Camptown ladies (and Papa) sing this song, do da, do da

The famous singer of Camptown Ladies–and me. Happy birthday, Dad!

Years upon years ago, when our two children were wee sprites, their grandpa, Papa, bounced them on his knee and sang:

Camptown ladies sing this song, do da, do da.

Camptown ladies sing this song all the live long day.

Gonna dance all day, gonna dance all night,

I bet my money on the bob-tail nag

Papa’s {or insert name of child bouncing on knees} gonna bet on the bay.

Aunt Kathy with her lovely nieces

OK, dear readers, those may not be the “official” words to the song, but those were the words my father sang, year in and year out, to one, two, three, four, five, six, seven–my goodness eight!–grandchildren as they gurgled and cooed, hollered, or stared mesmerized at the grinning grandpa entertaining them upon bouncing knee.

We all sang Camptown Ladies to our babes.  OK, I have no idea if my brothers or wives sang to their young’uns, but I often hummed the tune upon arrival back in the Upper Peninsula, remembering Dad’s lyrics.

Some of the family members in Nanny’s new sun room

As the babies aged and grew toward elementary school, the song continued its fame–at least with my brother Scot’s crew.  When the kids came trick or treating at Nanny and Papa’s house they needed to sing “Camptown Ladies” before Halloween candy was passed into their bags.

Let’s fast-forward to last week.

Tianna, one of Scot’s daughters, working at her father’s pharmacy, suddenly heard one of those musical cards over in the American Greeting aisle.  Guess which tune alerted our fair clerk?  Sure, enough, it was Camptown Ladies!  Sure enough, the granddaughter KNEW this would be the perfect card to give her Papa on his 78th birthday.

I’ll tell you, ladies and gentlemen, this card proved the HIT of last Thursday’s birthday party for my dad!  Little Taylor, the only great-grandchild of the family, almost five years old, danced excitedly to the tune in gleeful delight every time that card opened and played the song.

Papa opens musical card while Taylor grins

As many of you know, I am now visiting the Thumb of Michigan, 550 miles east and south of the Upper Peninsula woods where Barry and I live.  It has been a fabulous week of talking, enjoying time with my mom and dad and brothers and families.  We’ve laughed, shared memories, OK, maybe even teared up with nostalgia, and celebrated.

Hope you enjoy the photos, courtesy of sister-in-law, Michele, who snapped pictures at just the right moments.

A kiss for the birthday boy 🙂

P.S.  I talked with Kiah last night, sharing details about the party.  She said she distinctly recalls Papa singing that famous tune, bouncing her upon his knee.  Christopher remembers, too.

Do you remember songs your father or grandfather sang to you?  OK, let’s not limit it to the men.  How about songs sang by mothers or grandmas?  What childhood songs spark your memories?

Once again, Dad–I love you and HAPPY Birthday!  It was wonderful to be able to celebrate with you on your special day.  Do da, do da…

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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58 Responses to Camptown ladies (and Papa) sing this song, do da, do da

  1. susan says:

    Isn’t it great to get away and visit! Sounds like a delightful time. We have friends to visit (seems more every day as they retire and move away from here) but no family. I do know that song but can’t say as it was my parents singing to me as a child. If you heard my mother sing, you would shut your ears. Her favorite was “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” and she sounded a bit worse than Edith Bunker in “All in the Family” – if you can imagine that!

    • Kathy says:

      Dear SuZen, I am SO happy to see your reply here, today, while I am in a coffee shop in Gaylord, MI, heading north toward Mackinac Island to hopefully meet a fellow blogger tomorrow morning! (My second fellow blogger of the trip. More about that later.) I am grinning at the thought of your mom singing to you. Probably my kids think the same about this out of tune voice! Doesn’t stop me from singing, though. (Although it’s probably not as outa tune as poor Edith.)

  2. Happy Belated Birthday to your Dad. Goodness I am almost his age…do da do da.

    Sounds as if you had a lovely time; made great memories!

    I don’t remember any songs…perhaps I was sung to but my memory banks are returning nothing at the moment.

    • Kathy says:

      Are you almost his age, Ms. Linda? It’s so hard to figure out the ages of our blogging buddies, not that I try. I figure we’re all the same age inside. do da, do da! Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to ask your Memory Bank for a song. It will come in the middle of the night. You will sing it for us tomorrow. 🙂

  3. Lori DiNardi says:

    Oh yes, Kathy. I posted about my dad’s songs on my blog “The Story of Lori’s Lane.” He made up his own songs though. He made up one to the tune of “Alluete” with all kinds of gibberish words that made me laugh. Looks like your family had such a nice time together. How wonderful to enjoy being with them. That sun room looks great too.

    • Kathy says:

      How fun that he made up his own words, Lori! We did have such a lovely time together…with some tears as we hugged goodbye this morning. My mother will LOVE your comment about the sun room. They put so much work into making it last summer. It’s the most delightful room to sit in–and to celebrate birthdays!

  4. Brenda Hardie says:

    Awwwww Happy Happy Birthday to your dear Dad ♥ Thank you for sharing your memories of the Camptown song. I remember my Grampa Frank singing and humming or whistling often but I don’t remember any specific song that he sang for us kids. My Dad is not a singer of any songs and my Mom took after her Dad and was singing all the time. I remember her singing “You Are My Sunshine” and “Jesus Loves Me” when we were little. Later on, she loved the tune “Don’t Worry Be Happy” and “Akuna Matada” I take after my Dad, so am not a singer. My sister is just like Mom and sings all the time. My son Ben is more like me and my youngest son Alex sings all the time….about anything. He makes up songs about EVERYTHING 😀 I love it!
    Enjoy the rest of your visit…give my best regards to your Dad and to your family. And drive safely when it’s time to come home. I leave in a week (the 18th) to go spend 3 weeks with Rick in southern Missouri and won’t be on line during that time. I’ll have a mountain of reading to catch up on when I return….do da, do da….! 😀

    • Kathy says:

      Brenda, I’m driving home now at least aimed toward the Mackinac Bridge! Won’t get home until Tuesday. How sweet that you have those memories of singers (and non-singers) in your family. Isn’t it interesting about the songs in our lifes? I hope you have a wonderful time visiting Rick in Missouri. You might get to read one more blog here before you go, hopefully about…no, no, I can’t tell! **grin** Enjoy your week, do da! (We have been ending every other sentence with do da since the birthday party!)

  5. Oh, sweet memories! Seems songs will stick in our heads longer than the spoken word. I fondly remember my Mom singing to entertain small children while she did housework. I still love “mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy…a kid’ll eat ivy too, wouldn’t you?” It sounded like nonsense (marzeedotes and dozeedotes…) and I was an adult singing it to my own children before I learned the words. I’m so glad you had a good visit with your folks! Where in the thumb area were you (if you don’t mind me asking)? I grew up about 20 miles east of Flint, and still have lots of family there. Safe travels for you, Kathy!

    • Kathy says:

      Good morning, Cindy. **prying eyes open early in the morning in a motel in St. Ignace**
      That sounds like a sweet song your mother sang…we’ll eat ivy, too. 🙂 I grew up in Yale, which is 20 miles east of Port Huron. Were you from Lapeer? How exciting—we wwere almost next-door neighbors!

  6. john says:

    If the 21st century produces a new Norman Rockwell I hope he finds your family to use as subjects. You are such a wonderful bunch and quite 21st century with ageless seasoning to flavor things up.

    Out of that dear town of Yale there is a grandchild doing high fashion modeling in Southeast Asia, one having an international family wedding in Nicaragua, Another one doing scholarly work in San Diego engaged to a lovely Korean girl with his sister discovering New York and the world with her Egyptian boyfriend. Then there are the four more discovering the world, each in their own way. It seems like each goes forward in life near and far with a kind heart and loving family virtues.

    And it all stems from this lovely couple who ran a drugstore in an all American town, Yale, Michigan. Yep, this is 21st century Norman Rockwell.

    • Kathy says:

      John, you are such a die-hard romantic sweetie. I don’t know about the Norman Rockwell family scenario (every family has its good times and challenging times) but we are having fun with kids discovering the world, that’s for sure! Hey, wait a sec, I just remembered something. My mom and brother are having Normal Rockwell scenes painted on the side of the drugstore! Hey, you might be right after all… **grin**

  7. bearyweather says:

    Looks like a fun family celebration.
    My dad was not much of a singer. However, he used to make up little ditty’s about things .. like the dog or maybe about what we were doing (ie: fishing). Sometimes he changed the words to songs to make them silly. He sang them to us when we were little and to the dog when we grew up.

    • Kathy says:

      I like silly songs. Songs about what you were doing sound cool…except you probably couldn’t sing them over and over. How funny that the dog became the new recipient of songs when you grew up!

  8. What a lovely story this is. And nice family pictures too.
    I dont remember my mother nor my grandparents ever singing too me. My father died young but I vaguely remember hopping along on someones lap like you were sitting on a horse with this typical dutch song. I guess it must have been my dad. The best and most fun part was that at the end of the song it was pretended that you’d fall because the one on who’s lap youre sitting suddenly would spreád the legs but of course always holding you secure so you wouldn’t really fall on the ground.

    Hop! hop! hop! paardje in galop
    Over hekken, sloten henen
    Maar voorzichtig – breek geen benen
    Hop! hop! hop! paardje in galop

    Hop! hop! ho! paardje eet geen stro
    ‘k Zal het paardje haver kopen
    Dat het in galop kan lopen
    Hop! hop! ho! paardje eet geen stro.

    Of course in dutch ith rhymes but her’s a rough translation 🙂

    Hop! hop! hop! horsie galloping
    Over fences, and over ditches
    But be careful – do not break legs
    Hop! hop! hop! horsie galloping

    Hop! hop! ho! horse does not eat straw
    “I’ll buy the horse oats
    That it can run at a gallop
    Hop! hop! ho! horse does not eat straw

    Hi Kathy, betaled congrats for your Dad, it was nice visiing you here again and sharing a bit of the party fun , I’m gallopping on 😉


    • Kathy says:

      Lucienne, I am SO glad you shared your galloping song! That sounds very cool. I think we had a song in which the baby almost fell off the knee, too, after a big bouncing journey. Can’t remember the words to it, though. Thank you for wishing Dad a Happy Birthday. He’ll love reading these comments!

  9. Joanne says:

    Kathy, what a beautiful family story and wonderful photos of all of the family together with happy smiling faces. You look so beautiful and so happy! I’m sure magic happens when we spend time with our “first family” members.

    Happy birthday to your dear Papa. He sounds like the most wonderful man. Did anyone notice Taylor, eyeing off the birthday cake in the last photo? So cute. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Joanne, my sister-in-law sent 17 photos. Could have put them all in, but decided to pick only a few. There is, indeed, magic when we spend time with our “first family”. I think everyone noticed Taylor all the time! He’s the apple of everyone’s eye. It’s a wonder we noticed my dad. LOL–just kidding!

  10. Susan D says:

    I love this blog so much. Wonderful photos that reflect fine family sharing and get-togethers for our loved ones. Love the musical gift for Grandpa … precious! I’m so glad you got to be part of this celebration. My grandpa always sang “You Are My Sunshine” and “Sugar in the morning, sugar in the evening, sugar at the supper time” (whatever the true name of that old tune, I’m not certain). Now that I’m a grandma, I’ll pay attention to what I’m singing to my grandkids … we seem to sing a lot! Thank you for this treasure today!

    • Kathy says:

      Good afternoon, Susan D! Guess what, I’m back home. Had to work this morning at the school; just getting caught up. Glad you could remember what your own grandpa sang to you, Sugar! And I can just picture you singing songs to those grandkids of yours. Bet THEY can name a song. 🙂

  11. Ah, what a great story, Kathy. Happy birthday to your dad. And happy Sunday to you, my friend.

    • Kathy says:

      It was a lovely story, Kathy. It already feels like a fairy tale, since I’m back home 550 miles north with Little Red Riding Hood and hopefully no snakes. Happy Wednesday to you!

  12. Sheryl says:

    What a wonderful, heartwarming story! The birthdays of our parents and other older relatives are so special.

  13. Heather says:

    I’m so happy that you’re enjoying your family time. When you don’t live near your dear ones, it’s such precious time. I don’t remember any songs I sang with grandpas, but my grandma used to sing “I’m a lonely little petunia in an onion patch.” I have no idea what the actual title is, but I remember all the words (it’s a short song).
    Hope your trip to Mackinac Island goes as well as mine did, and that you have a great time meeting blogger #2. I had a great time Wednesday morning, making this world a bit smaller through internet friendships 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Hello there, my little petunia Heather! tee hee. (Now that we’ve met each other I’m talking to you like I would talk to Kiah…) Thinking now about a lonely little petunia in the onion patch. The trip to Mackinac Island was GREAT! I have a couple hundred photos to download but a zillion things to do first. Laundry starting in two seconds. I had a most lovely time meeting you, too. So glad we made it happen!

  14. Dawn says:

    Happy Birthday to your Dad! Isn’t it wonderful to be able to visit family and celebrate those events, big and small, and share all the memories. I’m just back from a week of that myself!

    • Kathy says:

      It was wonderful, Dawn. I am glad you had the opportunity to enjoy memories like that, too. Hope you’re settled back in. It’s going to take me a day or two to catch up.

  15. Family memories are so precious, and music seems to be a very strong memory for children! I don’t remember anyone ever singing me songs, but my boys have 3 favorite songs: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Itsy Bitsy Spider, and ABCs. I have a feeling that these will be their favorite songs for quite a while! I’ve been singing those 3 songs to them ever since they were a baby – when my oldest was born, those were the only kid songs I knew, and I guess they just stuck! I think those songs are soothing to them, sort of like a “blankie” that comforts them. As long as they enjoy them, I’ll keep singing those 3!

    How wonderful that there was a card with Camptown Ladies on it – that made me smile!! 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Hello, Ms. Holly! I am smiling at the image of you singing those songs to your boys. I’ll bet they can sing along with you. I am racking my brain trying to remember what I sang to our kids. Thank goodness Tianna heard that song playing over in the card aisle and nabbed it. A perfect choice for Papa.

  16. Oh, what joy-filled photographs — I’ve got goosebumps at the obvious love that simply oozes from each picture. Happy birthday to “the birthday boy” is right! (and I’m head-over-heels in love with “Nanny’s new sun room)…

    • Kathy says:

      Laurie, how kind of you to say that–and to get love goosebumps. My parents are having such fun reading all these comments! And my mother has noted every single comment about her sun room with special delight.

  17. lucindalines says:

    Love your pictures, thanks for sharing what looks to have been a fantastic family time.

    • Kathy says:

      Lucinda, I am glad you liked the pictures. My sister-in-law, Michele, had her camera snapping at every appropriate moment. Thank goodness for her!

  18. Dana says:

    Happy birthday to your father, Kathy! It sounds like you’ve had a great trip so far. When I was very little, my dad used to sing that “I’ve been working on the railroad/all the live long day” song to me. When it came time for the chorus, I used to fill in the words and sing “Dinah won’t you blow your corn” instead of “horn”. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      I LOVE that railroad song, Dana, all the live long day. Look at how creative you already were as a wee sprite. Dana, won’t you blow your corn?

  19. Karma says:

    Sweet post Kathy. Sounds like a fabulous party – I think you should figure out how to get a recording of the card version of the tune and post it here for us! I don’t remember any singing by my parents or grandparents, but I do remember singing a variety of songs from Winnie the Pooh to my children as babies (probably because we did the nursery in a Pooh theme): Deep In the Hundred Acre Woods, The Wonderful Thing about Tiggers, Heffalumps and Woozles, etc. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Karma, a good blogger would have done just as you suggested. I said to my mom, yep, I should find a YouTube version of Camptown Ladies and post it. Unfortunately, didn’t have the time to be searching and figuring out how to embed it and decided to spend all the time sitting on my daddy’s knee reminiscing about childhood. (Just kidding, I’d probably break his knee if I sat on it!) I would love to hear you singing Winnie the Pooh to your kids. 🙂

  20. rehill56 says:

    So enjoyed reading of your family time and find it quite interesting that she found that special card! My dad was the king of jokes, sayings, songs and lots of bouncing on knees. My mother sang me sweet songs at bedtime like:

    “White coral bells upon a slender stalk, lilly of the valley deck my garden walk, oh don’t you wish that you could hear them sing, that will happen only when the fairies sing!”

    I love for you that you are having this special time! Enjoy! ❤

    • Kathy says:

      Ruth, the special card was obviously a gift from someone “up above” looking down on our family gathering and pondering how to produce more laughter. I love that sweet song your mother sang you…how precious. Back home yesterday and went in to the school this morning to process checks. Seems like a familiar name was on one of them…

  21. Aww, it’s so nice to be with family…so glad you got to visit for a whole week!
    I don’t remember anyone ever singing to me when I was little. Of course that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

    • Kathy says:

      Michaela, we must have similar kinds of memories. It’s hard for me to remember lots of things. Right now am trying to recall what I sang to the kids…and it’s a bit fuzzy. Should ask them. Wondering whether you sang to your kids and whether they could name a favorite mama-song.

  22. It’s wonderful that you had this time with your family and what great memories!

    My family was never the musical type but when my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, I made up lyrics to sing for them to the tune from The Beverly HIllbillies. It seems, we kids are more musical than the parents ever were!

    I’m hoping to get together with my family to celebrate my grandson’s first birthday next week and make some memories, too. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Mywithershins, what a cool idea for your parent’s 50th wedding anniversary! Were they lyrics about your growing-up years and stories of their life together? That is the best idea! (However, no one would want me or my brothers to sing for their family party… maybe one of the grandkids could do that.) Happy first birthday to your grandson! That sounds wonderful. Hug him lots.

      • Yes, the song was about Dad, how he met Mom and a bit about their life together. 🙂
        Thanks for the birthday wishes. I will definitely give him lots of hugs! 🙂

  23. Claire says:

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY to your dad from across the pond! These are great photos of a brilliant family time. I have a very small family so does my husband. My family is spread across the globe too so these grand family get togethers don’t really happen, to say I am envious is an understatement. Glad you had such a good time.

    • Kathy says:

      Hi Claire, I am sure that my dad is reading your comment. It was a lovely party. I already miss everyone, now that I’m back home. Many of our family members are spread around the globe, too, so I know how you feel about getting everyone together. It’s very hard. And not everyone can attend these parties. My husband and two kids couldn’t be there. 😦 Hoping you get a party in one of these days.

  24. flandrumhill says:

    Although I wasn’t sung to as a child, I made sure to sing a lot to my kids and grandchildren at bedtime and in the car especially. A repertoire of children’s songs is a necessary tool in a preschool teacher’s bag of tricks. The right tune can change pouts into smiles and crankiness into joy. My most requested tune in the car is ‘On Top of Spaghetti.’ At work it’s the ‘Hulala’ which also requires each child to do a little dance. I’m always prepared for that one with a silk flower lei in my bag 🙂

    Best wishes to the famous singer. Those nieces are indeed lovely.

    • Kathy says:

      Amy-Lynn, you must be a very wonderful pre-school teacher! It sounds like you have a varied bag of tricks/songs that you pull out for the appropriate occasion. And silk leis too! I am SURE the famous singer is grinning from ear to ear after reading your comment. We’ll never forget this. Do da!

  25. sonali says:

    “Singing a song while bouncing upon his knees” brought back some of the wonderful times spent with my grandfather. Thank you so much! Belated birthday wishes to your father. How are you doing Kathy? Its been a while.

    • Kathy says:

      Sonali, so glad to bring back memories of your grandfather! Thank you, I have been doing fine. It was a lovely one week vacation with my birth family. Also was able to meet two blogging friends on this trip–isn’t that cool?? Will try to write about it soon. Love, Kathy

  26. Barb says:

    Hi Kathy, Great to catch up with you – even though you’re not where I thought you’d be. (Or maybe you’re back home by now.) My kin were not singers – a shame. Now, I’ll be humming your Dad’s song for the next several days. I’ve started already. Happy belated B-day to him!

    • Kathy says:

      Ms. Barb, it’s amazing to see you here! This morning I thought “Now where has Barb been?” and here you are. Happy, happy. I am back home now. Got back Tuesday evening. It’s good to be home but the no see um’s are biting something fierce. Do you have them in Colorado? I hope not. P.S. Hope you are nowhere near the wildfire.

  27. sybil says:

    My mom used to sing “The Crust” song, about a crust that did not get eaten and was “poked under a plate”. The crust comes “Marching up over my bed. He had two long legs, and great big eyes, and he grinned as he said to me: ‘I AM THE CRUST, YOU POKED ME UNDER YOUR PLATE, BUT YOU COULDN’T HIDE ME YOU SEE. YOU MUST NEVER, NEVER, NEVER DO THAT AGAIN’ … needless to say the child in the song promises to eat up all future crusts to keep from having the creepy night visitor again …

    Wow. That’s a memory.

    • Kathy says:

      That is cool, Sybil. I am very very curious and what TUNE the crust might utilize to sing that song. 🙂 I can imagine children being so scared that they would never ever ever neglect to eat their crusts ever again. (I love crusts the best.)

    • Melanie Newell says:

      Dear Sybil,
      Oh my goodness! That’s the crust song my grandmother sang to us as children! We’ve been searching for the complete lyrics, would you happen to know them all? My grandma passed just two days ago and I’d like to have them to be included somehow at her memorial. My email is

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