Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Bum Song

I don't know the title of this song, but Grandma used to sing it, and Mom and I are trying to remember all the words. Also, I'm trying to see if there's any actual written version. I've found parts of it on a camp song website, but so far nothing that points me toward learning who wrote it or when. Here are the lyrics as Mom remembers them:

Bum Song

Oh, I just can remember, when I was a bum
Come strolling into Bridgeport to meet my dear old chum
We used to rob the fruit stands and holler up the street
And guarantee a female to everyone we meet

A hot day in the summer, when Officer Murphy come
He grabbed us by the collar, and this is what he sum
Come bums to the station house, and there you’ll find a home
With plenty of bums to treat you, and treat you like a bum.

Oh half past six in the morning, …..?
The coffee was tobacco juice, the bread was hard and stale
And that’s the way they treat you in the Fairfield County Jail.

Oh, Mrs. will you be kind enough to give me a bite to eat
A piece of bread and butter, a tempting slice of meat
A piece of pie and custard to tickle me appetite
For really I’m so hungry I don’t know where to sleep tonight

Oh, sleeping in the coal bin, nestling on the floor
Chewing swipes, smoking pipes, I never done before
I woke up in the morning and there upon the wall,
The cooties and the bedbugs were having a game of ball

The score was 6 to 20, the bedbugs were ahead
I got so darned excited, I rolled right out of bed.

Oh the bedbugs they were cute, they were dressed in union suits
The landlord guaranteed they’d do no harm, do no harm
They played ping-pong on your head, and played checkers on the bed
On the old Kentucky home on the farm.

I remember a few lines differently:
Oh, I can remember when I was just a bum

A hot day in the summer, a copper he did come

The beetles and the bedbugs

The beetles hit a home run and knocked me out of bed

It hasn't been easy finding information on this song. Maybe I should check that Carl Sandburg folk songs book out of the library and see if he knows anything about it.

I went to and looked at the table of contents of Carl Sandburg's book The American Songbag. He lists a song called Portland County Jail that's similar. He's got a song called We Are Four Bums listed but I can't find it on Google yet. There's another one called When I Was Young and Foolish, but there are too many songs with those lyrics out there, so I haven't found one that's similar yet.

Mom thinks she's remembered that missing line. The stanza goes:
Oh, half past six in the morning
Officer Murphy come
A piece of bread and coffee
The bread it weighed a ton
The coffee was tobacco juice
The bread was hard and stale
And that's the way they treat you
In the Fairfield County Jail.

1 comment:

A said...

My grandfather used to always sing that song, but he sang a slightly different, shorter version. I don't know where it came from, and he couldn't remember. I was trying to find some info on it when I found your site. Here is the version my grandfather sang:

Oh, I can remember, when I was a bum,
Came strolling into Bridgeport, just me and my chum.
We used to rob the fruit stands and holler in the street.
We used to cop a free lunch from everyone we'd meet.

Oh, one day in summer, a cop he did come.
He grabbed us by the collar and these are the words he said.
"Oh, come to the station house and there you'll find a home,
with plenty of bums to greet you, so make yourself at home."

Oh, it's six o'clock in the morning, and Captain Murphy did come,
With a hunk of bread and butter that nearly weighed a ton.
Oh, the coffee was tabasco juice, the bread was hard and state.
And that's the way they treat you, in the Fairfield County Jail.