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.

       
       

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The Good and Not-so-Good About the Good-old-Days?

Some would say 1905, the year The Calling of Ella McFarland takes place, was the good-old-days.

Really?

Let’s consider …

1905-spyker-77539_1280-2

 

Automobiles. See that hand crank? One false move, and it could break a man’s arm.

 

mercedes-918408__180

far cry from today’s simple turn of a key, flip of a switch, even a voice command.

 

 

baby-933097_1280

1917 circa_Brooks boys_Joe, Wilson, Steve_circa 1917

Child mortality. Children’s deaths occurred about 400 times more often in 1905 than today–a very good thing. 

 

 

 

Weddings. Weddings in the good-ol-days were often simple–and grim–affairs. 

 

1910 circa_George and Ona Mae (Hancock) Brooks circa 1910.B&W.5x7

bridal-636018_1280

 

Today? The more exuberant, the better. I’ll take exuberant over grim anyway.

 

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The divorce rate. This unhappy statistic? About 5 times greater today than in the good-op-days Do we need to go back to simple and grim? 

GreatDepression-63191_1280

 

The number of divorces fell dramatically during the Great Depression. What does that tell us about the effect true hardship can have on marriages? 

 

 

old-letters-pen-ink-1082299_960_720iphone-410311__180Communication: Would you rather carry around pen and ink bottle as folks did in the good-old-days?

 

Or a tablet or smart phone? outhouse-510225_1280 

 

 

 

Public facilities. Would you rather be directed to an outhouse?

 

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Or a modern ladies’ or men’s room?

 

 

bread-608920_1280Foodstuffs. What would you think about baking your own bread … or have no bread at all?

And jam. Ever prepare the soil … plant the seed … tend the plants … harvest, clean, peel, slice and boil the fruit? 

harvest-482617_1280Stand over a boiling canning pot, remove the jars from scalding water, and put them away–backache or nay?

 

hand-166503_1280

Creature Comforts. How about hand fans to replace air conditioning?

Ladies depended on hand fans in the good-ol’ days.

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Home appliances. Want to use clothes pins–rain or shine?  Neither would I.

So I’m thanking God I enjoy air conditioning, clothes dryers, sliced bread, and ladies’ rooms. And I’m singing a tune of gratitude that I’m not living in the days of my grandparents–the good-old-days

How ’bout you?

Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything,
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:19-20 (NIV)

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