1914: The Way We Were

1914 and Today

1914: The year my current work-in-progress–a sequel to The Calling of Ella McFarland–is set. (Tweet That!)

As an author of historical fiction, it goes without saying I enjoy most anything history-ish. In my research I’ve uncovered a bevy of facts, timelines, photographs, anecdotes, and personal commentaries about life in the second decade of the twentieth century

My Photo Album

These fascinating tidbits are gradually creating a snapshot collage fit for You Are There, a 1950s television series hosted by Walter Cronkite

“New” sometimes amounts to little more than an update of the “old.” But at other times, the new-fangled can’t hold a candle to old-timer ways. 

The Great Divide

Bar none, two of the best stories I’ve read to illustrate the great divide between 1914 and today are these: The first comes from the October edition of The Rotarian; the second from the October 31st edition of Telephony: The American Telephone Journal.

“God created the first talking machine; Alexander Graham Bell the second. Bell lengthened woman’s tongue and raised her voice until mere man struggles in vain to escape her.”

“After two trials in the county court S.J. Fuller, a prominent Fort Worth lumberman, has been convicted under the state law which prohibits the use of profane or abusive language over the telephone and fined $5. (Tweet That!) It was charged the lumberman ‘cussed out’ the chief operator of the Rosedale exchange of the Southwestern Telegraph and Telephone Co. in Fort Worth when he was unable to get the connections wanted.” 

Political correctness didn’t exist in 1914.

1914 Families

The children of 1914 played with teddy bears, dolls, and cars. They stacked blocks, enjoyed tea parties, and went on imaginary safaris. 

My 21st-century grandchildren have done the same. But Barbie has little in common with the china-faced, stuffing-bodied doll of a century ago. 

How I would love to be a time traveler on a 1914 bus. I’d soak up my surroundings. Hairdos. Clothing. Dental work. And shoes.

For traveling comfort, hurrah for today!
Care to take off for New York in a 1914 bi-plane?

I’d watch and listen for how people thought. In their dress. Their manners. Their facial expressions. And their conversations.

Who were the 1914 Chatty Cathys? And the hometown comedians? Were their conversations peppered with profanity or crude remarks? 

Ordinary Life: 1914 Style

Want to trade your smart phone camera for the 1914 version?

Fashion. Women’s high-necked, low-hemmed 1914 fashion reflected the early-twentieth century values of modesty and virtue. What does the all-but-naked fashion celebrated on red carpets say about modesty and virtue in 2017? (I would post an example, but, frankly, they’re shameful.) My grandmother’s dress reflected her view on virtue. Does mine?

Church attendance. 1914 folks knew where to find one another on Sunday morning. A community might boast paved streets, but churches would abound. Restaurants were few and far between, but Sunday dinner in friends’ homes was common. Today Sundays often consist of hunting, golfing, boating, football, TV, brunch–you name it–anything but church. My grandmother’s friends knew where to find her on Sunday mornings. Do mine?

Bedtime prayers. 1914 parents read to their children at bedtime and capped off the day with prayers.

I suspect more often than not children in 2017 go to sleep to something on an iPod, iPad, or tablet. What do your children and grandchildren expect at bedtime?

For family-friendly games, I’ll take 1914.

Entertainment. Parlor and lawn games were common in 1914. So were reading and singing around the piano. Teens interacted at church socials and taffy pulls.

1914 Life, 2017 Style

Today most children and teens go for YouTube, video games, blow-’em-up movies, or nothing more than to be left alone behind closed doors. When given the choice, do your children or grandchildren choose a board or video game? Or something else?

I’m intrigued by the lives former generations lived. I often wonder how I would have handled losing children to measles or polio. Would I serve my family bread everyday if I had to make it from scratch? Complain about the heat if I had never experienced air conditioning or the cold if I had to stoke a fire? Make it to church on Sunday if I had to hook up a team to a wagon and endure the hard wooden seat as we bounced over ruts? 

Would I have joined other women in a suffragette picket line?

Would I have worn a corset–or simply rebelled?

There’s a reason why the hobble skirts of 1914 were a passing fad. Eeeegads!

What sort of hat would I have chosen–an unadorned one that hugged my head or something outrageous with feathers and flowers and a stuffed bird or two? 

So … Would I choose 19142017, or something in between? Honestly, when boiled down to their essences, love, family, friendship, and an-honest-dollar-for-an-honest-day’s-work have held their own. So has faith and its outworking in some quarters. Personally, I prefer taking what was good about life in 1914–like faith and love and devotion–and spit polishing it for 2017.

And–absolutely, positively, bet-your-bottom-dollar surely–I’d keep cursing on the telephone against the law!

How about you?

P.S. Which would you choose? Pickup Sticks or Rubik’s Cube?






A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born
for a time of adversity.
Proverbs 17:17

2 thoughts on “1914: The Way We Were

  1. Marilyn R

    Linda, thank you are sharing this fantastic post. Yes, I would prefer some things as they use to be. Families praying together, attending church, sitting down around the table for meals, modest clothing and visiting with one another on the front porch or playing together versus what is happening in family units today.

    1. I agree, Marilyn. Our world would be in a far different place if only … I long for Heaven more each day. Thank you for joining me in these thoughts and adding your touches. You’ve blessed me.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

First-Hand, one way or Another


As a writer I attempt to develop believable fictional characters. But I share nothing in common with some of them. I possess no first-hand knowledge of their experiences. For example, how do I create a believable character who endured the Rockies and the threat of scalping?

First-Hand Experiences

Linda Jane Brooks_circa 1951The closest I’ve come to scalping was Mother detangling my rat’s-nest hair with a fine-toothed comb. Worse yet, such a combing after falling asleep with gum in my mouth. Or just after a home perm. Ouch.

The roughest first-hand travel I’ve experienced? A 1950s vacation from the Rio Grande Valley of Texas through the western U.S. Our Chevy had no air conditioning, so around the Panhandle of Texas, we rolled down the windows. Sweat had pasted our shirts and shorts to the vinyl seats. chevrolet-829805__340Gale-force winds whipped through the open windows. My brothers weren’t bothered in the least, but I endured the horror with clenched teeth. My neatly pony-tailed hair-do (I was OCD-ish about my hairUsener_GermanColonizatio165) swept into my eyes and around my head, stinging my face like a wild Texas sand storm. 

What did winning the West by foot, on horseback, or in wagons do to bodies? Covered wagons weren’t known for their comfy spring systems or plush upholstered seats. Something tells me I wouldn’t have made a hearty Westward covered-wagon-50631_960_720Ho traveler.

1967_Hurricane Beulah_Raymondville
Another flood twelve years after “the flood” of ’55

The Flood & Beyond

The closest I’ve come was an event we locals called “the flood” of 1955. Raymondville, Texas had had a lot of rain, to be sure. But the flood had more to do with the railroad tracks built down the center of town without proper drainage than what the rain gauge read. Water covered the land from the railroad tracks, past our farm four miles outside the city limits, and beyond.

We lived on a dirt road, so when it rained, we groaned. Our treks into town were precarious. Our car slipped and slid, sometimes into the ditch. (Daddy was called out of a deep sleep more times than once by an embarrassed teenaged boy who had “gotten lost” out in the country with his date beside him. Funny how it always happened on Saturday nights.)

Compared to our tractor and trailer of the ’50s, this get-up is fancy.

The road was a tad muddier than usual during the flood of ’55. We couldn’t see the road. Daddy hitched a cotton trailer to a tractor and we piled inside. It would have been an adventure, had it not been for the typhoid shots that left our arms red and swollen. The ride into town for school or church was ex-cru-ci-at-ing! (Yep, we donned go-to-meetin’ clothes every time the doors opened–rain or pain or nay.) Mother and I held onto our arms and bawled both ways.

Camping and Critters

1947_OnaBrooks-and-Linda1800s settlers slept under the stars after grueling 16+-hour days. On foot. Or in wagons without benefit of springs. The closest I’ve come? My grandmother’s screened porch without benefit of air conditioning or fans–in as hot and humid a climate as exists on planet Earth–the Rio Grande Valley. No critters have crawled over me as I sleep, or curled up beside me, or taken my life. For that I rely on the fear-inducing Valley mosquito and the giant, flying roaches. But then I can pull out mosquito-1332382_960_720my Off and be done with ’em. 

The closest my life experiences take me to cooking meals over an open fire and consuming them under the blazing sun? A picnic set on a blanket on a sandy slope. Or a cockroach-1572632__340backyard barbecue using plastic utensils. 

The Internet & Beyond

So thank the good Lord for the Internet. There’s the Online Handbook of Texas and the Oklahoma Historical Society and university archives and historical newspapers and a slew of other resources at my fingertips. I reckon He figured virtual traveling would challenge me sufficiently without setting me down in the Rockies in the 1800s.

So there you have it. First-hand, one way or another.

 Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands … Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years.
Deuteronomy 8:2,4

2 thoughts on “First-Hand, one way or Another

  1. What a good way to create characters! Just imagine yourself in the shoes of those who’ve gone before you! Love your memories, Linda. Sounds like you had a loving family.

    1. Indeed, Clarice. Love lived in our house. But so did a host of emotions. Like everyone else’s. I appreciate your comment, friend.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *