Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What Did You Do to Your Hair?

by Connie Cortright

Women’s hair styles today include anything from cropped-boyish hair to long flowing curly hair. In fact, I’d say there is no style that is thought of as the norm. Anything is accepted. Of course, the different colors I’ve seen (blue, purple, etc) are another subject.

It’s hard to put ourselves in the mindset of people back in the 1920s in this matter. Up until that point, every woman had long flowing hair usually swept up in a chignon or French braid, but everyone had to deal with long hair.

In the early 20s a movie star named Clara Bow changed all that. She appeared in a short hair cut in a movie. The new fad caught on quickly. She and others like her inspired the “bobbed hair cut” to be fashionable for the younger set. Of course, this style also was linked to the raucous life of the young during the Roaring 20s; many people associated short hair with “flappers and floozies”.

Since women never got their hair cut before this time, there weren’t salons for them to go to. The first women who pioneered the short haircut in town, had to go to the barbershop to get their long hair cut short. Must have been interesting. It didn’t take long for beauty shops to spring up because of the demand.

As the shorter styles started being copied by women from normal households around the country the following scenes took place in many homes:

“Mother went to the new beauty shop to have her hair cut. When she came home, she rushed into the house and covered her hair with a long scarf. We kids were shocked. Her long wavy hair was gone – snipped all the way up to her ears.

When Dad asked what the scarf was for, Mother reluctantly removed it. I thought Dad was going to faint. His usual smile faded as he quietly asked, ‘How could you do such a thing?’ He immediately left for the woodshed and cut enough wood to last for 3 days! When he finally came back in, his last words on the matter were, ‘I hope it grows back fast.’” From Flappers to Flivvers.

That was a common reaction from parents or husbands where the new cuts invaded the house unannounced.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Daily Grind

by Connie Cortright

How many of you think about garbage disposals on a daily basis? Hmm. I'm pretty sure the answer is zero, but this week during my work day, I've been thinking about the one in my office kitchen on a pretty regular basis. You see, over the past couple months rather regularly, I've had to get down on my hands and knees and use the hex wrench to "unfreeze" (if that's the word) the stupid thing when it won't run. Last Monday, it happened again, but it wasn't frozen up. After several more coaxing tries, the disposal finally turned on. The next day the maintenance guy from our building came and looked at it (since he actually knows what he's talking about) and gave me the bad news that it's on its last legs.

But that got me thinking about the history of garbage disposers (nice segue, huh?). I found out that they were invented right here in southeast Wisconsin - Racine to be exact.

In 1927, John Hammes, an architect in Racine, tried to make life easier for his wife. He watched her get rid of the food waste after dinner and thought he could help her out by devising a way to grind and shred the food particles between the sink and the sewer pipes. He went to his workshop and tinkered with bendable tin, hooking the grinder to a motor, and invented the first disposer.

He reworked his machine over and over again, wading through the cesspool behind his home to measure the food particles sent into the pipes. Sounds like fun! Finally in 1933 he applied for a patent, which he didn't receive until 1935. He formed the In-Sink-Erator Manufacturing Company in 1938 and started selling to the public by 1940. In the mean time, General Electric had also come up with a product that had the same purpose, marketing it first in 1935.

Early advertisement
The hard part of selling the garbage disposal was still facing Mr. Hammes. Most cities in the U. S. had ordinances prohibiting garbage to be flushed into the sewer systems. The In-Sink-Erator Company spent time and money persuading these cities that garbage disposers would not damage sewer systems. The process was long and slow. In fact until the 70s and 80s, garbage disposers were not common to most areas of the country.

The longest hold-out was New York City. It was illegal to have a garbage disposal in a home in the Big Apple until 1997.

InSinkErator (the new name of the company since 2006) still has it's headquarters in Racine. I'm wondering if I'll be giving them a call to order a new garbage disposal for my office soon.

Information taken from Wikipedia and Who Invented the Garbage Disposal.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Riding the Rails


Last week we discussed how the richest class of people traveled by train across the country during the 30s. Sitting in their air conditioned opulent train cars, these people were above most of the rest of the country during the Depression.

Today we'll learn about other people who used trains- not passenger, but freight trains- to get from one city to another. These people were below most of the rest of the country - the poorest citizens. Men, women, and even teenagers who found themselves without a home or food during these dreadful economic times traveled the country looking for work. They were called hobos.

These migratory workers wandered from place to place looking for work wherever they could find any kind of job to put food in their stomachs. They would happily hoe your garden for a cup of coffee and a sandwich. They often took the worst jobs in a town - ones no one else would do - collecting junk, sweeping, digging graves, anything to help them "get by."

During the 30s, there were up to 2 million men, 8,000 women, and 250,000 teenagers living like this. They traveled between jobs by illegally hopping on freight trains.

Hobos differed from tramps (who worked only when forced) and bums (who never worked) because they traveled to look for work. They formed temporary camps, referred to as "jungles", near the railroad tracks so they'd be ready to hop aboard when necessary. Their jungles had strict rules which the hobos followed (most of the time). They left their pots clean for the next "bo" to use. They had respect for the law - city or state - so as not to cause trouble. No thievery was allowed - or only a minimum if needed. It was okay to take vegetables from a garden when hungry or a shirt off a clothesline when needed, but breaking into a house or attacking a person was never acceptable. They shared food with other bos counting on them to share later on when needed.

Hobos traveled on freight trains throughout the country. The railroad security staff, known as "bulls", made this dangerous to do. When caught by a bull, the hobos would be thrown off the train for trespassing. As a result, they had to jump on a moving train after it left the station or before it stopped. Many bos were injured or killed while doing this, losing a foot if they fell and got run over by the wheel of the train.

They rode the trains with the freight car doors open since it wasn't good to get locked in a train car by accident. It was almost certain death if the car was parked in the rail yard for any length of time with a bo locked inside. A person would freeze to death, or suffocate depending on what time of the year it was.

The amount of hobos declined rapidly with the onset of World War II. The unemployed men enlisted in the military, and the women were hired to replace the men in the factories.

My information was taken from: Hobo History