Meet my grandmother, Lizzie Landis, familial name “Two Mamas.” She was born in 1883 during the Victorian Era. When she came of age, young women squeezed their bodies into corsets that pushed up their breasts, nipped in their waists, and pooched out their butt. Their skirts swept the floor, their necklines were high, their hats huge. They all had long hair, which they coralled with combs and hair pins at the top and back of their head. For the most part, they entertained their beaux in their own parlors under their parents’ eyes. They attended ice cream socials, church picnics, and community celebrations. They went for buggy rides and sleigh rides, but they never strayed far from home
Lizzie married my grandfather, Enos Landis, in 1905. She was 22 years old.
Now meet my mother. Grace Landis was born in 1908 and came of age during the twenties. World War I, which ended in 1918, had abruptly changed everything. Grace and her young friends must have given their mothers the vapors! The older women were no longer wearing the elaborate dresses of their youth, of course, but they were modest, some would say frumpy dressers. And Lizzie wore a corset for the rest of her life. Not the corset of her youth, but a sausage casing with stays and a network of laces that “held her in.”
But the daughters!! Their dresses exposed their legs, bare arms, and even their backs. They threw off the corset. Some of them rolled their stockings below the knee. They bobbed their hair and got “permanents.” They wore makeup, smoked cigarettes, and “went out on dates”—in an automobile—alone—with a man. They danced the charleston and lindy hop with wild abandon. As for Grace, I can’t say, but some of them disregarded Prohibition and even went to speakeasies and drank hard liquor.
Grace married my father, Samuel Gillham, in 1930. She was 22. By then the Jazz Age—and the fun—was over.