Thursday, April 24, 2008
After World War I, in 1918, the world really changed. Women received the right to vote. Up until this time women couldn’t vote. And with this came Women’s Rights. Up until that time women’s skirts swept the floor with not even the ankles showing and many petticoats were worn. The style was long hair but in 1918, the world changed completely.
Women cut off their skirts, shed their petticoats and bobbed their hair. The skirts went up from the floor to above the knee. Prohibition forbade the sale of liquor, so people made it in their bathtubs. (Imagine!) The Foxtrot and Charleston dances were all the rage. The 1920s brought a feeling of freedom and independence to millions of Americans, especially young Americans. Young soldiers returned from the world war with new ideas. They had seen a different world in Europe. They had faced death and learned to enjoy the pleasures that each day offered.
Many of these young soldiers were not willing to quietly accept the old traditions of their families and hometowns when they returned home. Instead, they wanted to try new ways of living. Many young women began to smoke cigarettes. Cigarette production in the United States more than doubled in the ten years between 1918 and 1928. Many women also began to drink alcohol with men in public for the first time. And they listened together to a popular new kind of music: jazz. They held one another tightly on the dance floor, instead of dancing far apart.
However, the greatest single sports hero of the period was the baseball player, Babe Ruth. Ruth was a large man who could hit a baseball farther than any other human being. He became as famous for his wild enjoyment of life as for his excellent playing on the baseball field. Babe Ruth loved to drink, to be with women, and to play with children.
The most famous popular event of the 1920s was the brave action of pilot Charles Lindbergh when he flew an airplane across the Atlantic Ocean without stopping. He was the first man in history to do this. Lindbergh flew his plane alone from New York to France, in May 1927. His flight set off wild celebrations across the United States. Newspapers carried story after story about Lindbergh’s success. President Coolidge and a large crowd greeted the young pilot when he returned to Washington. And New York congratulated Lindbergh with one of the largest parades in its history.
Everybody was doing well as it was a boom time. People bought stock in the stock market and it kept building higher and higher until one day in 1929, the stock market toppled, the bottom dropped out and it crashed. People, who were rich one day, woke up poor the next day. Many committed suicide. Some took to the rails and caught the train to get away and became known as hoboes.
My house was a few blocks from the depot. Hoboes all stopped at my house and begged for food. My mother never turned away any of them. She tried to give them the honor of doing odd jobs for their supper in the backyard such as chopping wood for the fireplace.
Hoboes were a way of life during the Depression. Over the nation men woke up one morning to discover their assets had disappeared. Since my house was on the same side of town as the railroad, none of the hoboes ever missed our house. My mother fed every one of them that came by. It is said they would put a mark on the curb for the houses that were generous in giving a helping hand. However, I never saw any marks on the curb. Not all the hoboes were men, Some were women. The men would come to the back door and the women would come to the front door. One day a black girl from Chicago came for food and a helping hand. She asked my mother to let her work.
My mother took her in and moved a cot on top of the cellar door for her to sleep. My, how times have changed! She helped for a few days and moved on. Once a white girl came looking for food. I was four and was playing dress up, wearing my sister’s new pink pumps, which were little and beautiful in art deco style, of course.
I was very timid, but Mother left me standing at the front door with the beggar or tramp woman hobo, whichever category she fit into, while my mother went to the kitchen to get food so that person wouldn’t be hungry. The hobo woman said to me, “Do you like dolls?” I nodded yes, (I adored dolls, they were my favorite thing on earth.) Then she said, “Would you like a doll that’s big with open and shut eyes that cries “momma!”? I nodded yes. Then the hobo said, “If you give me those pink shoes you are wearing right now, I’ll bring you back a big doll, But don’t you tell your mother or I won’t come back!” I nodded yes and handed her the beautiful pink shoes. She grabbed them and hurriedly left. When my mother came back from the kitchen with a big plate of food, there was nobody there except me. I didn’t tell her about the shoes or the doll. I stood at the door all day waiting (I told my sister about it 50 years later). Reckon how those shoes looked at hobo camp?
One day my friend Helen Sheffield and I decided to play Tarzan from the big grapevine hanging beside Van Dorn Avenue. The street was a boulevard and the side of it dropped off into a deep ditch. That vine hung right over the deep ditch. We would grab the vine and swing out over the ditch in a huge sweep. It was more fun! I reached out for the vine and there below me lay a dead man covered with blood. Helen and I ran home to tell my mother. I went running in my house yelling, “Mama, Mama, We found a dead man!” To which she replied, “Hush! Don’t say such terrible things!” and I said, “But it’s true!” She called my father and he got the sheriff and they went to find the dead man! When they found him, the man was a hobo and was only unconscious.
He had fallen off the train and been injured and staggered up Van Down Avenue and fallen in the ditch. My dad and the sheriff got him taken care of and so I presume the man survived. I’ll never know but the indelible image will be with me forever. Imagine you’re eight years old finding a dead man, or one who appears dead.
Holly Springs had a Swiss chalet for a depot and on Alberton Street for a jail we had a beautiful two-story brick house (now gone) where the jailer and family lived downstairs and the jail cells were upstairs. Henry Walker was the jailer and Willie Mae and his wife had no children. When I was young, sweet dear Mrs. Walker was my GA leader from the church. GAs is a girls’ Jesus-group teaching us to be better Christians. One day two teenage girls 13 years of age ran away from their homes in Chicago and they ran to Holly Springs. The law picked them up and put them in the new jail where Mrs. Walker was treating them like guests; they were sleeping in her guest room. We had a called meeting of the GAs so the, girls could learn about Jesus, whom they never heard of before. Every week the GAs would meet in the parlor at the jail with Mrs. Walker as our leader.
Nearly 70 years later, I saw an old woman from Chicago on television, telling about being a hobo during the late 1930s and telling how it started when she and a friend ran away to Mississippi when they were 13. But she didn’t mention the GAs or Jesus, probably one of the same girls. We’ll never know if the Jesus lesson took.
Come and see us at the Square Museum. Time is getting short for us here. We are really looking forward to getting back into our old “new” building sometime this year but we will miss this location on the square. Come and see us soon at 111 Van Down Avenue, Holly Springs, or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jake Jones special guest on Swanee’s Good News Happy Hour Thursday
Listen to Swanee’s Good News Happy Hour Thursday’s at 2 o’clock. It’s located at 1110 WKRA AM on your dial. The show is repeated at 10 a.m. on Saturdays. This week guests will be John Boyuka talking about the café business; Jake Jones, age 11, talking about recycling and hunting; and Dr. J. D. Biggers of Corinth, telling about his grandfather’s bank being robbed by Jesse James in 1874. We will have special music also.
Last week, local Richard Griffin, who writes beautiful poetry, was a guest on the show. I hope you heard him!
Set your clock for this Thursday at 2 p.m. for WKRA 1110 AM.
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