tolerance, so nothing sectarian would have showed up.

  3. As I was the age of the “feel good” songs, we learned things like We are the World.
    Patriotic songs, every morning after the Pledge, we sang “My country t’is o phee” (I have no idea how to spell that)
    During the Gulf War or shortly after, the HS Chorus had to learn “God Bless the USA”

  4. The Vanuatu Association of NGOs (VANGO) recently went through a major shakeup, which resulted in most of the staff being fired. I smiled all the way through, adding another clap to the verse every time someone was booted:
    Van-u-a-tu NGOs
    *clap* A N G O!
    *clap* *clap* N G O!
    *clap* *clap* *clap* G O!
    VANGO was its name-oh
    We never sang Suwanee River when I was a kid, otherwise I might have some other cheesy stories to tell….

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