1914 and Today
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.
“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.
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.
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
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?
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?
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 worn a corset–or simply rebelled?
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 1914, 2017, 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.