A Wistful Affection For The Past
My mother looks rather elegant, don’t you think, as she poses for a photograph around the age of nineteen? Showing off her stylishness for sure—cloaked in black with a drape of fur—she is (and was) far from colorless!
A Flair For Fashion
It is only fair to give her the equal attention I recently gave my father in “Styling in the Twenties”. It feels odd to me now, not knowing how they met or what their initial attraction might have been. Maybe it was their similar backgrounds, maybe their chic appearance but she, too, seemed to possess a flair for the fashion outbreak that reached its height when she was a young woman.
Those Were Teddy Bear Days
A sentimental longing takes me back, wanting to know what it was like in the days when the Wright Brothers were flying their newfangled air machine, the first west-east transatlantic radio broadcast was being made from the United States to England, and Rose Mitchum was stitching the first teddy bear ever created. Those were the days–and my mother lived on what was the rich 160-acre homestead in rural Kentucky that was her father’s tobacco farm.
Her Early Years
The 1920s ushered in an era of young women with bobbed hair and short skirts who drank, smoked and said what might be termed “unladylike” things, in addition to being more sexually “free” than previous generations. Their parents didn’t appreciate the music of that time any more than my parents appreciated mine, and what many young people her age wanted to do was dance: the Charleston, the Flea Hop, the Black Bottom, the Cake Walk.
The first commercial radio station in the U.S, Pittsburgh’s KDKA, hit the airwaves in 1920. Three years late there were more than 500 stations in the nation, and by the end of the 1920s, there were radios in more than 12 million households.
That and other technological innovations like the telephone significantly changed the social lives of Americans and forever altered the entertainment industry. American families could listen to the radio or even purchase their favorite phonograph records to listen to at home.
It was the Jazz Age
Although I’m sure she didn’t go there, jazz bands played at dance halls.
She neither smoked nor drank, but I can imagine that she enjoyed the general feeling of novelty associated with modernity and the break with traditions—especially when she went off to a girls’ college to earn her degree during the “Roaring Twenties”.
As a post-World War l movement, the Jazz Age inspired music and dance at a time when the themes of decadence, moral degeneracy, and corruption were prevalent in many genres.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsbyis a classic example. Other of his contemporaries like Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, T.S. Eliot, and John Steinbeck, along with their artist, musician, and intellectual counterparts, came of age during the First World War. They came to be known as the Lost Generation, and the unmatched carnage and destruction of the war stripped this generation of their illusions about democracy, peace, and prosperity.
End of An Era
The Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression ended a decade that witnessed unprecedented economic growth and prosperity in the United States. But the most important consumer product of the 1920s was the automobile.
Women could vote at last: The 19th Amendment to the Constitution had guaranteed that right in 1920, and although my mother was too young at the time, she would have voted within a matter of a few years.
No Holiday Inns
She didn’t stay in a Holiday Inn Express, but she did own a fashionable flapper wardrobe. More than anything, she expressed herself best in her love for people.
A number of years ago on what would have been her 100th birthday, her entire family celebrated the beautiful spirit that continues to live in her legacy. Call it nostalgia, call it a tribute, but the tee shirt that each one of us wore had these words: “I was her favorite”. . . because of her unique gift for making every person feel special.
That’s a nice attribute, isn’t it?