free spirit

I remember how shocked I was when the great-aunt of one of my friends said things one day that suggested she had more than a passing familiarity with marijuana. Later on, once I learned she and her husband were part of a traveling jazz band in the 1920s, it began to sink in: Not only was she young once, she did some things my generation assumed her generation was too stuffy to imagine, let alone do. This free spirit of the 1920s now stood before me as a respectable, old lady!

I mean, I watched “Reefer Madness” when I was a young adult at university, and laughed at how naïve people “back then” must have been to see that film and fall for it. I almost hoped they laughed, knowingly, too! Little did I realize I knew anyone from that period who enjoyed recreational drugs, whether weed or distilled spirits!

This great-aunt was a grand person, full of fun, able to break out in song for the pure joy of it, very young in her outlook, and comfortable around people like my friend and me who thought we understood how the world worked because we were university students by then. She was possessor of some secrets that made her almost dangerous to know it seemed then. Ha!

Today, I came across a video of a flapper doing something so outrageous and dangerous, I immediately thought of this great-aunt again, now long dead:

It also reminded me of “Flying Down to Rio”, a 1933 film featuring Fred Astaire in this scene:

I doubt my friend’s great-aunt ever tried this sort of stunt. I like to think she gave it serious thought though. Remember, she was a free spirit in the 1920s! The more I got to know her, the more I realize she still was a free spirit, and remained so as long as she lived.

6 thoughts on “free spirit

  1. Do you have any other stories about this great-aunt? I am learning so much about the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s by reading and posting the hundreds of letters written by my Grandfather and his children during this time. Ordinary events back then explain so much about the individuals they grew up to be… and the people I knew only as adults.

    • I wish…! It’s been decades since she died, so what I wrote pretty much is it. What you are doing is exactly what needs to be done to flesh out the history of the time, and that’s why I like your blog! I don’t know if I have anything like the letters you use for your blog.

  2. I think so, too. Farmers went from huge prices for their products because of war-created labor and supply problems to bargain basement once things sorted themselves out and supplies world-wide improved. Their Great Depression began early. The social changes brought about by the brutality of WWI (wholesale slaughter to machine guns because commanders hadn’t figured out that new strategies were needed in view of the mechanized death they faced, for example, and gas) converted survivors into psychological and/or physical messes or hedonistic lost cases looking for some meaning in a world where the late war showed humanity at its worst.
    Women had new freedom and bigger expectations, but little experience dealing with it. Prohibition in the US turned previously law abiding citizens into secret drinkers. Gangsters organized for the first time out of small groups of neighborhood thugs into murderous purveyors of illicit thrills that controlled cities.

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