Historians rate 1919 as ‘America’s worst year’
Every mouth I meet opens to complain, “Things’ve changed . . . Nothing’s the same . . . Not like we were . . . The country isn’t what it was . . .” So I checked back — exactly 100 years — to see the America of 1919.
World War I over. The USA needed security. Instead, cities experienced “Red Scare” bombings, race riots, workers striking, vets competing for jobs, May Day demonstrations, armed resistance movements and the deportations of 149 people, including Emma Goldman, to Russia. Historians rate 1919 “America’s worst year.”
First-class stamp — being pre-Instagram and Facebook — shot to 3 cents. And before Flavor Flav and Gaga, names were Mary, Helen, John, Ruth, Dorothy, William. Grand Canyon became a national park. RCA Radio Corp. of America was founded. Dutch Airline KLM began. March 15 begat the American Legion.
Women got suffrage. Even before Michelle Obama’s husband, there was Woodrow Wilson grabbing the Nobel.
Out came Lon Chaney’s breakthrough film “The Miracle Man.” Harold Lloyd conceived test screenings. Hot book “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” — a copy sold for $1.90 because pros felt nobody would spring for a full $2.
Top moneymaker — before “BlacKkKlansman,” “Roma” and “Green Book” — was “The Miracle Man” which grossed $3 million. Top names before Glenn Close, Christian Bale, Mahershala Ali, Viggo Mortensen, Olivia Colman, Bradley Cooper and Regina King were: Gloria Swanson, Dorothy Gish, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Rudolph Valentino, Lillian Gish, Harry Houdini, Lon Chaney and, apologies to Clint Eastwood, ride-’em-cowboy Tom Mix.
Sports tales & spacetime
Some things were nerdy. To prove Newton’s theory hooey, Einstein claimed gravity can bend spacetime causing light to take a different path — and who knows whatthehell that means. But, we got the first A-1 cartoon character Felix the Cat and Man O’ War won 20 races in a row. Wichita Falls, Texas, unveiled its first “skyscraper” — four stories. The Green Bay Packers got their name, and I was told how but I forgot and so what. And Major League Baseball’s major scandal when the Chicago White Sox threw the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. Also, the Boston Red Sox in their wisdom sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $100,000.
Not all good times
Hot shot celebrities were Nora Bayes and Al Jolson.
Some things were lousy. Florida’s hurricane killed 600. Anarchists protested throwing unionist Eugene V. Debs into the can in Atlanta. July 27, Chicago, a race riot. The Socialist party met in that toddlin’ town. And a Goodyear blimp crashed into its Trust & Savings Bank.
But, the year established trumpeter Louis Armstrong and pianist Jelly Roll Morton.
Meanwhile, Boston police went on strike. US cavalry crossed our wall-less border to stop bad hombre Pancho Villa. And all progressive Dem candidates went poop.
Feast for pennies
Apples, 1 pound cost 11 cents; 1 pound of roast beef, 38 cents; 3 pounds of steak, 60 cents; 1 pound of butter, 39 cents; 3 pounds of chicken, 19 cents; bacon, 21 cents; cod, 10 cents; can of salmon, 27 cents; dozen eggs, 61 cents. If you were hot on cabbage, it was 14 cents a pound, and cheese (who knows what kind, and who cares?) was 41 cents.
OK, just relax!
Dial telephones, pop-up toasters and shortwave radios made their entrance. Despite that pardon-the-expression “car” named for him, Edsel became head of Ford Motor Co. And — ready? — our Pennsylvania got crowned the world’s most popular hotel. Also, chemist Akira Ogata developed crystal meth.
So everybody, shut up.