Search billions of records on Ancestry.com
   

Back to Main Page

 

 

     Flapperism--bare knees, petting parties, jazz and the hip flask--is undermining American civilization. At least, that's what many fathers and mothers believe who, while boasting that THEIR mothers knew how and when to blush and what to blush at, yet admit they can not control their children.
     Flapperism, they believe, is an art. It is a black art, practiced by both sexes, and, once practiced, never laid down. That's the terrible thing about it.
     There have always been, to be sure, a few girls like the flappers and a few boys like the sheiks. But, sooner or later, they outgrew it.
     "Of course, we sowed our wild oats! We drank a glass or two of beer, got sick on cigars, played pool with the roughnecks and began dreaming about the girls. By the time we got as far as the girl part, most of us usually found wild oats weren't as wild as they were recommended to be, so we quit them, found the proper girl and got married," a prominent doctor related.
     "And, that was all there was to it. No more wild oats for us then. We settled down for life, began to think, and tried to amount to something.
     "But, the flapper generation never thinks," he went on. "All the sheiks and shebas want is to be let alone. Their war cry is: 'Don't spoil the fun!' and their battle song is: 'What'll We Do Tonight?' They can't be still a minute and they don't care what they do or who finds it out. If they stage a wild party and wake up next morning in jail, their only regret is that they got caught and couldn't stay to dance 'Home, Sweet Home.' And, after they're married, it's the same thing over and over. Dance--Eat--Live--Chase Happiness! Dance--Eat--Drink--BUT NEVER THINK!"

The Worst Part of It.

     This condition can not continue, a business man asserted, without American civilization of the next generation suffering.
     "The worst part is that they don't care what people--their mothers and fathers and uncles and aunts--think of them. They haven't any sense of shame, honor or duty," he said. "It's nothing in their young lives if they break the laws of the United States by drinking bootleg. I was present recently when a friend of mine in a college town rescued eight balloon-panted young blades from spending a night in jail on charges of intoxication and disturbing the peace. Well, they thanked my friend, but they did it with an air that he needn't feel puffed up about helping them, because someone else would have happened along, sooner or later."
     Several mothers were discussing the flapper generation at a club meeting recently.

Susie's Snappy Repartee.

     "I'm just worried to death about Susie," one of them said. "She goes to the most unheard-of places, and comes back smelling of tobacco and vile liquor, and I can't make her see that she's acting cheap and un-ladylike. I came downstairs at 12:20 the other night, and there sat Susie in a young man's lap in the living-room. He had his arm around her and was nonchalantly holding a cigarette with his right hand. When I sent the boy home, what do you suppose Susie said?"
     The other mothers couldn't guess.
     "She said, 'Thanks, mother, for getting that boob gone. He has such awfully bony knees!"
     "And, what did you say?"
     "Nothing, because she wouldn't listen. I began, but she walked out of the room while I was still talking."

Daily Doses of Discipline.

     Daily doses of good, old-fashioned discipline is what restless youth needs, according to another mother. If youth were denied more, made to do without more and stay at home more, this mad and reckless hunt for new thrills wouldn't take place, because the old and less barbarous pleasures, indulged in at reasonable intervals, still would hold charm. But, satiated with this and longing for that, the heelless feet of youth march on.
     "When father caught sister and me carrying on an inadvertent correspondence with two boys through a secret hollow tree, he didn't throw up his hands and yell, 'I can't do anything with Amy and Anne!' He called us in, told us that if the boys wanted to come up [to] the house to see us, it was all right, but that his daughters couldn't carry on a secret correspondence with any man on the face of the earth. Of course, that spoiled the romance and fun for a while, but when we thought it over, we knew he was right. The boys did, too, and they took father at his word. I know, for I later married one of them," and old-fashioned mother related. "And, that's what I think these flappers and jelly beans and sheiks need--discipline. If they won't listen to reason, lock them up; that is, unless you begin too late. If you begin too late, even locking them up won't do any good.

Suggests a Flapper Colony.

     The establishment of a flapper colony was recommended by one Texas grandfather who spent his youth playing the fiddle at dances.
     "Sure, I danced!" he laughed. "But, I didn't do any of this Charleston stuff--at least, not the way these youngsters do it. We cut the pigeon's wing and nigger-jigged. That is, the boys did. There wasn't a boy in my crowd that would have gone with a girl who made a show of herself the way these girls do now. Sa-ay, to you know what ought to be done with them? They should all be deported to East Africa, or some other heathen wilderness and made to live there until they could get this kick out of their heels and the kinks out of their heads. I wouldn't make it co-educational, either--I'd put the boys up around the North Pole, and when they developed sense and a proper reverence for womanhood, the could come home."

Discovering a New Thrill.

     A society woman who had hitherto upheld the younger generation, upon the belief that harm could not come from the mere overflowing of exuberant spirits, retracted her belief when she came in from an afternoon call and found her house overrun by youngsters who, led by her 18-year-old son, were having the time of their lives sliding down the banisters. They'd go up to the second landing of the stairs, the boys would help the girls on, then get on themselves, and away they'd go, singing, "Yes, Sir, That's My Baby," as they slid. The son, when questioned as to the origin of it, all said one of the boys had dared one of the girls to slide down the banisters and it looked like such fun, they had all followed, since they had nothing else to do.

They Are So Bold About It.

     "If only they wouldn't be so defiant about it!" a woman who grew up in Virginia, and who, after rearing three girls of her own, is now getting gray hairs over her granddaughter, said. "But, they don't care about anything except pleasure. The girls are cheapening themselves and losing the respect of the boys. The boys are concerned with nothing but hip flasks and the newest jazz music.
     "In my day, if a boy had come to a party drunk, he'd have been socially ostracized, and nearly as much would have been done for a youth that bragged all the time about how much he could drink, or about the cleverness of his favorite bartender.
     "And, this promiscuous kissing! It's sickening and shameful. I can't drive down Main street without meeting some young turtle-doves in a car, and about the time our cars are passing, they kiss! Ugh! It embarrasses ME, but not them; and, if I venture to look indignant, they LAUGH! They ought to have their faces slapped."

Bound for a "Vulgar Party."

     A mother of twin girls, who always insists on knowing where they girls are bound when they leave the house, was horrified one night to hear them say they were going to a "vulgar party." By diligent questioning, she ascertained that a "vulgar party" was a slumber party where the girls amused themselves by telling risqué jokes into the wee hours of the night.
     "And that," the mother said in telling the story, "could never have happened thirty years ago, when I was a girl! We had our fun, but it was clean fun. No nice girl would have gone to such a party or have stayed if risqué joke telling began after she got there."
     All the same, it was only through threatening to withhold their monthly allowances that the twins were made to stay at home.
     "Don't be a dud, mother," they told her. "What do you want to spoil the fun for?"

This Bare-Knees Business.

     The Nation-wide uncovering of knees, is, to some, one of the most regrettable characteristics of the generation.
     "These ballet skirts are exactly in keeping with rouged faces and jazz--don't call it music, because it isn't music. It's barbarity, and it breeds barbarism," a gentleman of the old school, who comes in contact daily with present-day youth, believes.
     "But, what do they want to show their knees for! And, if they must show them, why do they make them more noticeable by tugging at their skirts every time they sit down? If girls wanted their dresses longer, they'd make them longer so they wouldn't have to tug at them.
     "Oh, they're sowing now, and they are sowing together. But, they'll have to reap alone! And, there's not much food value in wild oats. On a street car, recently, two girls were discussing their dates of the night before in such loud tones that everyone around them could hear. 'I'm not going with that old fool any more,' one of them said. 'He wants to kiss me all the time, and he slobbers so when he kisses! It wasn't the kissing, you see, that she objected to!"
     But, perhaps the words of a woman who danced the Virginia reel in Kentucky in her girlhood best sums up prevalent opinion.
     "I want to spank every one of them!" she said. "I want to take them out in the woodshed and show them the hickory rod. I am still antique enough to blush, and they make me blush with their irreverences and scoffings and 'Damns!' and drinking. One wonders, looking at them, if man has progressed very far from the monkey after all. For these present-day girls have about as much modesty, manners and good sense as a monkey. And, the boys have less, so there you are!"

     Nineteen I am, let me say. An average American girl who has her fair share of health, pep and the other youthful qualities--for better or for worse--that make us youngsters just what we are.
     I am just nineteen, but I know plenty to make me feel very keenly the sting of the blow when I get slapped in the face. Or, the heat of fierce resentment when my pals get slapped. That's elemental.
     This free-for-all discussion of "glaring faults and shocking sins" charged so blithely to the young people of today surely entitles one of the defendants to enter a paper into the debate. In retaliation, mind you, not defense, primarily. Explanation, perhaps, but defense--no! We don't look at it that way.
     For our defense, if any, should come from our parents. Often it does, and I'll say that a parent who really stands up and defends the young is a genuine gold-brick. Usually, the reason they do so, is because they are such good sports and are able to view things from different sides and various angles; furthermore, they are fair.
     Now, in this continual fencing, the past generation has not spared us any. They have misinterpreted, twisted and contorted most innocent deeds, light spoken words, healthy pastimes. They have accused us of doing things we had not thought of doing until they mentioned it. And, having so been accused, it gave us an idea. Sometimes, we carried it out. And, oh, the row that broke at this newest deviltry of the "younger generation!"

"Give a Dog a Bad Name."

     All in all, it was almost as if it were something to be expected of us, and as such, it had to be done. Quite as if we had a certain sort of reputation to maintain and live up to.
     We didn't particularly gain it ourselves. Most of it was wished on us. It came in much smoking by that kind of people who always are thinking and shouting that the world is coming to an end. To the public at large, it broadcast via ear, telephone, radio and press the startling story of one boy or one girl who were conceded to be abnormal. An opinion was formed judging the many by the few before everyone got through with it. Then, the next step was to say that there was but one difference generally with the whole generation; those certain ones had been actually caught, red-handed as it were.
     So began the propaganda of "your children are deceiving you, parents," that has swept the country.

Some Fire in the Smoke.

     Understand right off the bat that I make no bones about anything. I hide or slur over nothing. No doubt but that we youngsters do things that lay us liable to criticism, severe at that. Often, likewise, we fully deserve censure, and few know it better than we. But, it is so utterly appalling the way it is heaped up, and the bitter way it is given, at that.
     It is only natural to be resentful to such unwanted criticism, and the unfairness of it brings every instinct into full array to the fight. For, if there is any one thing that is a glory to youth, as it stands the United States over today, it is our clean sportsmanship. Be fair!
     "What are we going to do with Johnny? Or, Mary? They just won't listen to a thing we tell them. They just go right ahead. And, they won't tell us a thing about ANYTHING!" That last is usually more of a woeful wail. And, on the other side of the scales, you hear something like this, "But, mother--I'm not a baby any longer---."

Everyone Gets Wrought Up.

     So, figuratively speaking, there is much tearing of hair, and wracking of brains, where there are any. And, half the time, the situation, if looked on sensibly, is so funny, that the only way to relieve a tickling sense of humor, is to just naturally snicker a good rousing "horse laugh."
     Well, everyone gets terribly wrought up over it all.
     But, the fond mammas and papas of this generation aren't by themselves, by a long shot.
     Reference: When Rome, the great, and Rome, the glorious, as history states, was in full swing, the olden philosophers were wont to shake their heads over the young folk and wonder what the world was coming to. "O tempora! O mores!" was then the cry.

Everything Still O. K.

     Strange to relate, that very identical world is still going in full blast on all four wheels, although between there and here, it has picked up the gift of a full-cylindered engine to speed it up somewhat to keep up with the advance of the brain-laden people who swarm its surface. And, it has, also, bright prospects for a future!
     You know, if you elders are not too terribly strait-laced about being fair and square and just, you will doubtless be able to dig up out of your youthful memories, certain facts--which need not necessarily be accredited you, personally, if you are too shy--which, if given an equal proportion of publicity, would indeed modify and normalize the statistics nowadays about the things we do, and don't do.

We Have to Be Speedy.

     The big toot is that we are too fast. We have to be. Having attained age in a period where the innumerable one-thing-or-other our elders have invented to induce speed are commonplace, it's a wonder that we don't go faster. There is only one reason why we don't do just that. We can't And, that is the identical reason mammas and daddys , when they were belles and dandies, didn't go any faster, when they were out gallivanting around the countryside or town square to show off the newest cravat or dress as they sat in their snappy buggy with all the shining lamps. Which, I'll bet they dimmed at night! Old Dobbin just wouldn't --that is, couldn't--go a bit faster. They would have like to, oh yes! Ever watch papa's pride in a new car?

Looking Backward.

     And, you know, I've heard any number of elders say that so many of their now quite staid contemporaries, who occupy important positions in the various fields of world activity, were dreadfully reckless in their young days.
     Automobiles, instead of horses, and there are you are.
     That is the fastest as interpreted that way.
     Parents appear to be shocked by some of the dancing, smoking and drinking of today's youth. Now, few have mentioned that these wild younger sets are but following in the footsteps of the wild older sets. One of the primary instincts of youth is to "ape" those older. Therefore, why is it not up to those older to watch their high stepping? They may think that they are getting by with it and not being seen by us, but that is just where they are dead wrong.

The Drinking Situation.

     As for the drinking situation as it stands nationally, the poor dear has been so lightened and enlivened by jokes and scoffings, that it is natural that we should regard it rather flippantly. So, why are we to be barred when daddy and his cronies have their flask? On account of our youth, extreme or otherwise? Pooh! To say the least, we can "carry" it better.
     Consequently, youth has taken to a little drink from a hip flask, too; all just to be smart, and up with the times. That's all they do it for. The kick was more in the doing, not in the actual stuff. We don't know enough about the latter to really judge. It is the sport, the thrill.
     That for that.
     You see, it isn't quite as if papas, when they were young, didn't drink when they grew to that point in their development into "gentlemen" as the word was then termed. They did. Why, drinking now is a pink tea compared to what it was then.

And Smoking.

     Too, there is one scrap of evidence that has been skipped in the scramble. Granny's pipe. From the men's corner came the hue and cry that we had smoked them out of their rights. Who gave those rights to them, I'd like to know? Lots of smoke can sure be set up over mightily little fire.
     Now, for our much bewailed dancing. "Vulgar, common and intimate" Some of it is. But, for the most part, it is the thing it has always been, something to let off "steam." The exuberance that is varyingly called pep, liveliness, red-hotness and snap, is just the same thing that is called "hot air" in elder persons. The youngsters let it off mostly in action, the elders in talking. The former in building forward, the latter in tearing back.

Back-Tracking Further.

     There were the stylish dances and fad dances in grandparents' time just as much as today. And, back-tracking still further, I know from reading, that it was positively scandalous and a signal for smelling salts to be brought when the first man placed his arm around a lady's er--waist, to guide her in the first waltzes.
     Then, there is the old gag about jazz. Now, I can't think of a thing that is more suited to youth than jazz. I mean, the pure syncopated melody that has climbed from the elemental jazz and has come to win a lasting place in American music. It is so essentially expressive of the very essence of youth. In one word, life!
     It is the voice of youth lifted up in all of its provocating "What the what do I care?" Why don't you leave, there ain't no more?" Sophisticated, syncopated, accelerated, animated, "Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here!"
     Modernism! To the 'nth degree.

Merely in New Clothes.

     Listen in for a moment, here, on a good sport form the elders' camp; who let down the bars of communication on mutual ground.
     "What is that new dance you are doing, Mary?"
     "Why, that's the Charleston, mother." And, Mary hums some more of "Charleston, Back to Charleston" and demonstrates.
     Mother just watches, but closely.
     "Why, my goodness!" she exclaims suddenly, as a light broke over her face. "When I was young, it was called 'cutting the back-step.' And Martha, my girl friend, who was such a cut-up, used to get out at parties and dances and do it for us, and we all thought it great fun. Of course, she, and we, too, for that matter, ought to have been ashamed of ourselves. We were all just a bunch of cut-ups, and Martha was the ringleader, I guess.

Memories of the Past.

     "And then, another time," she continued, in full reminiscent swing, while we stood to get every grain of this inside dope, "we were over to a girl's house for a big house party she was giving. There must have been about six couples. When we girls got ready to go to bed, we all went into Mag's room first to talk some more, and to undress together there. Then, all of a sudden, one of the girls discovered that the room we were in was just over the one in which the boys had gathered. You see, there was a flue down into the room below, and one of the girls"--here we choked a gasp and she smiled back down as the mental picture she, the envied one, had of the actual happenings--"stuck her foot down into the room below, and had all the boys guessing then and the next day, whose foot it had been."
     Boy, she laughed! So did we.
     "Why, she didn't, or any of us, have any idea of meaning a bit of harm. We just thought it would be a good way to pique the boys. And, it sure worked!"

Youth Is Always Youth.

     Bless it, ye hearties. Youth is the very devil for mischief. Always has been. The immortal story of the cherry tree and its felling by one G. Washington may be cited in the cause. Chopping off the oft-quoted moral end of the matter, and then starting at the beginning again, it might easily be made to go like this. And, the more you think of it, the more vivid it is. The little boy with the new hatchet yielded to the impulse to try its sharpness on the cherry tree before him, though he undoubtedly had an uneasy notion that he should not think of such a thing. But--down went the tree, anyway, and more history was made.
     Question: did he know he was already found out as guilty by his questioning father when he refused to deny any of it?
     Dealing in generalities, here is another "straight" story about certain characters from a page of our elders' young days.
     "There was a boy that was just crazy about my chum. On her birthday, he wanted to make a good impression on her, and he brought her a beautiful pair of earrings. Well, one night, about a month later, she was waked up in the middle of the night. It was the boy. And, he had been forced to come and get the earrings for the man he had bought them from on credit, or he would have been put in jail. So, he had to ask her for them. And, that surely did make an impression on her, all right."
     (Guffaws resound)
     Indeed, this was a choice marvel for my listening ears.
     So, youth, today and yesterday, is synonymous with hairbreadth and side-splitting escapades. Life and activity are craved by youth. The cup is full, and youth demands a full draught, since it is the coloring of the wine of youth, to be quaffed lightly, gaily, merrily.
     Today is tomorrow, and tomorrow tomorrow. Let tomorrow take care of itself.

The World Moves.

     The flaming keynote of our so-called "flaming youth" is freedom. Glorious freedom. Worthy a fight! Modern freedom began to get its first growth about the time of the beginning of this very twentieth century.
     And, this is the day of progress.
     We're just swimming abreast of the times. Sometimes, we have had to go ahead to escape the deluge of an especially huge wave that threatens to swamp us. Get the drift of that?
     And, some allowance must always be made for the harpies who harp and harp and harp. If you want a picture of them, go to Virgil's Aeneid, and if you can't read the original, get a good "pony."
     Throw them a crumb and there they go.
     "Unheard of!" they screech.
     That is the cause of all the row. Sometimes I stop, after having heard of some of my own doings, and those of my best pals, picked to pieces, and wonder why we aren't worse than we are, with everyone predicting that if we haven't already gone to the devil, that we are sure headed that way.

Have Times Changed?

     But, times have changed, I might say. Certainly, you answer.
     You elders have changed them, I fire back, from what they were at the time of your youth, and have, with your progresses and your businesses, made them just exactly what they are today.
     You chaffed at the rein your fathers held, now we are chaffing.
      Perhaps the foundation--if there is any--of all the controversy is that we know too much. That, on first glance, seems supreme egotism. But, we are fundamentally frank. Freedom--this freedom--of thought, and of action, means frankness of knowledge. The one is the product of the other.

Youth's Eternal "Why?"

     But, the undeniable fact still remains that we do know twice as much about things in general, from evolution to airplanes. Byron is Arlen, than father and mother did "in their day." Youth's eternal "Why?" that finds its first chirpings when yet in the cradle, is no longer best quashed into silence and furtive wonderings and sly truth-seekings. Youth, a generation ago, knew a darned sight more than they let on. The only difference is that we come right out and say we know it.
     The direct result is sophistication, which is a bright-colored coat for a drabber-colored garment of disillusionment and cynicism beneath.

No Fair Play.

     For example, how can we possibly be expected to respect, utterly and blindly, our elders, when we know so much "on them"? We see, or know of, their doing things, which, when we take them for examples and do our darndest to live up to, prove themselves not so good when we get it in the neck for doing them. Meanwhile, the models retire from the war ground in a cloak of dignity that makes them invulnerable to any "comeback" we have.
     They are shielded by their contemporaries. Given the hail-fellow-well-met. And, it is let go at that. "Oh, well, he needs a bit of life."
     But, when we go and do likewise, biff, bamm! "what is the younger generation coming to?"
     Writers have capitalized us and our caricatured beings are scattered everywhere. More harpies.

Youth Is All Right.

     The exaggerated portraits are taken as representative. We gave everyone a good show for their gossip-bag and laughed on the way.
     Take youth, all in all, as it stands, flappers and jelly-boys, chorus girls and jazz hounds, dance and slang words, short skirts and Oxford bags, and you will take the world.
     I know.
     From the dimly established lines of youth's camp, here is one who not only says, but declares to the world, cynical and petty thing that it is, that youth is all right; that youth's ways are all and more than might be expected, that half of the evil is press agents' blah, that the insolence of youth is our inherited birthright, that freedom is bred into our very bone, that youth will stand the final test and emerge on top, that youth will run to a close, the gauntlet it is on now, between the lines of haggling criticism and unjust condemnation, and that the world will continue whether it is papa or son who takes a swallow out of the hip flask on the way to the country club for poker or bridge, or on the way to the scene of the latest party; whether it is mother or daughter who puffs her cigarette; lastly, that youth is taking everything into deeper consideration than anyone has yet given it, and taking the sour old world by the heels and shaking it to see if it is holding anything out. IT.
          Youth is It!
          The world is our heritage,
          It is ours.
          Try and take it from us.
          Just try and stop us.
          Youth is IT!

- July 11, 1926, Dallas Morning News, Section VII, pp. 5, 6.
- o o o -