10 Things Everyone Needs To Know About The ’20s


The 20s are a time for experimenting and figuring things out. Whether you’re talking about exploring your own emerging sexual identity or redefining the American attitude after the Great War, the 1920s aren’t a decade where you’re expected to have it all under control just yet. Still, to get the most out of the 20s, there are a few things everyone should know.

1. Radio is here to stay.

Relax, grandpa! It’s not the voice of the devil coming through the heating vents this time! It’s radio! The nation’s first large scale method of mass communication is giving us everything from music to news to serialized entertainment. The days of wiling away the hours by staring at a cauldron of boiling water or inventing new racial slurs are long gone! Three cheers for radio!

2. Learn the Lindy Hop.

If you want to be in with the in crowd and get down with the hep cats, you need to learn how to dance. Social dancing is a big deal. You’re expected to know how to do it. In the future, people will get wise and put the instructions to the dances right in the songs. Your grandchildren will have no trouble learning the Humpty Hump or the Cha-Cha Slide. For now, though, you need a pal who’s sharp as a tack to show you how to Charleston and foxtrot. Do you want to look like a fool on a Friday night in front of your best gal? I thought not.

3. Warren G. Harding isn’t all he’s cracked up to be.

The guy’s a turkey! A lame-brain! A bozo! Bring on Silent Cal and then other presidents with colorful nicknames, I say!

4. Gatsby is where it’s at-sby.

Just a few short years ago, if you were reaching for something interesting to read, you’d probably have to settle for a farmer’s almanac or the Bible. Nowadays there’s so much more to choose from. Hot young bad boy authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway are helping a new generation find its voice. If you need a page turning beach read that explores the dilemma of authenticity (The Great Gatsby) or the frantic search for lost masculinity (The Sun Also Rises), you can’t go wrong with one of these two young guns. Finally, some literature that doesn’t start with “Thou shalt not…”

5. Women can vote now… and they will.

Women’s suffrage is here to stay, gentlemen. It’s not just the hysteria of a bunch of wacky dames showing off their gams and getting frisky on the bathtub gin. Women can vote now, and they’re going to. Pretty soon you’ll be paying your lady secretary as much as a man secretary earns. Also, there will be man secretaries. It’s a funny new world, fellas. Time to get used to it.

6. Watch where you buy that hooch!

With prohibition in full swing, you’ve got to be careful where you buy your booze. Head down to your local speakeasy for a few drinks if you’re bold, and spend a few hours dancing in a scary basement in constant fear of the police. The downside is you’ll be hanging out in a venue run by the mob where you could be arrested for buying a single beer. The upside is all drinking becomes as exciting as underage drinking!

7. There’s a greater war coming.

We lost a whole generation to the Great War of the last decade, but boy howdy, do we have a humdinger of a conflict on the horizon. You might think that the sequel is never as good as the original. I don’t know why you’d think that as talking pictures are brand new and there are still scads of fresh ideas to bring to the big screen. Either way, World War II (oh yeah, we’re renaming the last big war) is going to knock your socks off.

8. It’s cool to have the blues.

“Skiddly be bop bip badoodoo bim bam boom.” Nope, music will never get better than jazz. In fact, this music is so good, it somehow brings people of different races together! Skidoo!

9. Get possessed by the spirit of St. Louis.

America! Greatest country in the world! Charles “Lucky Lindy” Lindbergh became a national celebrity by completing the first solo nonstop transatlantic flight. Honestly, though, shouldn’t the airplane be more famous than the guy? Was he pedaling? Why is this such a big deal? It’s not like he flew to the moon or invented penicillin. Penicillin. Now that’s science for you. Am I right, survivors of Lyme disease?

10. Things won’t be “roaring” forever.

Sure, things seem carefree now. We’re not at war any longer. We have a handsome president. AIDS doesn’t exist yet. (What’s AIDS? Nothing. Pretend I never said anything.) But by 1930, we’ll be deep in a Great Depression. And, no, the Great Depression is not something good. The name is ironic in a way that predates the future’s hipsters. (What’s a hipster? Forget it. I never mentioned it. No, it’s not the same as AIDS.) Live it up now, while the Jazz Age is still in full swing. #YOLO (Don’t worry about it.)

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image – Orval Hixon