Historically Speaking: Fads, styles and collectibles
Kids are usually the first to start a new fad or style, whether in clothing or perhaps personal hair styles. In the 30’s and even into the 40’s, (and going back into the 20’s) fads we very “catching” among all ages of kids and young people. I remember when everyone wore sailor caps, the white round ones such as the real sailors wore. We had our names inside; printed in ink, as they were hard to identify with a dozen caps on hooks in the hall at school. Along the line of caps and hats, in the winter we wore brightly -colored stocking caps with a big tassel – both boys and girls. The bigger boys wore sheep-skin leather helmets.
In the summer, when we worked in the garden and the fields, I had to wear a straw hat with a wide brim, as I freckled when out in the sun. Each winter, boys and girls wore high-topped boots, and my pride and joy was the year I got a pair of high-tops with a little pocket on the side for a knife; I didn’t have a knife, but I love the “sporty” look and finally I did get a pocket knife which I carried in the little snap pocket. Nowadays I would probably have been sent home and told to get rid of the knife, but I had no intentions of using the knife in any way; there was no such violence in those days by anyone.
My brother had a tweed pair of knee-pants, which were very much in style, and I had my mother sew me knickerbockers (remember these?) and this style caught on, and she was asked to sew some for my friends, too. Most of my dresses were homemade, and each dress was complete with a pair of matching bloomers. Those that were made out of flour sacks also had matching bloomers, but this necessitated her finding two sacks of the same pattern.
Remember when saddle shoes came into style… either black or brown; my first pair was black and white, I loved them even though I had to keep them polished and looking sharp for dress. When school let out in May, we got new tennis shoes (actually a shoe and not a slipper) and these were expected to last us throughout the summer season. Of course, it helped a bit because we ran barefoot most of the time whenever possible.
Each summer we got a new “visor” cap for when we went fishing or berry-picking. The celluloid visor protected our eyes from the sun and it was fun to peek at the world through the green visor.
Another thing that made a great hit with the kids back in those days was “adopting” another name (other than our real name, but more exciting or unusual). My one friend whose name was Mary decided to change her name to Marian; Stella became Estelle; and I came up with the name of Lillian. This change was made during the summer vacation months, but when school began again in September, we three signed our lessons and seat-work with our new names. This was ended when our teacher refused to accept our lessons using this new name, so back we were again to our old humdrum common names.
Hair-dos were another fad… but mine never changed as my father cut my hair with his old hand clippers, and he gave me a Dutch-boy cut with bangs and a straight cut all around my head. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I got my first permanent, as my hair was not naturally curly, but “as straight as a broom handle.”
The boys, in those days, always had a part in their hair, either straight down the middle, or on the side. There was no long hair then as most families saw to it that haircuts were given regularly. Jeans were unheard of, we wore boys bib overalls until overalls for girls came into style. We girls did fancy-up our outfits by using and stringing beads of all types (with bracelets to match and maybe a fancy ring to match).
Having a collection of something was very popular, whether it was a collection of marbles or a family of paper dolls. We all did collect the popular Big Little Books of that day featuring comic characters popular at that time.
Boys collected baseball cards (found in bubble gum packages) and both boys and girls sent in for rings, decoders and all kinds of trinkets by saving certain box-tops from cereal, etc. Boys constructed and glued balsa wood airplanes while girls added daily to their families of paper dolls, either from books bought at the local dime store or out of the mail order catalogs.
Trading of collections was a common thing among the boys and girls. What you collected depended very much of the financial status of your family, as money was scarce for “unnecessary” things. But to the youngsters of that day, it was very fulfilling for them to have the “best” or “most complete” collection of their favorite things.
People still collect today and on a larger scale, but I am sure these treasures from yester-year were more treasured by all.