Only Yesterday

Only Yesterday

Frederick Lewis Allen's book Only Yesterday is an informal look at life in the 1920's. The book begins with a prelude that details the lives of a young married couple. The book then proceeds to tell the events that occurred during the 1920's beginning with the signing of the armistice and ending with the stock market crash of 1929.
Woodrow Wilson was the president at the end of WWI. He had the great honor of informing the American public that the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918. When the news reached the people they literally poured into the streets in celebration. Four days before a false report was released that the armistice had been signed and America erupted into mass hysteria throwing parties and parades. It was debatable if the happy chaos would be repeated when the news of the actual signing was released. But that question was soon answered because with the news came a celebration that topped the one previously held. People ran into the streets shouting, "the Kaiser is dead". Joyously America celebrated her triumphant defeat over the dreaded Kaiser. Soon the excitement of the signing died down and people began to face the realities that followed a post war nation. Troops were still marching into Germany and there was still a casualty list that added new names each day.
America faced other problems. Workers began to form Unions in order to gain more wages and benefits. One of the most notable strikes was the one by the Boston Police Department. The Police force went on strike and Boston went virtually unprotected. The criminals saw their opportunity and began to riot and loot. The National Guard had to be called in to regain order. It took several weeks for any semblance of order to return. Consequently the police who were striking were fired and eventually replaced. Another problem for America was a rumor that caused widespread panic in the minds of the American people. Supposedly the Bolshevics had plans to infiltrate the U.S. government and other institutions. A handful of radicals added to this fear by bombing certain buildings and high-ranking officials. This and other aggressive action by the radicals caused the public to act out in fear. Many people were deported for being accused of affiliating with the Communist party. Illegal searches and seizures of property were used to convict and deport undesirable aliens. One man killed an alien for saying "To Hell with the U.S." and he was acquitted of the crime after two minutes of deliberation. This and other acts kept occurring until the American public realized that the Bolshevic threat was not that serious.
America soon turned its attention to topics of leisure as opposed to those of war. The invention of the radio became the main topic of discussion. People were now able to hear music as well as preaching and sporting events via the airwaves. Baseball grew in popularity as Babe Ruth broke the home run record. Thousands of people flocked to see college football games. Also the first beauty pageants were being held. Men had the opportunity to view the first installment of the swimsuit segment of the pageants. Although the swimsuits of the day were much more modest than those of today they still turned a lot of male heads.
With the advancement of technology came a revolution of morals. Prior to the 1920's there were distinctive class and family roles firmly established. The father was the head of the household and the mother and children followed his philosophies. Women were not allowed to vote or hold high-ranking jobs. Instead they had to stay at home and cook, sew and do other chores that were required to efficiently run a household. Then came inventions like the vacuum cleaner and the electric iron as well as a number of other appliances and inventions that made housework easier. With hard housework a thing of the past women had more time to concentrate on other things. They got the right to vote and began to go to college. Women began to invade the work force and think for themselves. The boundaries between young men and women were soon disappeared in more ways than one. Young couples disregarded the fact that they were supposed to wait until marriage to become physical. Couples soon found other ways to use a car.