The “Roaring Twenties” was a new decade of independent women, when they raised their hemlines and bobbed their hair. This new hairstyle brought about a lot of commotion. If a woman bobbed her hair, she was fired from her job. A teacher in Jersey City was ordered to grow her hair back by the school board. They said that women wasted too much time fussing around with a bobbed hairstyle, and if she didn’t grow it back, then she would be fired. One prestigious department store actually fired all the employees who wore bobbed hair. In the newspaper, a preacher warned his congregation that a “bobbed woman was a disgraced woman.” In fact, men even divorced their wives over the new hairstyle. Can you imagine the conversation between husband and wife? I can imagine the man ordering her to grow it back and she refused without hesitation!
Women wore sleek dresses just above their knees and had long beads down to the waist. This new style accentuated the hips and beautiful legs of a woman. It was a new era for everyone. This was a time of courage, adventure, and new music. Jazz became famous and George Gershwin’s music was the craze. He was known as the “King of Jazz.” He wrote: “Crazy For You,” “I Got Rhythm,” “Embraceable You,” and “Someone To Watch Over Me.” People would sit around the radio and listen to the music, comedy shows, live performances, and the news.
In 1921, the first Miss America contest was held. And in 1922, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches became famous. Dance marathons were the craze in 1923, and people danced until they dropped from exhaustion. The longest dance record without stopping was three weeks long. There was the Charleston, Fox Trot, and the Shimmy. To dance the Shimmy, one held his body straight and then shook it rhythmically from the shoulders on down to the knees. On November 26th of 1923, Archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen, also known as King Tut. In 1927, the first talking movie, “The Jazz Singer,” was released. In 1928, Sir Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, known as a miracle drug, an antibiotic taken from orange mold.
As I wrote my new historical romance, set during the roaring twenties, I decided to check out the language spoken during that period. I was amazed. The 1920s was a new generation where they spoke a language that their parents didn’t understand. They used words like: Ab-so-lute-ly! Cat’s pajamas! Ah, horsefeathers! Baloney! Hotsy-totsy! If you were “all wet,” you were mistaken; and if you were a “sap,” you were a fool. When referring to a woman, they used doll, tomato, and bearcat. A woman’s legs were “gams” and her lovely shape was referred to as a “chassis.” If you were in love, you had a “crush,” were “goofy,” or “moonstruck.” And when a woman was not in the mood for kissing, she would say, “The bank’s closed.” Many parents were in the dark, wondering what their children were talking about. Thus, my new historical romance novel was born: Elena, Woman of Courage!
So the next time you decide to complain about the language, music, and strange dances of this generation, remember what the parents of the roaring twenties must have felt. They must have complained, worried, and fretted. Is that what we do today? Do we worry and fret about our kids today? Ab-so-lute-ly! Let me tell you what I think about this new generation. Some people believe our kids are headed in the wrong direction and will amount to nothing. Ah, Baloney! Only a sap would think that. The kids now days are hotsy-totsy. If you think I’m all wet, then look at my daughters. They’re a great example of kids now days, an example of fortitude and perseverance. They amaze me with their outlook on life. What do I say about this new generation? Cat’s pajamas! (Definition: “How Wonderful!”)