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If only 1920s editor could observe fashions today

POSTED: November 24, 2013 1:00 a.m.

Not everybody got into the Roaring ’20s, defined as a loose time of rebellion among some segments of the population, defying tradition and exploring a modern age after World War I and before the 1929 stock market crash and Great Depression.

Despite more prosperity, advances in technology and freedom for women, including the vote, during this period, there were those who criticized the trends.

W.H. Craig, outspoken editor of the Gainesville Eagle, weekly predecessor of The Times, especially didn’t like changing women’s fashion, pointing out that it was getting progressively worse.

“Just a few short years ago,” he wrote in 1928, “the physical charms of our women were preserved inviolate in a garment of modesty, instead of flaunted brazenly before the eyes of a salacious public.” He noted that the Police Gazette, a sensational tabloid publication at the time, had been banned from the mails because it featured scantily clad women and strippers, showing legs bare all the way up to the knee.

“In the olden golden days,” Craig wrote, “when modesty was cloistered like a nun within the covert of ample apparel, we were accustomed to give them the rather indefinite entitlement of ‘limbs,’ but now that they have come out to sun themselves, unabashed and fig leafless almost from A to Izzard, we feel on speaking terms with them, and call them what they are and always have been – legs.”

He pointed out that Atlanta police shut down a female minstrel show because girls wore tights, and dresses came only to the knees. Roaring ’20s hemlines started at the ankle, progressed halfway to the knee, and now the knee itself was exposed, Craig lamented. “This proved to be a disappointment,” he said, “for a woman’s knee is not such a desperately pretty thing.”

Then the editor noted that in Tampa, Fla., fashion almost went too far. Women were seen on the street without stockings, for goodness sakes. Police there threatened them with arrest unless they went home and put on some stockings. He didn’t say whether they complied, but it was clear Craig would have favored jail for any woman parading that much bare skin on Gainesville streets.

• • •

Republicans have dominated state politics the last few years after a long reign by Democrats.

Republicans showed their national muscle in 1928 when Herbert Hoover defeated Al Smith for U.S. president. At the time, the national vote was the largest in history. Hoover and his running mate, Charles Curtis, beat Smith and his vice presidential nominee by six million votes and an overwhelming electoral vote of 444 to 87.

Democrats also took a beating in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Many Democrats voted for the Republican ticket. There even was an anti-Smith rally in Gainesville. Popular U.S. Sen. Walter George and 9th District Rep. Tom Bell of Gainesville countered that with a Democratic rally.

In Hall County, Gainesville voters did favor Smith while outside-city voters were for Hoover by a margin of 45 votes. The Republican also carried 12 of the 18 counties in the then-9th Congressional District. Hoover’s popular vote margin in the district was 3,983.

Smith won Banks, Jackson, Lumpkin, Rabun and Stephens counties. Hoover won the rest: Barrow, Cherokee, Dawson, Fannin, Forsyth, Gilmer, Gwinnett, Habersham, Hall, Pickens, Towns, Union and White.

• • •

Georgia is still the Peach State, as evidenced by the pictures on motor vehicle plates, although the peaches look more like pumpkins. South Carolinians, among others, say Georgia’s claim is fraudulent as their state produces more peaches.

When former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Zell Miller of Young Harris was a state senator in 1963, he tried to rename Georgia’s claim to fame. He proposed proclaiming Georgia the Poultry State, largely because of the chicken farming and processing in North Georgia, but also throughout the state.

Perhaps not as influential then as in later years, Miller failed to get his proposal approved as his colleagues preferred to hang with the traditional Peach State.

Actually, California produces more peaches than either Georgia or South Carolina. Those three states and New Jersey account for the large majority of peaches grown in the United States.

Poultry was prominent in state statistics early in its history, and in 1927 produced $1 million in chickens.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilltimes.com/johnny.


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