Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
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Source: January 1984 Volume 22 Number 1, Pages 25–28

Five Boys Eat Apple Dumplings

Bob Goshorn

Page 25

To a casual observer, the statement that FIVE BOYS EAT APPLE DUMPLINGS might suggest a post-game celebration by a high school basketball team. But to anyone who had my music teacher in elementary school, it is obviously the way we remembered the sequence for the keys with flats in their signature: the key of F with one fiat; the key of B-flat with two flats, E-flat, three fiats; and so on. Hence FIVE BOYS EAT APPLE DUMPLINGS.

Its counterpart for the sequence for the keys with sharps in their signature was GO DOWN AND EAT BREAKFAST.

These were just two of several devices we were taught to remember some of the fundamentals of music. Much more generally known is the acronym FACE, used to remember the notes represented by the spaces in the treble clef, starting at the bottom. The spaces in the bass clef we remembered by the phrase ALL COWS EAT GRASS. (When "grass" was also used to mean marijuana, I understand, the phrase became ALL COWS EAT GRAIN. Another alternate, perhaps born of the recent fuel crisis, is ALL CARS EAT GAS.)

To remember the notes represented by the lines in the treble clef we used the not-too-grammatical EVERY GOOD BOY DOES FINE. (This, too, has undergone changes over the years. In fact, my father more than once observed that the changes were also a good reflection of social history. When he was a boy, he noted, families were still close, with a respect and concern for one's parents; a society mirrored in the phrase he learned: EAT GOOD BREAD, DEAR FATHER. Similarly, in the generation succeeding mine, with its lower regard for the work ethic and doing "fine", the phrase has become EVERY GOOD BOY DESERVES FUN.

Page 26

With the continuing concern to eliminate all sex discrimination, the phrase that will be used by their children in the next generation, in turn, may well begin EVERY GIRL/BOY ... does something or other!)

To identify the notes in the bass clef we learned GOOD BOYS DO FINE ALWAYS. (For some reason or other, this does not appear to have been changed over the years.)

Music was not the only subject in which we used these memory devices.

Early in our study of American history, for example, we were introduced to ST. WAPNIACL. This un-canonized saint is an acronym for the departments in the President's cabinet, in the order in which they were established: the Departments of State (1789), Treasury (1789), War (1789), Attorney General (1789), Post Office (1789), Navy (1798), Interior (184-9), Agriculture (1889), Commerce (1913), and Labor (1913). Unfortunately, with the changes in the cabinet positions and the creation of the new Departments of Defense, Transportation, and Health, Education and Welfare, St. Wapniacl can no longer perform the miracles for students today that he did for us.

In the early 1870's a song was sung in unison by the pupils at the old Walker School in Tredyffrin to learn the presidents of the United States in succession:

"First Washington, Adams with Jefferson reckoned,
Madison, Monroe, then Adams, the second.

Andrew Jackson came next, of New Orleans fame,
Van Buren and Harrison and Tyler then came.

Then Polk, then Taylor, then Fillmore, then Pierce,
Then Buchanan, then Lincoln, with war's dreadful curse.

Then Johnson, of whom there is little to say,
Now Grant, who presides in the White House today."

(it too needs to be brought up-to-date to serve its purpose today. How about

"Hayes, Garfield, and Arthur next appeared on the scene,
Then Cleveland came twice, Harrison, B., in between.

Then came McKinley, and Roosevelt, T.;
Taft, Wilson, and Harding were then the next three.

Coolidge, then Hoover, and F. Roosevelt,
Elected four times as the New Deal was dealt.

Truman came next, then "Ike" Eisenhower,
With Kennedy and Johnson the next two in power.

Then Nixon and Ford, before Carter was sent
To the White House to be our next president.

Page 27

Finally, Reagan was chosen as the chief of state,
And once more our rhyme is now up-to-date."?)

In spelling, we were taught to remember ALICE, She reminded us that "i" follows "1" (as in "believe"), while "e" follows "c" (as in "receive"). The word LICE would have done just as well, but our teachers apparently thought ALICE was more refined. Unfortunately, ALICE did not have a cousin to help us with the "-ibles" and the "-ables",

A rhyme sometimes used for the same purpose goes

"'I' before 'E'
Except after 'C',
Or when sounded like 'A',
As in neighbor and weigh.

Except for eight exceptions:
Weird, height, and foreign, leisure,
Neither, seize, nor forfeit, either,"

We also used rhymes and phrases in our science classes.

The different geologic periods, for example, we remembered by the phrase CARL'S OLD SHIRT DOESN'T MATCH PETER'S PANTS, the initial letters representing the Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Mississippian, Pennsylvanian, and Permian periods, respectively.

Similarly, to recall the relative hardness of minerals (or Mobe's Scale), we remembered TALL GIRLS CAN FLIRT AND OTHER QUAINT THINGS CAN DO, Just why it was "quaint" for tall girls to flirt I have no idea, but because of this phrase I still know that gypsum is harder than talc, calcium harder than gypsum, with fluorspar, apatite, orthoclase (or feldspar), quartz, topaz, corundum, and diamond following, in that order.

The colors of the spectrum - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet - we remembered by the acronym ROY G. BIV.

Other phrases were used in our biology classes.

For Linnaeus' system of classification, we observed that SOME GIRLS FLIRT, OTHERS DON'T CARE (TO). It's how I still remember the sequence species : genus : family : order : division : class.

And if the occasion should arise when you want to recall the dozen cerebral or cranial nerves of the dogfish, just remember that ON OLD OLYMPUS' TOWERING TOP A FINN AND GERMAN VIED AT HOP. Unfortunately, you also have to remember that the initial letters stand for the olfactory, optic, oculomotor, trachlear, trigeminal, abducent, facial, auditory, glassopharyngeal, vagus, accessory, and hypoglossal nerves, respectively - but it's a start!

Page 28

Then there were memory aids for miscellaneous information.

The stops of the Paoli Local, as it runs from Philadelphia to Bryn Mawr, for example, can be remembered by the phrase OLD MAIDS NEVER WED AND HAVE BABIES - Overbrook, Merion, Narberth, Wynnewood, Ardmore, Haverford, and Bryn Mawr. There is also a phrase to recall the stops from Bryn Mawr to Paoli, but it is probably easier simply to recall Rosemont, Villanova, Radnor, St. Davids, Wayne, Strafford, Devon, Berwyn, Daylesford, and Paoli.

Probably the most universally known of these memory devices is the one used to remember the number of days in each month. THIRTY DAYS HATH SEPTEMBER, it begins, APRIL, JUNE, AND NOVEMBER. But what comes after this opening couplet?

My recollection is

"Thirty days hath September,
April, June and November,
All the rest have thirty-one
Save February alone,
With twenty-eight in fine,
'Til Leap Year gives it twenty-nine."

I've not found anyone who agrees with me, though! (And what does the phrase "in fine" mean, anyhow?)

Maybe we should just revise the whole thing to "Thirty clays hath September - all the rest I can't remember!", and let it go at that.



After this article was presented as the program at the club picnic, some of the members recalled additional memory aids they had used.

The phrase recalled by Ed Blanton to remember the geologic periods was CAN OSCAR SEE DOWN MY PANTS POCKET? TOM (AND) JERRY CAN - (ALSO) ED OR MARY, PLUS PAUL. In addition to the seven periods of the Paleozoic era previously named, this also covers the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods of the Mesozoic era and the Eocene, Oliocene, Miocene, Pliocene, and Pleistocene periods of the Cenozoic era, bringing things up through the ice age.

And several members, among them Eva Noll, also recalled PLEASE MY DEAR AUNT SALLY, a phrase used to remember the order - multiply, divide, add, and subtract - in which to factor out parentheses in algebra.


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