Say the words “Pop Goes The Forth” to any 90+ year old man and he will likely give you a wry smile and start a long and grueling story that starts inevitably with the magical words….. When I was a boy….
Pop Goes The Forth was a popular pre first world war game that basically involved young boys torturing each other. A gang of youths would pick a poor victim and wrestle him to the ground and proceed to chant “Pop, Pop, Pop, Pop” until they heated up into a frenzy. Then the leader of the pack would proceed to pull each limb of the pinned boy in an attempt to pop the joints. This would carry on until the fourth joint was cracked at which point the gang would shout in unison….
POP GOES THE FOURTH!
Then everyone would scatter in different directions leaving the victim to gather his stuff and get over the torture.
The game became so popular that In 1902 the committee for Salem Schools and Recreation in Massachusetts, USA petitioned for the game to be put into the physical education curriculum in New England schools. Believed by many adults to be a great way to toughen up a nancy boy, 38 other states followed the move and it was part of the curriculum of many years to come.
The game was banned finally in June 1913. A 9 year old victim named John Orvis Pastel had come home from his Wisconsin school with a broken neck, after a gang of youths had attempted a fith pop on his head. The schools principle had accused him of overreacting and he had to hold his head straight for the entire day. That evening Mrs Pastel marched 45 mothers to the town hall and sparked a media frenzy causing thousands of worried mothers to take their aprons and rolling pins to the streets. The ban on the game nationwide was placed within days.