Push Your Pa and Shove Your Ma
PUSH YOUR PA AND SHOVE YOUR MA P.53
From Wes McVicar’s 75 More Square Dances
Music: Doc Boyd's jig
The first couple balance The first couple swing.
Go down the center split the ring,
Lady go gee and gent go haw,
Push your pa and shove your ma.
And that couple swing in the center of the ring,
Swing to the side with the dear wee thing.
Now the same old gent and a brand new date,
Go down the center and through the gate,
Gee and haw, shove ma and pa.
Swing right here and swing right there,
Swing right out complete the square.
Now the same old gent and a brand new girl,
Go down the center split the world,
Gee and haw, push ma and pa.
And swing in the center, center swing,
Swing right out complete the ring.
And all eight swing.
Figure: First couple leads down the center, splitting opposite couple. Lady turns to the right and gent to the left as though to return to place outside the set. However the man stops behind number four gent and the first lady stops behind lady number two.
The two rear dancers shove those in front into the center of the ring. Gent number four and lady number two swing in the center and swing out to the vacant position left by couple number one.
The first gent now takes lady number four and repeats, splitting these in second couple's position.
After the next repeat couple number one finds themselves in couple two position.
Dance is repeated for second couple who start from their new position.
This lively and unusual square dance is well known by many callers of traditional square dance, but its origins have been obscure. It does not appear to be a southern Appalachian figure, we could find no trace of it in traditional Western and Southwestern sources, and the phrasing didn't seem to fit New England. It wasn't an Ozark dance, either. Our attempts to place the dance in the Midwest bore no fruit. That left Canada.
We located it as "Ma and Pa" in Alex Mulligan's Collection of Square Dance Square Dance Calls, a 1992 reprint by the Canadian Old Tyme Square Dance Callers Association of a group of dances compiled in 1960–1970 by a Toronto recreation leader, teacher, and caller. Like all the dances in the book, however, there was no source listed. Did Mulligan create the dance figure?
Further inquiry revealed that the dance had been published in 1953 in Wes McVicar's 75 More Square Dances. McVicar was a Toronto caller and director of the Toronto YMCA Square Dance Club. This booklet contained more difficult material than his original publication from the late 1940s.
The first four pages of the attached file come from McVicar's original publication; the last two pages include introductory comments and the Table of Contents from the 1953 booklet, the source of the dance as printed here. Many thanks to Ontario caller Murray Smith for making this material available.
Did McVicar himself compose the dance? At this point, we cannot say, but his 1953 book is the earliest publication we have located for these figures. Ralph Page, the great New Hampshire caller and dance historian, loved to look through old newspapers and other historical sources, and he shared his findings in a column titled "It's Fun To Hunt."
Albuquerque caller Bill Litchman calls the dance "Push Ol' Pa and Push Ol' Ma" and a video of his calling the dance can be seen here. Portland, Oregon, caller Caroline Oakley learned the dance from her mentor, the late Bill Martin; she calls it in this audio clip.
Update (August, 2015): When we added this item to the SDHP website in April, 2013, McVicar's book was the earliest publication we had located for the dance. California caller and square dance enthusiast Jim Saxe has located a slightly earlier description in the July 1952 issue of American Squares. The dance appears on page 14 under the title "PUSH OLD PA AND SHOVE OLD MA" and with the attribution "(Introduced 1952 by Herb Mangan, Watsonville, Calif.)."