by Bob Sparrow
1919 – 2013 First, let me thank all those who sent their condolences to our family for the passing of our mother; she was an iconic lady who, with our Dad, created an incredibly close and loving family. Sister Suzanne did a great job of writing a fitting tribute last week, as well as the accompanying obituary. As we went through our mother’s effects at her apartment in Sonoma, I was struck by all the things she experienced and the changes that she saw during a life spanning nearly 94 years.
She was born in 1919, only three months after the end of ‘The Great War’ – it wasn’t called World War I until we had another World War and started ascribing Roman numerals to them. Let’s hope we see no more Roman numerals. Woodrow Wilson was president – she had seen 17 different presidents in her life, well, not ‘seen’ them, but . . . you know what I mean. The unusual thing about Wilson’s election was that he was the only presidential candidate to run against two previous presidents, incumbent, William Howard Taft and Teddy Roosevelt who was president before Taft and wanted to try it again – Wilson beat them both. Old ‘Woody’ got elected to a second term promising to keep us out of war, which he didn’t – hard to believe that a politician wouldn’t keep his word.
Mom was born a month after the ratification of the 18th amendment – that’s the one that prohibited the consumption of alcohol. It wasn’t appealed until she was 24, at which time she immediately went out and ordered a Gin Rickey – a popular ‘highball’ at the time. A year after she was born, the 19thamendment, which gave women the right to vote, was ratified; never mind that it was introduced into congress in 1878, so it only took 42 years to get through that bureaucratic ‘good ole boy’s club’ – and you thought we have a ‘do nothing’ congress today. OK, we do. And speaking of ‘tools’, the toaster was invented in 1920, but sliced bread wasn’t created until 1928, which makes one wonder what they put in those new toasters.
Railroads were still the most common way to get around, but Henry Ford was changing that with the introduction of the Model T in 1908. In 1919 you could buy one for about $350 – a goodly sum of money in those days. The Wright Brothers flight at Kitty Hawk took place only 16 years before mom was born and the very first commercial flight in the US took place only 5 years before. It’s mind-boggling to think that mom could have met both Orville Wright and Neil Armstrong.
College football’s top team in 1919 was, are you ready for this? Harvard. There was no NFL or NBA; hockey did play for the Stanley Cup, although they didn’t play for it in 1919 due to a flu epidemic. People spent their leisure time roller skating, playing pool, dancing or going to the movies.
Mom probably went to the movies before she was 8, if so, they were silent movies; ‘talkies’ didn’t happened until 1927. Vaudeville was still a popular form of entertainment and as a teenager I’m sure mom didn’t talk on the phone much, OK not at all; telephones were very expensive and not even available in rural areas; most folks still relied on the telegraph to get a message to someone.
Mom was raised in the ‘Roaring 20s’, lived through the Great Depression, traveled from Marin County to San Francisco on a ferry since the Golden Gate Bridge wasn’t built until she was 18. She was married with a 5 month old when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
No wonder mom used to just shake her head when she’d see a ‘smartphone’, a self-parking car or a wireless printer, about the only thing that hadn’t changed over the years was the Gin Rickey and maybe that’s why she loved them; it took her back to a simpler time and reminded her of all that she had experienced in a lifetime full of wonder. She did live in interesting times.
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