When my mom celebrated her 100th birthday a week ago, it caused me to pause and think back. Back to 1920, the year of her birth. What an amazing span of activity has eclipsed her years.
1920 was one of the 20th century's most eventful years, beginning a real decade of change. It was the outset of the "roaring twenties", the "jazz age". Indeed, 1920 was the start of a decade that would see Charle Lindbergh flying solo from New York to Paris, the introduction of "talkies" and the launch of frozen food. It was a dynamic decade, but one that ended with the devastating Wall Street crash: the harbinger of the end of 1920s prosperity in North America and Europe.
Say, here's an interesting fact from that time, one that mom gets to laugh at: in 1920, the average life span was fifty-four years! Talk about cheating the system!
1920 saw the start to an era of large-scale adoption of automobiles, telephones, radio and household electricity, plus unprecedented industrial growth. The media began to focus on celebrities while large baseball stadiums were being built in major cities.
Another couple of facts mom (a former scotch drinker) gets to laugh at: ratification of a bill in 1920 that prohibited alcohol manufacture or sale in America. And here's one: by 1920, every U.S. state west of the Mississippi River allowed women to vote. Imagine!
1920 saw the Royal Northwest Mounted Police and the Dominion Police being amalgamated and renamed the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. And the first airplane to fly across Canada arrived in Richmond B.C. from Halifax.
In 1920, Esther Marjorie Hill became the first female architect in Canada when she graduated from the University of Toronto. That year also saw the first exhibit of art by the Group of Seven. South of the border, President Woodrow Wilson had presented what he called the “Fourteen Points”, a plan to end war forever. The Fourteen Points were enthusiastically adopted by diplomats, and became a framework for the League of Nations. At its height, the League of Nations had 58 member states. Canada was a founding member. Yet the United States never joined.
Must say I hadn't recognized that after Wilson suffered the blood clot that caused his paralysis, partial blindness, and brain damage, the remainder of his term (another year and a half) saw him sitting as an invalid. Did you know that First Lady Edith Wilson stepped in and assumed his role, controlling access to the president and making policy decisions on his behalf? Essentially, the first American female president!
Meanwhile, 1920 saw a guy named Ponzi (Charles Ponzi, to be specific) come up with a snappy sales idea. So started the "Ponzi Scheme". Also, the first commercially-licensed radio station in the USA began broadcasting live results of the presidential election: the “talking box” would go on to explode in popularity.
Henry Ford's Model T was continuing to sell well and commercial airlines began to appear.
All in all, 1920 was quite the year. And while we always like to harken back to "simpler times", there's lots of proof to suggest 1920 was far from simple.
And to think: my mom began her awesome century span right then and there!
BTW, my ardent royalist-supporter mom received a lovely congratulations message from Queen Elizabeth, merely a child at age 93!