Fads, styles and collectibles
By Lily Kongslien
Special to the Star Journal
Kids are usually the first to start a new fad or style, whether in clothing or perhaps personal hair styles. In the 1930s and even into the 40’s (and going back into the 20’s) fads were 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 loved 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 it; 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. My mother sewed me knickerbockers (remember those?) and this style caught on; 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 and 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, and these were expected to last us throughout the summer season. Of course, it helped a bit that we ran barefoot 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 kids back in those days was “adopting” another name; more exciting and unusual than our real names. One friend named 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 our new names, so back we went to our old humdrum common names!
Hairdos 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 straight cut all around my head. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I got my first permanent. 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 boy’s 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, too.
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 popular comic characters. 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 and the like. 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 on 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 and most complete collection of their favorite things. People still collect today and on a larger scale, but I’m sure these treasures from yesteryear were more treasured by all.