Thursday, June 28, 2007

1922

As long as I have to stay in the house anyway I may as well write, right?
Stupid rain.

For some reason my imagination has always been attracted by the image I have of what the 1920's must have been like. America was still largely rural, but the economy was booming, the cities were lively and growing and nobody had a hint of the coming Crash. The clothes, the architecture, the intellectual movements, the modern art, everything about it draws me.
I would have made a great farm wife...and I would have made an excellent flapper too. Isadora Duncan? Please. I would have done her pale.
I remember reading one of my mothers books years ago....the title was 'Flaming Youth'. And it was about young, devil-may-care children of wealth coming of age in the 20's, all gin and sin and fast cars and the Charleston. Now I remember it as being a cautionary tale, but I stopped kind of short of the caution and just dreamed on the cars and the men and the music, the cocaine and the rolled stockings and the Deusenbergs filled with slim laughing women.
I love to picture the southern women of the era in their beads and feathers. I think of them gossiping and blotting their lips on their hems as they repair their Tangee Red in round mirrors and take lights off each others cigarettes, or knocking back white lightening out of mason jars at some house party waaaay back in the woods...so far back they have to pipe in sunlight, smoking hot country blues falling out of the windows. And I wish, I wish I could have been there.
Early radio, the crooners singing over the static coming through the wooden horn of your Stereola...78 records played at the drop of the needle on the black shine and that anticipation of crackles right before the music soars out...damn.
I was able to hear some faint echoes of this era when I was a child and the grown-ups around me would reminisce, or show me the contents of their closets and boxed memories. My grandmother had a collection of boy-chested dancing dresses from her own flaming youth, covered in long golden moonbeam trumpet beads. Imagine all that swinging around in a room full of saxophones, whirling around the center circle of a laughing woman taller than all the rest in the room.
It would have been amazing to be in on the eve of radio, speaking to strangers from continent to continent and hearing the voices of strangers come back. Back then, s.o.s was CQD. My father was a little boy with a crystal set he'd made himself, listening to the catastrophes and the announcements of strangers abroad in languages he'd never imagined.
One friend down the block had a brother interested in ham radio and in the small hours, in the middle of winter, sometimes he would catch a reflection straight out of time. From the darkness of space, in the middle of the night, amidst all the Bakelite knobs and indicators, old broadcasts first issued live from the Sky Rooms or Music Halls of some long forgotten nightspot in Chicago or New York returned to replay in full. I can't think of this without feeling some kind of mystery come over me. All those happy people, dancing and applauding, the musicians all a little nervous because this was a live broadcast, captured on a wavelength and by some chance of meteorology or orbit going out and returning from some hard place deep in space all those years later. And the lone man listening in the night, in the silence of his makeshift radio room, to...'it is nine 45 in the evening, friends, and this is a live broadcast from the Starlight Ballroom, coming to you from Cincinnati Ohio. My name is Charles Sinclair, the date, November 23, 1922.'

Damn. November 23, 1922.

16 comments:

  1. I always thought the 20's were very interesting, too, but I would have never been able to wear the clothes. They just weren't designed for a size GG cup, you know? You start flinging those puppies about, and next thing you know, you've cleared the dance floor and knocked yourself out.

    I have some beads from my Grandma's collection which she had saved off of old dresses, handbags, etc. I used to play with them when I was a kid.

    And I remember reading "Berneice Bobs Her Hair" when I was about 12, and marvelling how the world was so different back then. Once the 40's and 50's had rolled around, practically all traces of that world had been eliminated.

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  2. OK if you were rich I suppose.

    I love that stuff too.

    I grew up watching old b & w films from that era.

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  3. The Deusenberg is such an icon of American automobilia. Everyone falls in love with them at first sight.

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  4. Great Gatsby I loved the Roarin' 20s too!
    America was just getting Electrified after the War to end all Wars.
    Nature abhors a vacuum and the social and economic vacancies left by all of those dead young soldiers gassed in muddy trenches across the Atlantic allowed women, blacks and gays some elbow room.

    Planes and Radio and Slacks and Jazz and bathtub Gin and Flappers and Bobs and speaking of flattened boobs...

    I would have happily volunteered my services to console all of those poor well endowed women who couldn't winch their boobs back into their scapular cavity.
    There, there, now.

    where was I...

    Prohibition proved that vacuums get infilled as Mobsters, Kennedys and many Canadian Old Money Families made Millions off of the Puritans and their idiotic hypocritical misstep.

    I think that the fact that it all imploded in one day makes it so romaticized..I can see devasted men hurling themselves from their offices in those fancy schmancy new skyscrapers on Black Tuesday.

    Like those men the era ended with a sudden thud!

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  5. 20's in the US would have been great, apart from prohibition.

    Things weren't so nifty in Britain. The 1 million young men killed in WW1 saw to that.

    A few young rich people had a whale of a time, but it was just the daily grind for most folk.

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  6. But no cell phones or internet or cheese in a can or Ipods or . . .

    OK, maybe it was nice.

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  7. Four years after the war that was going to end all wars...

    It was the start of road transport for everyone and the end of the railways, and it was the start of air transport.

    In a hundred years time they'll look back to now and enthuse over the internet, people getting together and chattering the nights away, posting pics of random things that crossed their lens, and they'll laugh at the clumsy mobile phones.

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  8. Wow, so descriptive. I was there.

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  9. FN , Gatsby , Brideshead Revisited , I would have loved to have been there.

    I made a crystal set with my dad , in the shed on one of those seemingly endless summer school holidays....and my grand mother used to tell me great stories about wild parties on touring open top busses on hot summer nights in the twenties....

    Thanks for this it brought back some lovely memories

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  10. *laughs and agrees with fat sparrow*

    first nations - have you ever actually been to the south? if not, you sooo need to visit.

    i love those old judy garland movies where it was scandalous if you showed your ankles.

    i always wanted to experience the antebellum times. i would have made such an elegant site in a hoop skirt.

    or the 50's. give me bobby socks and a poodle skirt and a time when it was a goog thing to be chubby.

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  11. fatty: you have a good point about the clothes...they just didn't take into account the female form. I wonder what that was all about?

    tick1,2: i'm more of a bugatti type of person m'self. i mean, if you're going to have an ostentations car, go the whole route, right?

    homoE: prohibition was very good to this neck of the woods. back then the canada-u.s. border still wasn't very defined (at least here-woods, bears, more woods, trees) and, then as now, lots of illegal substances went right on through.

    garfy: no matter what era you're in, i think it's probably always a little more fun to be rich.

    joe: welcome welcome joe! see, i still live like that, but it's more because i dont expect many text messages from my penstemons.

    sopwith: oh yeah. airplanes with square windows and damask-upholstered lounges. not such a great idea in retrospect but you can't beat it for class! the future sounds kind of cyborg to me.

    gale; thank you!

    beast: wahoo! beast is back!! how is greece? how was greece?? how were the grecians??? how am the grecians??? why do they call it greece? is it the olive oil? and most importantly, did you get lucky?????????

    pink: i had a scene from a particular book in mind when i wrote that. what, you mean having grown up in oregon, or as we like to call it 'dixie west' wasn't good enough? oregon has the klan! oregon people are inbred! oregon has meth! our southern cred is hard, yo!//visit? no thank you. anyplace where the cockroaches fly and the fish walk, i aint visiting.

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  12. FN Greece was loverly , but extremely hot , up to 40 the first bit of the week , so it was too hot to even think about rumpy pumpy......how do the greeks breed or do they only do it in the winter ?????

    I ate kleftico in the exact spot that sapho queen of the lesbians landed with a wet splat , after hurling herself from the cliffs at vassiliki for un requited love.... dozy trollop

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  13. those are the real ghosts

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  14. My dad was born in 1920.

    Sometimes, I wish that I was in that time period...just to wear the dresses, to roll my hair in pins, to tap dance...to drink liqour illegally and feel like a rebel.

    Yeah....Oh for those days. Flapper, girl, me and you be flapping our asses off and having one badass wangdangdoodle.

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  15. hendrix11:23 PM

    Oh wow what a fabulous post! I love the idea of the ghost radio waves drifting through the galaxy...

    I would have loved to have been around in those times too - obviously as one of the rich ones though. My great grandma used to tell me stories of being a housemaid when she was young, which would have been around those times.

    But the dresses wouldn't have suited me - and neither would the bobbed hair so I'll just have to content myself with collecting the jewellery, those amazing days when wearing celluloid beads was a bold and exciting thing to do!

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  16. I would've been a great flapper. I got the tits, or lack thereof, my hair bobs well, and I love to smoke (ten years since I quit, so don't shake those fingers at me) and dance and drink gin and wear lipstick.

    Oh well. I love to read blogs, too.

    It is interesting, though, to live in Europe and see just how differently parts of the 20th century happened here. As garfer mentioned, one key characteristic of the 20s here was that there were very, very few young men around. That would've been weird.

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