Archives for posts with tag: 1920s

A young lady wagon-driver — in a bonnet. I can’t tell for the life of me what she’s hauling in that wagon, can you? The horses have their nose-bags on, and look pretty contented.

 

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Our first glimpse of Dorma Ruth--and her Mama?

This photo was found in the dumpster along with just a few others. Since the diary entries have been talking about Dorma’s tribulations with colic, I thought it would be nice to see her in a more tranquil pose. Do you think this is her Mama? Or maybe her grandma? I would love to see your comments on this photo, maybe you can help me create a caption for it!

To continue on the theme of booze and how hard it would have been to find some during the time our mystery diarist was writing: I found the below at http://100megsfree3.com/mickmc/rich2.html, accessed 1/19/14.

“Prohibition began in 1920 and continued throughout the ’20s.  Officials (in Montana) knew they were fighting an uphill battle.

Not only would liquor come in by air, but also a ground route for rum-running stretched from Great Falls north to the Canadian line.  Dubbed Bootlegger Trail, a name still used, it allowed whiskey to flow illegally from Canada.

In addition, do-it-yourself violators were so numerous Phohibition agents could not keep up.  When they did bust a transgressor, the reception was chilly.

Just before Halloween in 1923, state prohibition officers entered the home of Mrs. Charles Wilbur (in Great Falls) armed with a search warrant.   As Gene Van Wert, a state officer, bent over to examine two gallons of moonshine liquor, she knocked him behind the ear with an ax, then clubbed a Wert aide in the head as well.

“Her skill at swinging the ax is not up to the standards set by woodsmen, for which fact the officers give thanks,” the Great Falls Tribune reported October 20th.   Mrs. Wilbur was disarmed, then arrested, then was released because she had several small children.

By March, 1924, a Tribune editorial bemoaned widespread violations of Prohibition laws, citing an estimate that half of Montana’s liquor violations were flatly ignored.

“The way in which boys and girls in their teens have become addicts of the ‘hip flask’ shocks the federal authorities,” the Tribune said.  Montana’s half-wet, half-dry status placed the state on a par with nearby Minnesota, North Dakota, Washington and Oregon in only half enforcing Prohibition laws…

By 1926, Montanans were fed up with the alcohol ban, passing a referendum that removed the state from the Prohibition enforcement business.  Federal agents would have to police liquor violations alone.”

Wow!  As regards the sentiment of Montanans then and now, the below photo about sums it up:

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So even if it was on the down-low, I’m about sure that there was beer at that card game on our diarist’s little ranch, that damp spring of 1922.

Farewell to 1922 Missoula: to friends and kin, busy streets, department stores, movies, hustle and bustle, controversial hangings, and séance chats with Grandma.  No more having the groceries delivered!  Time to head back to the ranch.  Baby Dorma is about to take her first big journey.  Check out all the modes of transportation she’ll ride, as documented by her mother:

“Wed. April 5.

I went down to the dentist at 10 a.m. & had a tooth filled. Stopped & bid Mrs. Andrews & McDonald goodbye & got home about noon.

Mama washed and cleaned up the rooms all good & in P.m. she went down town & I took Rubys buggy while she was over to her mothers & took baby down to Mrs. Mucklers, her first trip out doors but Mrs. M. was not at home but came over when she returned & brot some cakes & nut bread.

I went to see “Black Hawk” in evening with Mabel & Aunt Lue.

Mama ironed & took care of Baby while I was gone.

Thur.  April 6.

Got up bustling around to pack up & go home.

Never more pleased in my life.

Mrs. La Chome (?) was over to see Dorma.

Had dinner down stairs. Mama & Uncle Al left in the truck about 12 oclock & Baby & I went on the street car to Bonner about 1.

Took the train for Potomac about 2 & Mr. Keagle met us there & took us in to the city in the truck so Dorma had her first street car, train & auto ride. Jay was there to meet his family with the sled.

Ladies so nice to us at Potomac and so sweet to Baby.

Met the York outfit after supper.”

Baby rode a streetcar, train, truck, and sled.  Not bad for a 3-week-old infant in Montana’s chilly wet spring weather.  Sadly, today Montana is right up there with North Dakota in terms of electrified public transportation (or public transpo of any kind).  I adore streetcars and trains, they are so superior to cars and planes.  Lounge car, hello!!

Below is a nice Missoulian article on a restored streetcar, and a gentleman a little younger than our diarist, who remembers riding it to school.  Who knows?  #50 may have been the very car used by our diarist and her family in April 1922:

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‘Pretty’ streetcar No. 50 returns to Missoula

SEPTEMBER 01, 2012 10:15 PM • BY KIM BRIGGEMAN OF THE MISSOULIAN

You might as well call it A Streetcar Named Memories.

It’s been 80 years since old No. 50 rustled down the tracks of the Missoula electric streetcar system, but you can’t really call it old.

The emerald green beauty, adorned in varnished cherry wood and brass, arrived back in town on a flatbed this summer after a 16-year hiatus in Big Sandy, where restoration specialist Randy

Now, volunteer laborers have finished construction of the streetcar’s new home at the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, and the former interurban car, which made more than a dozen runs daily to the bustling mill town of Bonner from 1912 to 1932, is almost ready to be shown off.

A gala 100th anniversary fundraiser and homecoming party is set for Saturday, and director Bob Brown said the Fort museum is planning a free public showing on Sept. 29.

By next summer, a glass atrium on one end of the volunteer-built transportation barn will allow regular viewing of the streetcar and other vehicles to be stored there.

***

No. 50 turned the head of one of its former riders the other day. Fritz Thibodeau, 98, last saw the car in 1932.

“It wasn’t as pretty back then,” he noted.

A cause for celebration and revelry today, the electric trolleys had long since worn off their novelty by the time Thibodeau entered Missoula High in 1928. His mother, Flavie, had moved most of the family back to Bonner after her husband died in southern Alberta a few years earlier.

They lived in Milltown, and Thibodeau recalled a big platform where the streetcar stopped to pick up and drop off passengers. Not-so-old timers remember Weimer’s 66 gas station and later Dave’s Country Station at the site of the stop.

http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/pretty-streetcar-no-re…ticle_d705511e-f4b3-11e1-90e2-0019bb2963f4.html?print=true&cid=print Page 1 of 4’Pretty’ streetcar No. 50 returns to Missoula 1/4/14 11:33 AM

Thibodeau graduated from MCHS in 1932, and his high school years coincided with the last years of the streetcars that went out of service on Jan. 24, 1932. Bonner School paid the students’ 15-cent fare, and the seats teemed with teens each morning and afternoon.

“They had a hell of a time keeping the streetcar in any kind of decent shape because of the kids,” Thibodeau remembered.

The Montana Power Co. bought the Missoula trolley system in 1928, according to Missoula historian Allan Mathews. It probably wasn’t long after when Thibodeau and others were summoned to the high school gym.

“They called an assembly just for the kids who rode the streetcar from Missoula to Bonner,” he remembered. “Those cars had those straw seats or whatever they were, and the kids would tear them up and make a mess.

“The guy from the Montana Power Co. wanted to know if they were running the streetcar for a bunch of cattle, or what was going on.”

Thibodeau doesn’t remember the power company boss’s name, “but I know we got a hell of a lecture, because when Montana Power got through with us then the school superintendent had his say.”

The warnings probably had some effect, but they didn’t stop the teenage hijinks. A popular practice at a stop was to pull the trolley from its connection with the electrified line overhead. Thibodeau said it could be done with the tug of a rope at the back of the streetcar.

That forced the motor man to climb down from the car, go around and put the line back on.

“While he was doing that, the kids would be hiding on the other side of the streetcar, and they’d come running around and get on for free,” said Thibodeau, who later served on the Bonner and MCHS school boards and one term as Missoula County commissioner in the late 1970s.

He said it was too long ago to recollect if he took part in the streetcar skullduggery. “But I’m sure I probably did.” ***

No. 50 was a “one-way” car. While the travel direction of the urban cars, some eight feet shorter, could be reversed by switching the trolley connection up top, the interurban car needed a loop to turn around on. The eastern loop circled the roundhouse near the end of Bonner, where the Bonner Post Office and history center are now.

Thibodeau said the Missoula loop ringed downtown on East Broadway, Pattee and Front streets and up Higgins Avenue to Broadway again. There also was a turnaround at Fort Missoula. The interurban car made almost hourly runs to Bonner from early morning to midnight. According to Brown, it continued out to Fort Missoula, now its permanent home, a couple of times a day.

http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/pretty-streetcar-no-re…ticle_d705511e-f4b3-11e1-90e2-0019bb2963f4.html?print=true&cid=print Page 2 of 4

‘Pretty’ streetcar No. 50 returns to Missoula 1/4/14 11:33 AM

In the mid-1970s several Bonner residents, now deceased, relayed their memories of No. 50 for “A Grass Roots Tribute: The Story of Bonner, Montana.”

Mildred Dufresne said the streetcar was “comfortable, never too crowded and very prompt.”

It opened a new world for those in the previously isolated mill community seven often bumpy road miles from Missoula.

“In those days of the Model T, etc., many persons in this area were able to go to church, to school, visiting, on picnics and many other places because there was the good old reliable, inexpensive streetcar,” Dufresne said.

Dufresne told of a story she heard from Olive Smith, who was riding No. 50 one day when it hit a cow. Both streetcar and cow were able to resume their journey.

Aafje Demmons, who lived 2 1/2 miles north of Bonner on the Milwaukee Railroad, remembered walking that distance in snow, rain and sunshine to the roundhouse.

“Here people waited for the streetcar; there were several benches attached to the side of the building, and this building housed sort of a small soda fountain; small sundry items could be purchased there. I do believe there was a ‘card-playing room’ off to one side,” Demmons said.

Dufrense said one family used the streetcar on picnic outings at Greenough Park.

“They would pack a lunch, take their baby son and his stroller, get on the streetcar, get off at the Vine Street stop, have a picnic in the park, and catch another car in the evening to go home,” she reported.

*** Jan. 24, 1932, was a Sunday, so Thibodeau doesn’t think he rode No. 50 on its last run.

A front-page newspaper article the next day gave some details. It named no fewer than 15 “motormen” who finished their final deliveries that Sunday.

“The Bonner car on its last run arrived on Higgins Avenue from Bonner at midnight and headed for the barns with Frank Williams at the controls,” the paper reported.

Two other cars finished even later – Walter Mannix and the West Side car a few minutes after midnight and “the last University car with Ralph Starr as motorman” after that.

Starr would later be elected to eight consecutive terms as justice of the peace, and he became Missoula’s 32nd mayor in 1949.

Other conductors of those last-night runs in ’32 were Warren Mayhew and Samuel Myers on the Daly Addition cars, Spencer Esmay on the East Side car, and Ed Ashenbrenner on one of the University cars.

Eight others had finished their runs earlier in the afternoon – Roy Downs, George Richards,

http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/pretty-streetcar-no-re…ticle_d705511e-f4b3-11e1-90e2-0019bb2963f4.html?print=true&cid=print Page 3 of 4

‘Pretty’ streetcar No. 50 returns to Missoula 1/4/14 11:33 AM

Warren E. Thieme, Knute Frye, Walter Hufford, W.C. LaMontague, Gordon Tracey and Peter Baron.

When Richards, the dean of motormen on the University route, made his final trip from the Northern Pacific depot to the old country club (now the University of Montana golf course), he was “held up” at the end of the line, the Missoulian reported. A dozen of his long-riding passengers crowded around the platform where the “bewildered motorman” was confronted by A.L. Stone, dean of UM’s journalism school.

Stone presented Richards with a fine fishing rod and said, “We want you to know how much we’ve appreciated riding with you, George, and we wish you good luck always.”

Esmay went down in history as a passenger on both the first Missoula electric streetcar run and the last.

As a boy he’d watched the first cars unloaded from the train in 1910 and took the company up on an offer for a free ride to Bonner. On that January night in ’32, Esmay paid his token to ride the last few blocks with Starr after turning in his own car minutes earlier.

At 7:15 a.m. that Monday morning, the first of 11 United Transit Co. buses set out on their newly established routes. One went south from Broadway and Higgins along Brooks Street to Fort Missoula.

Another rolled east to Bonner, as Missoula’s era of electrified public transportation ended for good.

Dear reader: below are séance rules that our diarist’s Mama may have had to abide by when she contacted her dead mother at the ‘spiritual meeting’ in Missoula, March of 1922, except for a few modern rules (‘please turn off your cellular device, all our seance conductors are certified’).  I find the procedure for “gloom and doom” pronouncements particularly interesting!

The below is posted by the Spiritualist Church of New York City and accessed at http://spiritualistchurchnyc.com/services/seances on December 14, 2013.

“Séance rules.

1. Please be on time.  Once the séance begins, we cannot admit latecomers.

 2. Please don’t get up during the séance for any purpose or to leave the room.  By doing so you will disrupt the delicate connection to the frequencies and the connection to the spirit world.  Of course in case of emergency we make exceptions to this rule.

 3.  Please turn off all cellular devices or other noise making electronics.

 4.  If you are hearing impaired, you may use NON-noise making personal equipment.  If you simply have trouble hearing, please inform the séance conductors before the séance begins and they will try to accommodate you by asking you to sit close to them in the circle.

 5.  Any type of behavior that is disruptive, disrespectful, rude, angry or, abrasive will not be tolerated.  If for some reason a participant does not comply with rules of common decency or is unable to comply with this rule, the séance conductors are ultimately in charge and will have such person removed from the room.  Therefore the Spiritualist Church of NYC reserves the right to evict anyone who creates a scene or engages in such negative behavior.

 6. To protect the privacy of each participant, audio or video recording is not permitted. 

 7.  Because our séances are message circles, we do not permit participants to practice trance-mediumship during the séance.  Trance work is reserved for other specially controlled settings and is considered inappropriate in our séances.

 8.  At all times the séance conductors will “police” the séance to make sure that the above rules are followed.  Séance conductors have the responsibility to protect everyone from any inappropriate behavior.

 9.  Messages of doom and gloom are not given by the séance conductors.  Nor do we allow other mediums to give such messages.  If a participant begins a message, or at any point during the message doom or gloom is given by a medium, the séance conductor will immediately interrupt the medium and not permit the message to be given.

 10.  All séance conductors at the Spiritualist Church of NYC are certified.  This means that they have had extensive training in psychic and mediumship development as well as having completed a rigorous and advanced Certified Séance Course and internship at the Holistic Studies Institute.  Many of our conductors have devoted years to cultivate their gifts in order to be of service to others.  Therefore we ask that you abide by these rules as well as respect the séance conductor as they are the authority figure, representing the church Board of Trustees.  The séance conductor is responsible for enforcing all the above rules on behalf of the church.

 11.  No one under the age of 14 is permitted to attend the séance. Anyone between the ages of 14 – 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian who must give permission for those in their care to attend the séance.

 12.  In larger groups, every attendee is not guaranteed of receiving a message.”

In little Dorma’s first days, our diarist leads a leisurely life while her Mama works her fingers to the bone washing, ironing, and sewing.  All of Baby’s clothing and diapers are hand-made (Moms, can you imagine this??)  Mama gets a small break one evening when she pays a visit to the Missoula Spiritualists and makes a successful connection with the beloved dead:

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Spiritualist surrealism: poster art courtesy of http://dainasurrealism.blogspot.com/2012/05/daina-elegant-surrealist-art.html

 

“Mon. Mar. 20

Mama was busy all day changeing Dormas pants.

            Jay went down to the Dr in morning & got Baby some colic medicine.

            Mama cut out my night gown & then it was night again.  Poor Mama is one busy gal.

 

Tue. Mar. 21

Mama washed & Jay helped what he could.

            Got thru about one & then she made my night gown all but the little holes & edgeing.

            Baby was pretty good all nite.

            Mrs. Muckler & the two girls were over in the evening. 

            Jay was down town most of the p.m.

            Beautiful day.

 

Wed. Mar. 22

Mama finished up my night gown, did some ironing, & was busy as a bee all day. 

In the evening Jay, Mama, Uncle Al, Baileys & the girls went a Spiritualist meeting and Grandma come to Mama. 

            Vera Dixon came over to see Dorma.  Aunt Lue stayed with me & kept Elvin also

            Dorma was good & slept all night fine.

            Snowed in the night but was soon gone.”

I wonder what Mama said to her mother: surely she reported the happy news of great grand-daughter Dorma’s birth! 

 

Now *that's* what I call a séance!

Okay, ‘fess up: who among you hasn’t tried this? Hopefully not with the same result as in this photo though.  Sadly, I couldn’t find the photo credit.

Last time I got out the old ouija board was 1988, right after a friend was killed in a car crash. When I asked questions the board came back with such specific answers, using John’s style of language and his favorite slang, that it freaked me out and I haven’t tried it since.

Strange to think our mysterious diarist lived in the heyday of American spiritualism, and it was popular all the way out here in Missoula Montana.

Here’s what I love about these mysterious diaries: our lady writer drops an intriguing hint that reveals 1920s life, before bringing the focus back to her own personal life.

“Sat. March 18

Ruth made preparations for going home.

Esther Nelson came up in forenoon & brot me a box of candy to pay her bet.  Glen came about 10:30 & Esther & he were both here for dinner.

Mama was busy all day long.

Mrs. McDonald & Mrs. Andrews came to see the Baby in afternoon.

Lovely day but so muddy.

Randalls & Jay went to the dance over at Rubys.

The Dr. came in the morning.  Elmer & Howard Carroll was here a little while in P.m.

In evening Jay & Randalls went to a Spiritualist Lecture.

Baby had the colic all evening.

Beautiful Day.”

What grabs my attention this time is the Spiritualist Lecture.  From the late 1800s and into the Great Depression, the entire western world was obsessed with spiritualism.  Séances were conducted to communicate with the spirits: sometimes famous people, but mostly the beloved dead.  Like midwifery, spiritualism was carried out by lay people who were mostly women–so guess what?  It was roundly condemned by established churches (reminds me of the Harry Potter kerfuffle 10 years ago).

Clearly, 1920s Montanans were intrigued by spiritualism– even a young rancher like our diarist’s husband Jay.  The killing fields of World War I (or the Great War) and the horrific influenza pandemic were barely four years past, and so many people had ‘crossed over’.

A cool blog about spiritualism in California during the roaring ’20s: http://steampunkopera.wordpress.com/2013/04/04/los-angeles-and-the-1920s-occult-explosion/

Over the next month or so, our diarist and her sister Ruth kept each other company in their upstairs rooms at Aunt Lue’s house in the heart of Missoula.  Then Mama came back from the ranch and took things into her own hands, cleaning and sewing up the lining for the baby’s basket.  Image

These nifty little baskets were how you kept Baby safe during the day and toted her around the house or yard.  Not too different from those big plastic seats with handles we use today but the old wicker and wood ones are much prettier.

So anyhow, let’s fast forward to March 15th, a very eventful day: Handsome husband Jay rides into Missoula on the stagecoach, just in time for something big…

“Wed. Mar. 15                                                                        1922

Mama went over to Mrs. Mucklers.  & Ruth & I kept house which is saying a lot.

To my hearts glad surprise while eating dinner looked out & saw my dear old Jay coming down the street & the world was all sunshine then.

J. Mama & I went down town in p.m. to see why Dad didn’t get his rubbers, & J got a shave & haircut.

Dorma Ruth began making me step around while down town about five or 4:30.

Glen came down on the stage with Jay & he came up here & took Ruth down town for supper & the show.  Mama & Aunt Lue decided about nine p.m. they better get busy with a few little necessities for my room so flew at it.

Ruth spent the night at Rubys & I spent the night in pains.  Dr. Thornton came about 10:30 & 2:30 Dorma Ruth arrived with quite a voice.”

A couple thoughts on giving birth in the Roaring 20s: in 1900, our diarist’s Mama and 90% of all American women had given birth at home assisted by experienced women.  But the 1920s marked a watershed when the medical profession declared war on mid-wives.  In the interests of ‘modern’ medicine, most mothers went along with this (although scholars now agree that fatalities actually increased for 15 years or so before antibiotics were understood).

Childbirth was considered a nasty event that should be gotten over with quickly.  Typically, women in labor were completely knocked out with chloroform or ether and babies were literally pulled out  of their mothers’ limp bodies with special forceps like these from the 1930s. Ouch.

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Sounds like our diarist and her Mama decided to have it both ways: give birth in a home environment but with a doctor present.  Sounds like a sensible solution to me!

Put your best foot forward: 1920s style

These shoes are a good example of what our diarist would have found on department store shelves in Missoula, Montana in 1922. They are summer styles, which would most likely have been marked way down in Feb. of 1922. Love those little heels. This photo and great fashion of that era can be found at glamourdaze.com.