Tuesday, February 23, 2016

This Story Has Legs

Emma went to Madison shopping for a dress with accessories for the New Year's Eve dance. One of the accessories would have been stockings. Here's my blog post from "Through the Milk Door" with a brief history of the type of stocking she would have worn.

With all the cold weather lately, I've noticed that it's a rare sight to see a woman wearing a skirt or dress. It's not surprising since skirts are much colder than slacks. It made me wonder about women in the 20s and 30s. We know that below zero weather was very common back then, but women didn't have the luxury of choosing to wear pants. 

Maybe the women didn't feel the cold quite as much as today since stockings were made from different materials back then. Nylon material wasn’t invented until 1939, so stockings before then were made from silk, wool, or cotton much like men’s socks today. These stockings were thick and very warm. An advantage for women during harsh winters.

Of course, when skirts starting getting shorter during the Roaring Twenties, this had to change. Synthetic rayon stockings became the fashion because they were much thinner and form fitting, showing off the legs. Before the time of pantyhose, stockings came up to mid-thigh height. Most women wore girdles with garters to hold up the stockings. Otherwise, a garter belt would be worn to fasten them.

Rayon stockings were knit with a seam down the back of the leg. Any woman who cared about her looks always made sure the seam up the back of her leg was as straight as an arrow when she walked out the front door. The rayon stockings were heavier than nylons today and not as sheer. If they got a hole in them, it would be mended with a needle and thread. The rayon could develop a run in the stocking, but it wasn’t considered a total loss like nylons are today.
Rayon stockings with patterns in the ankles 
Some rayon stockings were made even more fashionable by weaving patterns in the ankle areas.

The rayon stockings were also not as tight fitting and tended to be baggy around the knees and ankles after a few washings. During the Depression, I’m sure that stockings were worn and patched until they didn’t hold together anymore. If you look at pictures of older women back then, you’ll probably notice the bagginess around her knees or ankles.

Women wore stockings even during hot summers. They would never appear in public with bare legs back in the 20’s and 30’s. Even on the hottest day of the summer, women would be wearing stockings under their dresses. However, I have it on good authority that if the temperature was too high in the kitchen, a woman might roll her stockings down around her ankles, a very unbecoming look indeed. 

After nylons were invented in 1939, women's stockings were much closer to what we're used to today. Women were thrilled to have the sheer material showing off the shapeliness of their legs. Then during the Depression and especially during World War II when nylon stockings were not able to be purchased due to the war effort, women drew lines up the backs of their legs to create the look of nylons. They were too embarrassed to go out with bare legs and pretended to have nylons on when none were available. The trick was to make sure the line drawn up you leg was perfectly straight.

Finally in the 1960s pantyhose were invented to make life easier for women who choose to wear nylons under dresses. The funny thing today is that most women today - at least younger women- would never wear nylons under a dress - cold or hot. At least today we can choose to wear pants instead of freezing our legs in the cold weather.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Was Your Grandfather a Jerk?

Emma and Freddie visited a ice cream joint in the book where they witnessed a soda jerk at work. Here is a better description of what a soda jerk did.

Now hold on! I'm not trying to insult anyone's ancestors. I'm merely asking if in the 20s or 30s your grandfather/great-grandfather had a job as a soda jerk in his younger years.

Being a jerk had a much different connotation back then. A soda jerk was a person who worked at a soda fountain maybe at a dime store, drug store, or even ice cream parlor.

Soda jerks ended up with this nickname because of the jerking motion that they had to constantly use to pump soda water into the concoction they were creating. These were the days before soft drinks were sold in cans, so the soda jerks would serve coca-cola and other soft drinks by adding soda water to a soft drink flavoring. The flavored syrup was poured into the glass with the soda water added on top. It was then stirred and served to patrons.

Ice cream sodas were another specialty of soda jerks. They were made by pouring flavored syrup into a tall glass followed by a few pumps of soda water and then a couple scoops of ice cream. More soda water was added to fill up the glass. Soda jerks were the creators of wonderful tasting ice cream sodas, such as black cows (root beer and ice cream).

Soda jerks were also known to make chocolate malts, shakes and other ice cream delicacies. The better the jerk, the more unusual were his invented creations. He could combine anything he could think of to make a new delicious drink.  I'm sure soda jerks in small towns were very popular with the young people in the area.

Jerking the soda water pump
 During the 20s the soda fountain was a place for people to gather in the community, taking the place of the local bar during Prohibition. The ice cream parlors became the hub for all the town gossip to be discussed, or friends to gather after a hard day of work. They often served hamburgers or other sandwiches to go along with the ice cream sodas.

Soda jerks can possibly be equated to high school students working at McDonald's today.
Slinging a scoop of vanilla for an ice cream soda
It was a low paying job that a young person might do for several years, but usually not a life-time occupation. They often got their reputation by concocting unusual combinations for sodas-cherry cokes for example-or performing unusual feats with the ingredients used in the ice cream soda. All in the name of fun.

I would be proud to know that my grandfather was a soda jerk back then. Sounds like a fun job to have.

Information was taken from WiseGeek- Soda Jerks